It was around 2008, and I heard about this new way to interact with people in my world. We were at a family gathering, and I started talking about this great application I had found called Facebook. My sister-in-law was delighted that we had finally caught up with her and that we were all going to join in this wonderful new thing.
Those were the days when we were all so clueless about social media that Facebook had to cue us to post stuff, with “Michael is . . . ” and then you wrote your thought into the text area. So the posts were things like “is enjoying my s-day” on August 23, 2008 and “is getting ready to go to India” on September 25, 2008 (almost exactly six years ago).
It’s been great. I’ve stayed connected to people and shared in the lives of others in a way that I would not have before.
I have a confession to make though:
I have a very conflicted relationship with Facebook. To understand, let’s filter the last few posts I’ve written on through the lens of what it promises and what it delivers:
|Category||What it Promises||What it Delivers|
|Traditional News||Your world doesn’t matter as much as all of these important people doing important things. Know about them so you can influence them||A visceral and frustrated passion for things over which you have no control|
|Sports News||The game will be much more fun if you know EVERYTHING there is to know about it. So know the gossip and facts behind everything you are watching so your hobby can become your life!||Paying way too much attention to sports is a substitute for real growth and changes in your life.|
|Local News||This is YOUR WORLD, these are YOUR NEIGHBORS, this stuff can happen to you. So you better pay attention before your lack of attention can cost you dearly.||None of this affects your life, it’s just used as a distraction.|
|This really is your world. We’re serious this time. This really does affect you. Why would it not? These are your friends! So pay attention so you can live a more informed life pertaining to your world around you||This replaces smalltalk which in reality will hurt your relationships with others, not help|
Hopefully that illustrates it for you. The promise of social media is so alluring: this is a situation in which being informed can really pay off. After all, this is your life! The problem is there is not a very easy way to filter out the noise within social media to get to the reality. And the second problem is that even when people are informed about your life through social media, when you finally meet face to face there is nothing to talk about!
You read that correctly. Social media, rather than making me more social actually made me less social. You already know the things about people that you used to talk to them about to gain interest. So over time you talk to people in smalltalk less and less. Over time you are less and less social.
So this is my conflicted relationship with social media. On the one hand I like being in tune with friends and family. On the other hand, that comes at the price of a lot of checking and time. I’ve considered over and over giving it up all together.
I wish I had some answers for you on this one. On paper this is something I should give up, but somehow I keep coming back to it over and over again. Maybe in a year I’ll have a good balance. But right now I don’t and I just wish the whole thing would go away. Maybe that means I’m ready for a break.