Monday, September 9, 2013

Tweets & Wall Posts: Social Media's Illusion Of Intimacy

"It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures"
~ A. Morissette

Yes, I realize that the following entry will seem "a little too ironic," as I'm using social media to talk against it. But here goes.

It's amazing how much technology has advanced in, say 20 years. 20 years ago it was a novelty to send an electronic message to your cousin studying abroad (and by abroad I mean another country, not a woman, though I've studied broads frequently - okay I digress). 20 years ago we'd find ourselves logging onto message boards (BBS's), and spending hours creating basic webpages on Geocities.

Oh how far we've come in 20 years. Today if you go to the electronics store of your choice and buy an iPhone or a Samsung, chances are that in 2 weeks there will be a better model out there (and by model I mean type of phone). If you work for Blackberry, today you'll have a job, tomorrow you probably won't - ouch, my bad.

But what about social media. Today we are enamoured, no addicted to Facebook, Twitter (Facebook's cooler younger sister), Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Here are a few problems I have with social media.

1) People who use social media as catharsis. These are the people - and I've been guilty of it in the past - of practically bloodletting on their Facebook page and thus on the pages of their 624 friends news feeds. This happens when their girlfriend dumps them, or when life just sucks and somehow everyone should know about it. GUESS WHAT?! It doesn't work! It only makes you feel worse when not as many people "like" or comment on your woes, and it makes you feel pathetic.

Lesson: Save the time and call an actual friend or a therapist.

2) Meme's - This is more of a pet peeve than anything. We all see them, every single day. We scroll down our Facebook news feed and someone  has posted a cute picture of a cat or of a sublime sunset with some "inspirational" quote. Most of these are quotes that some random guy in Indonesia has come up with, though other times they are quotes from Rumi or the Dalai Llama. Regardless, they're pretty annoying.

Lesson: If you want to get inspired, GO FOR A WALK.

3) People who use social media to document Every. Single. Minutiae. of their life.
  •  We can no longer fully eat a scrumptious burger. Instead we take a pic of it while our teeth still has pickles in it.

  • We can no longer just visit a great café. Instead we have to "check into" that café online, so that Aunt Matilda in Port Bruce knows.

  • We can no longer just get together for a conversation with a close friend. Instead we must post a status update saying that we're "with" them.
4) Social media interrupts the flow of life. Ooooooh New Agey! But I think that it is the case. I think there's a reason that we are part of someone's life in Grade 3 and then we never hear from them again. I think there's a reason that we aren't "friends" with that guy from high school that beat us up but now may be perfectly nice. People enter our lives like a wave, and they leave our lives like a wave; it's only natural. And that's talking only about the people that we actually know. Some of us, myself included, have added friends or followed people that we barely know, or who we may only know through a friend of a friend of a friend.  In the last 2 months I have cut my Facebook friends list by 300 people, and it feels great; I feel like I have more mental space. Social media can lead to anxiety and mental clutter.

Now this doesn't mean that we should all convert to the Amish way of life or even disable our Facebook or Twitter accounts, but I believe there must be some balance. I also must say that there is the rare case when you do meet someone online and you end up having meaningful friendships with them. I find this to be more the rarity though.

In closing, remember when you're posting something personal to your "friends," don't expect too much intimacy in return. Seek out real faces, real smiles, real ears, real hands.

Mark Andrew Nouwen