In further building upon my post from earlier this week about the cult of “me”, I have been considering how I feel about the entire concept of social media and the various ways it helps and hinders people to function as individuals and in society, and how it feeds the egocentric mindset that we all seem swayed to exist in. I truly do have a love/hate relationship towards the Internet as a whole, and Facebook specifically since that is the site I use the most in my personal and career mode.
The Good about Social Media:
- It allows people to stay connected with others, increasing their potential for building and maintaining friendships as well as business networking. Between the two of us, my husband and I have someone in almost every major city in the U.S. that we could crash with if we needed to, and if those people in turn pass through our area, we relish the opportunity to feed and house them.
- I love having the chance to share in the triumphs of the people who I’ve worked with on various projects and friends who used to be more present in my life. I enjoy seeing that beautiful babies have been born (although frequently could stand with a few less pictures) and learning about career and life advancements. And when someone has to share a tragedy, it allows me to send long emails or letters or packages as appropriate to the depth of our relationship, or to even just send a bit of online comfort through the social media, although that at times seems so lacking and phony to me.
- It gives people the opportunity to stay informed. I enjoy reading various articles that some of the people I’m friends with or follow post, especially when I’m neck deep in various projects and can barely remember my own name. I told one friend of mine recently that I relied on him to keep me informed at such times because he does post a lot of really thoughtful articles and accompanies them with insightful commentary. It also, if you look for it, allows you to broaden your horizons and connect with individuals with a different worldview than your own.
- It can give you support when you most need it. I am part of a closed and private Peaceful Parenting group on Facebook that contains a smallish group of women from across the US, and we’re all at various stages of “crunchiness” but we all strive towards parenting in the best interest of our children, which can be a rough road to follow, especially when some are fighting against being raised in abusive environments or spouses that have anger issues or live in parts of the country where things like breastfeeding and babywearing are frowned upon. Having a safe place to discuss almost anything is invaluable (we do tend to stay away from religion and politics to a large extent, to keep the waters as calm as possible, but I have other friends I go to when I want that kind of discussion).
- It can help build your momentum as an artist/entrepreneur – I posted a picture of a completed project last week, and someone I’m recently friends with from another project said “I didn’t know you do that!” and we’re in beginning talks to have me create something for her now, which is money in my pocket and one more person talking about my work.
- Having social media around makes it so people aren’t creating in vacuums. For me, there is an aspect of my personality that would love to hide away, never be online. To be that artist and writer that dies at an old age, never having shared anything with the world. Having the social media so readily available forces me to be more open about my work, my creativity, and my process. Which is important. I need to be forced outside my comfort zones.
- I like Facebook because it allows me to reach quite a few people with my whole “create ripples to cause waves in others” goal. I post quite frequently, mostly with the goal to make people smile or feel good or a little silly, often slipping in a link to an article to try to get people to think, occasionally becoming overly passionate when I just can’t keep my mouth shut, and I know for a fact it’s had an effect on some people. I’m sure it’s had an effect on others but they just didn’t tell me, and they may never, but I’m fine with that. I don’t need to necessarily know.
The Bad about Social Media:
- It is designed to be addicting. Much like prepackaged foods, social networking sites are made to hook you and keep you on for as long as possible and keep you coming back. Which is disgusting. It becomes a time suck. Even myself, who I don’t consider being addicted because I can easily turn it off and walk away, and even though I read and process the information on the sites very quickly, find myself occasionally wondering where the last 20 minutes or so have gone.
- In that time suck, it prevents people from engaging in reality with each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the playground with my son and seen another parent on their phone for the ENTIRE TIME I was there, texting or screwing around on Facebook. And I try to be understanding, thinking to myself that maybe this is the only time the parent has to do this, etc., but seeing how starved their children usually are for attention and how readily they engage with me as I play with or talk to my son, I doubt this is the case. So we’re able to come up with witty responses online, but unable to meet each other’s eyes in public, let alone open up enough to directly connect.
- It gives constant information to marketers. Companies are making money off of us, they are then crafting ads to get us to spend money and give them even more information to then sell about us. And we give in willingly.
- It is creepy. We are all voyeurs, peeking into other people’s windows. Everything from seeing a picture of your friend tagged in someone who you aren’t friends with’s photo to the super creepy timestamp Facebook puts on it’s messaging system (really, I don’t want to know if someone’s seen my message and is taking their time getting back to me – way too stalker-y).
- It creates a false sense of intimacy. And this is where I feel guilty, because I completely manipulate this aspect of social media to suit my needs and wants. I share intimate details of my daily life at times, fostering that sense of intimacy, but in reality, they are details that don’t really reveal much. Mostly, I do this to keep my family off my case for not seeing them more, I think, but it also has made it strange at times because some people feel closer to me than I do to them. I mean, I adore a lot of people. I enjoy supporting them on their way through life however I can. I see the potential in friends and strangers alike. But the number of people who consider themselves my intimates and the number of people that actually are my intimates is vastly different. And therein lies most of my guilt. I simultaneously draw people in but keep them spinning and dancing so they don’t realize that I’m not revealing my innermost self. Honest to a fault, but still private in the inner tumultuous workings of my brain and heart.
So… conclusions? Social media, like anything else, has the potential to be useful or destructive. It can help us grow or keep us stilted. It is yet another aspect of our daily lives that we have to make a conscious choice about, and that can be such a bummer.