Raise Your Hand If You Love Social Media

My friend, we will call him Mike, posted a comment about The Guardian / The Observer article on the pending demise of humanity due to social media. I immediately responded to him on Facebook, using the Social Beat app on my Blackberry.

If you know me at all, you will not be surprised that I fully reject the idea that social media can make us stupid, anti-social, and lazy.

Stupid, anti-social, lazy people may find that social media causes those traits to come to the forefront, but if you are smart, authentic, and energetic, social media will further your quest for knowledge, create more relationships, and provide many more outlets for you to express yourself.

Let’s take my friend Mike for example: We grew up in the same town and attended rival high schools. Mike was ‘The Perfect Guy’ – sweet, cute, athletic, smart, all-around good kid. I was a complete dork and he was super nice to me, that’s how great he is. I think I saw him once after high school and then we lost touch, until that magical day his friend request showed up on Facebook. Now Mike and I are buddies; our high school friendship rebooted. Because of social media, I get to learn about his wife and kids, see pictures of their fun family adventures, and touch base on topics that are of mutual interest – like social media.

How could this be bad?

If I pretended that Mike and I are BFFs – that would be bad. If I stopped reading the news and decided only to get information from Mike – that would be bad. If I sat around all day and responded to every comment Mike posted – that would be bad. But being connected with Mike online is good for me.

I am a real, engaged, outgoing person who uses social media to enhance my life – personally and professionally – without depending on it to find my soul. MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes that “We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us.” I guarantee my Blackberry makes me a happier, more productive person. I was without it for a week earlier this month and you should have seen what a wreck I was!

Paul Harris’ article from above mentions the Facebook suicide note of a girl that went unreported as evidence of our civil decline due to social networking. Sadly, teenagers were dumb before social media. My brother had a party when my mom was out of town and one of the girls got a knife and tried to end it all (maybe – we’re still not sure exactly what happened). Like the teens in the article, the kids at my mom’s house did not call 911, did not alert the girl’s parents, and did not follow-up with her later to see if she needed psychological help. They bailed and hoped that their parents didn’t find out they were at the party. This was 20 years ago. Teenagers today are affected by social media the same way previous generations of teens were affected by Elvis’ pelvic thrusts or the Beatle’s bowl haircuts.

Social media does not make us introverted loners. Social media is a channel for communicators. In fact, I bet it makes life easier for those who are shy and less comfortable communicating en masse. Just look how chatty I am here!

All this hand wringing over social media reminds me of my favorite college assignment: reading the letters between Abigail and John Adams. Now I have to wonder, was there a sociologist screaming from the rooftops that the President and First Lady were not really communicating because they were using parchment and an ink well instead of smoke signals?

Anyone who has received an intimate love note, a postcard from a distant friend, a cable from a long lost family member, a call from a Grandmother or Grandchild, an email from a close confident, or a text from a favorite tween knows that communication comes in many forms. You can be authentic, smart and enthusiastic while communicating through technology – if you are in fact those things. You can also develop great, meaningful, deep relationships with people you never or rarely see.

I may be a little on the mushy side, but I have friends that I adore whom I have never met. My life would be boring and lonely if I didn’t have them. The experts are wrong.  Social media does connect people and it brings a broader sense of reality to our lives through words, pictures and images.

8 thoughts on “Proof That Social Media Connects People

  1. So about all this social media hubbub…

    Great parallel you’ve drawn here between paper and pen and social media applications as tools for union rather than disunion. Many a straw man has been burned in the service of the “social-media-as-harbinger-of-the-apocalypse” meme, avoiding an exploration of the myriad complexities attending on social interaction regardless of the medium.

    I’m sure some educated aristocrat once thought the spread of the printed word, the democratization of language portended the end of their status as the cultural elite (wake me when that happens). No one is decrying the loss of newspaper readership as the end of reading as we know it. Each of these is a tool, a means through which to communicate with a variety of audiences.

    Laying troubled peoples’ electronic cries for help (be they antigovernment screeds or suicide notes posted to Facebook) off on the medium through which they’re delivered is as irresponsible as assuming connections between disparate events and calling then causation. Somewhere the idea of personal responsibility has gotten lost. And yes, I am pleased to call you friend, virtual though you may be.

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    1. Thank you so much friend Benjamin. Really, you could write my blog for me – you always know exactly what I am saying and then say it better! ~ Jules

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  2. You’re absolutely right. This seems like an article written to elicit response. If anything, Social Media has brought together old friends, new friends, old business colleagues and new business relationships. HOGWASH!!

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  3. Good points. For the most part I do agree with you. I know for me personally, as someone that doesn’t enjoy making small talk in person, social media has provided me an opportunity to connect with lots of people that I’d be too shy to befriend in real life.

    Where social media does go off the rails is when people treat all their contacts the same. Sorry, but I still expect my real friends to share good news with me via phone, email or at least a DM prior to broadcasting to the world.

    Thanks as always for keeping us all honest.

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    1. I agree and forgive you for only agreeing with me “for the most part.”

      I do know someone who found out about her baby brother’s pending divorce via changed Facebook status. I still call my mom and my friends and some other people. I just finished writing a real birthday card and a real thank you note too.

      It’s all about being real. You know you can DM me or send me an email. That’s how we roll. My mom wants a text if I’m running late, but a call to catch up. It’s my job to have real relationships (that’s where the authenticity comes in) and then use technology where appropriate. And yes, you can also develop great, meaningful, deep relationships with people you never or rarely see.

      Always so glad you’re here! Thanks Paul.
      ~ Jules

      PS. Remember that time I called you Robert, back before we were good Twitter friends? 🙂

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  4. I agree with all the points you made in this blog. I myself, started to stray away from social media due to the drama of being young and using it only for friends and fun. Now that I am older, I find I enjoy it when people from my past are able to contact me and reconnect. I also find it very helpful in college because the number of available connections to people of importance is limitless. The world can be very productive due to social media and i find that some work will get done faster with it.

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    1. I love connecting with people from my past (that I like.) Social media can be huge for networking so I would encourage you to continue using it throughout school and into your professional career. Skip the drama and remember, if it exists online, your future boss can see it. Thanks for stopping by! ~ Jules

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