Social media is a funny thing. I’ve been sitting with these thoughts for a few days after my friend Lance over at By Any Other Nerd started posting about finding social networks online to be beneficial. I wanted to sit with these ideas and stew them over and hope a profound post would come from it. (And believe it or not, Lance and I met through Craigslist, and met in person, and continue to keep in contact through Facebook).
But the fact is, social media is a funny thing. The big dogs at the moment are Facebook for personal connections, Twitter for those random thoughts you need to spew out at a random moment, Pinterest is for all those things you see on the internet that you like/love/hate that you wish you could post somewhere that you could go back to, because, hey, that was a great idea you saw that one time. And then of course there’s Tumblr and Reddit and Instagram, and many more. I don’t think we’ll be lacking social networks for any length of time. But they are a funny animal.
We spend hours facebooking, and playing games and sending messages and updating our statuses and wonder if anyone is reading them, only to be gratified by the lourdes of comments we get on a particular post. And then we stalk our former classmates from a distance, waiting for some status update that confirmed everything you thought you knew about that person.
We’re all guilty of these things at one time or another.
But networks like Facebook are so much more than that. When I initially signed up in 2008, I remember looking up classmates and friends, and wonder what their lives were like. I genuinely wanted to know, without having to attend a reunion (one that I am fairly certain I was not invited to because it was for a particular circle, and not for everyone as they would have you think), what these people were doing so many years later. Turns out, they’re doing the same things I’m doing. Getting married, having kids, buying houses, or just living their lives, only as adults. And at first, I was nosy, I’ll admit, but I find now that I really do care about how everyone is doing.
My heart broke when two elementary/middle/junior high classmates passed away within a year of each other. I hadn’t spoken to either of them in several years, and maybe I wouldn’t have again had things been different, but without Facebook, instead of getting the sad information right away, I would have gotten the phone call from my mother wherein she asks why I didn’t know when it happened and here it is three weeks later. And even more recently, a classmate’s mother passed away. I didn’t know her mother was ill, and we were never close friends, but it still broke my heart for her. And it’s funny because I remember detesting her in high school based on nothing other than the fact that we ran in different circles.
And then we grew up. And got married. And had kids. And I think she’s a wonderful person, a strong and successful woman, and had we met now instead of then, I’m sure we would be friends. But we’ll comment on each others photos and tell each other how beautiful our children are and we’ll go about our business and live our lives as they are.
I also appreciate social networks like facebook for allowing me to extend an olive branch to a girl I essentially tortured into leaving school (or so I remember – and maybe it happened differently, but I still feel guilty for whatever role I played). And although I probably won’t see her anytime soon, it is nice to know that I can continue to extend that olive branch and perhaps get forgiveness.
I promise, this isn’t supposed to be an advertisement for facebook, but rather a recap of my own personal experiences and benefits of social media outlets.
But all experiences aren’t necessarily good ones. I remember quite vividly a time when I was 15 and when AOL was big, and chatrooms were all the rage. I met someone in a Boston chat who claimed to be 18 and lived in Tennessee. I was young and trusting, and it wasn’t long before we were talking on the phone, and then he was sending me things, and he was trying to convince me that we could start a life together… along with my savings account. I was lucky to have overinvolved parents, as that person turned out to be a pimp or something equally unsavory, and I could have gotten in a whole mess of trouble because of it.
And although that was probably one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done, I will say that I have had some equally meaningful conversations with total strangers who remained total strangers. We talked about life, and love and problems at home or with friends in somewhat of a penpal context. I remember being to be completely candid and able to think profoundly and articulate myself to someone who was not judgy and just reading words typed on a page, and responding with something equally profound and candid.
There are so many pros and cons, and I guess I just want to say that social media is a funny animal. It can help promote face to face connections with people you would otherwise have nothing to do with or would go months if not years without speaking. And quite honestly, I do enjoy being able to communicate with people because I can’t just go anywhere I please given that I do live a few hundred miles away from the people I want to communicate with. And while there are so many pros and cons, it is definitely up to the individual to see its worth.
Ok, I’ve ranted enough on this.