Monday, November 2, 2015

Let's Talk About Social Media

For my first topic in this November challenge, I ended up drawing the slip of paper that corresponded to the first day of the challenge - what are the odds of that?

Seriously, somebody *cough* mathematician-brother-in-law *cough* figure that out and tell me, because I actually kinda want to know.

I'm supposed to write about "Five Problems with Social Media" and it shouldn't be too hard for me to come up with those, but really?  Could we not start this out on a more positive note?

Let's just see what I can do with this:

  • We're constantly competing with our friends' phone screens/social media accounts for their attention.  I personally don't watch movies for entertainment.  I could count on one hand the amount of times I have sat in my house by myself and thought "I really want to watch a movie."  This is something I do with friends as a way of spending time with them, but lately I've noticed every time a friend suggests movie night, we're not sitting around looking at a glowing screen and talking about what's happening 10 feet in front of us.  We're really just each individually absorbed in the glowing screen one foot in front of us instead.  Same goes for dinner out - this was once a time reserved for spending face-to-face time with people, but no more - we're constantly checking our instagram, twitter, facebook, blog, etc.
What is the deal here?  Are we afraid they're going to disappear if we don't connect with them every 5 minutes?  What about the actual friends in front of us?  What'll happen if they really do disappear because we ceased connecting with them in significant ways?

  • Social media is a great vehicle for jealousy.  We're all putting our best foot forward, so to speak, and we're all afraid to put our mess out there for everybody to look at.  Consequently, we think we're the only ones in the world that have a mess, because we don't see anybody else's mess on social media.
Preaching to the choir, but seriously.  What kind of messed up logic is this that we assume we're the only ones masking our life here.

  • Social media inhibits our ability to acknowledge each other's basic humanity in a major way - it's so easy to shoot off a quick, maybe cruel, comment or message when all you're looking at is a perfect smiling face on a 4.7-inch screen.
Let's all just agree to take a breath and re-read before sending anything that could be even slightly hurtful. Just consider for a minute how we, in all of our tender thin skin, would feel if somebody said exactly that to us.

  • People find you.  Creepy people can find you, and you can even engage with them thinking that they're harmless.  This is a reality a lot of us become numbed to, because social media is so easily logged out of or locked, but it's also super easy to unwisely put too much out there and get into trouble for it.
Sometimes even, as sad as this might sound, you just need separation from a person in your past - maybe a past relationship that will keep holding you back unless you cut ties, or just someone who has hurt you emotionally.  These ties to our past are So. Much. Harder. to cut than they were before the advent of facebook, etc.

  • Social Media is MURDERING good grammar.  Maybe I punctuated that last sentence in the above paragraph the way I did because I wanted to make a point here, or maybe I did it just because it somehow seems appropriate since everybody else does it.
I'm as guilty of this as the next person, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make me sad that "proper grammar" may be a thing of the past by the time my children are old enough to learn about it.
People, what if a sentence someday becomes just an old-fashioned convention nobody uses anymore?!

Somebody please stop me before I really become a drama queen about this.

Whew!  I just wrote a list of five negative things about social media!  Where's my award?

But really, I couldn't close this post without saying a few good things too:

Social media keeps me in touch with people I would have lost contact with by now if I'd lived a generation ago.

In my past, I was blessed to work with people from all over the world (I'd like to think I'd have housing, or at least connections, if I wanted to travel almost anywhere on this big planet).  My mom at my age would never have been able to keep up with as many people in as many different places as I have.

I can make friends with people anywhere - I'm not restricted to meeting people in person.

Before I say anything else about this, let me be perfectly clear - no one should ever have only online friends - there is no substitute for an actual make-eye-contact, touch-your-hand, buy-you-ice-cream friend in your real world, but I am learning that online friends are fun too.

Remember pen pals from when we were little?  I have one of those that I met on Instagram, and I am so happy we're in each other's life "for real" now.  Maybe I'll actually get to buy her ice cream someday.
Also, no one should just throw personal information out there willy-nilly because they think they made a friend - always always be careful and wise in your actions and words.

And finally, networking! Most of us could theoretically get a job anywhere on this green earth through just putting out feelers to our friends on social media. 

In more personal aspects of life, even - tonight, I sent an email to a random blogger, just to tell her she'd sprinkled a little inspiration onto my life, and she actually replied, expressing interest in supporting me along the way.  How wonderful is that?

Social media is truly amazing if used wisely.

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