Sunday, March 11, 2012

Anti-social Networking

Lately I have had a heightened awareness about how touchy we have become as a society, myself included.

As a society we need to take a big chill pill.

The realities of our world today mean that we are communicating nearly every waking moment, we are texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, calling and even that rarest form of communication, meeting one another in real life.  A mere 20 or 30 years ago one had to make a concerted effort to communicate with the outside world, go over to someone's house, go out to a function, but now, just like instant pudding, we can be communicating at the speed of light.

I could go for some chocolate pudding.  

Nowadays you have to make an effort not to communicate.  And about the only way I can figure out to not be in today's state of continual communication is to go live off the grid someplace.

I don't know about you but one of the first things I do in the morning is look at my Blackberry to check work emails, then I open my laptop or my iPhone and look at Facebook.  On the morning commute on the tram I catch up on my Words with Friends and Scramble with Friends and my FB comments.  In between here and there I send work emails.   At work, my life is largely dictated by my Inbox and every single most  evenings the lap top is open and I am bopping back and forth between reading things, blogging, watching tv or movies and Facebooking.  

I've become a commenter.  I am commenting on statuses, blogs and now even trying to Tweet more regularly to attract readers to this here blog.   That is what we do, we Like and we comment.  We have become a society of reactors.  

A few weeks ago I read an article which said that social networking is bad for your self esteem.  The basic premise of the article was that social networking actually lowers our self esteem because people show only the wonderful parts of their lives --vacation photos, new purchases, happy family events, etc. and it glosses over the life's pressures and problems.  People using Facebook on a daily basis begin to feel badly about their own lives because they do not resemble the shiny, beautiful lives of those on their friend list.    

When I read this article I thought it made an interesting point,  although putting your best foot forward to the outside world is hardly some new phenomenon.  Growing up in the 1970's, everyone who knew our family at a distance believed we were this perfect family despite that my parents were unhappy, fighting or living in complete silence.  Why did they have this way-off-base impression?  Because what my parents put out for public consumption was a very different image of themselves and our family.  The few times I  mentioned my parents' anger problems, people thought I was exaggerating or acting out of some kind of anger of my own at my parents, for not letting me do something or for not buying me something I wanted.  People just couldn't fathom that our lives might be any different under the surface.

The truth is that most people will believe what you represent yourself to be and don't look much deeper than the surface.  That's why even close friends of mine had difficulty believing that we were not this perfect family, that our house was a very different place when the guests went home.  If you put out into the world that you are a wonderful family, social, talking nicely, putting your arms around one another, joking, that is the image that people will buy.

Facebook and Twitter didn't bring that about, they only brought it about in 140 characters or less.

But what I do think has been brought about by technology, our (over) sharing society and in particular the social networking revolution is that our access to these images is so readily available and instant.  You are a mere one click away from shiner, happier people.  People with better lives than you-- who have it easier, who have a happier family, higher achieving children, who are still in love, who are financially better off, who have a nicer house or car than you.

Self deprecation is a mere click or two away.

And I think all this instantaneous-ness, this everything-at-a-click, the ability to share, overshare, like and comment at an instant has made us completely hyper sensitive.  Maybe we were always that thin-skinned, but technology now allows that to happen at an instant too.  Lately it has been slapping me in the face about how judgmental and hypersensitive we have all become.

This awareness in me started like this.  

A couple weeks ago in the wake of Whitney Houston's death, a friend of mine posted several statuses on Facebook on how tragic her death was, how horrible it was that someone with such an amazing talent came to such an end.  He was obviously very moved by it all because for a few days he was posting about it, posting links to her songs and videos.  On the day of her funeral he commented on Facebook about how he was watching the funeral and how beautiful and inspiring it all was.  He got a lot of comments on his status, many from other like minded people, watching this funeral and moved by the beauty of the service contrasted with the tragedy that took Whitney Houston's life.  Present also were other comments from people who just wanted to belittle Ms. Houston's life and write it off because she used drugs.  I was absolutely astounded by the amount of comments he got from people.  Every two seconds a new comment appeared and pretty soon this venomous diatribe ensued about how unfair it was that Whitney Houston, a celebrity drug addict garnered all this attention in death while American soldiers died in service to the US without barely a mention.

And let me get something straight, I am NOT a fan of Whitney Houston and I don't write this to defend her.  She had an amazing voice but her music to me was straight-up pop and not my sort of thing.  Certainly I felt her death (and in many respects her life) was a tragedy and I felt sorry for her and sorry that someone with such obvious talent had to come to such a sad ending.  That was the extent of it.  I didn't watch her funeral because I didn't care enough to want to watch it.

But if her life, her death, her funeral, her music, her tragedy or her big toe inspired my friend why would that bother me?  And why would anyone think that my friend didn't care about soldiers dying in service to their country?  And WTF does have to do with Whitney Houston anyway?

Why is someone who is moved by something wrong or bad, just because they have a different opinion?  I am not passionate about her but it doesn't bother me one iota that someone else is moved by it and wants to share that with the world.

And why do we always assume when someone has a different opinion than us, that they are saying we are wrong, or that our opinion sucks?  I see so many people out there getting so overly sensitive when someone merely presents a different point of view.  Sure there are the haters out there, people who are purposely stirring others up in comment strings.  Don't believe me? Just take a gander at the comments on any Huffington Post news article.  I have stopped reading Huffington Post because the commentary is just so ridiculous.

And don't get me wrong, I am not standing on some kind of moral high horse here.  I am just as guilty of this kind of thing, albeit I do make more sound arguments.

I post a lot of meaningless statuses on Facebook and while sometimes, sure there is the occasional denigrating comment but I always chalk that up to the poster's problem and not mine.  And I have a blog, which puts my thoughts and feelings on things I find important into the world.  By blogging, I am taking part in the dialogue.  I am putting something out into the world and I know there are people out there who may not agree with my opinions.  And they are free to disagree with me. I don't mind, I like other people's points of view and I love debate and I especially love it  when I can support a position making sound arguments.

What can I say, I am a debater.

As people living in our instantaneous, one click world we need to think both about the impact of what we say via social media but we also have to remember that by clicking that Like button, making a comment or even writing  blog, we are taking part in the dialogue and by taking part you have to be prepared that everyone is not going to think like you, and some may even have the guts to tell you they don't think like you and some may be way off base, some may be haters.

And really, let them.  Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean that you are wrong, you are crap or that they are necessarily belittling you.  The written word is something tough to get right and it has no tone of voice to put things into context and many people just don't have the skills to make a disagreement not sting.

If you are going to get all wanged out by every comment, every sound byte which disagrees with your views, if you are going to assume that someone is judging you with every click, comment or Tweet, best thing you can do, cancel your wireless, give up your cellphone and go live off the grid.

I hear North Dakota is beautiful.  

1 comment:

  1. "I am bopping back and forth between reading things, blogging, watching tv or movies and Facebooking."

    Sounds like one of my relaxing evenings!