The limitations of social media!

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About 4 years ago I was dragged, kicking and screaming I should say, into what we now call ‘social media.’ Social media of course pretty much boils down to Facebook and Twitter and you can find me on both.

“It’s a great way to keep up with everyone,” they said as they dragged me down. At that time I could see how Facebook was indeed a great way to connect or reconnect with people. But I didn’t get Twitter at all. 140 characters? Really? That’s just nuts!

So fast forward a few years and today I’m still on both sites and am working to improve my presence there as it is good for the work I do. But I have to tell you that I’ve come to enjoy Twitter a whole lot more than Facebook.

My growing distaste for Facebook can perhaps be summarized in their birth date function. Unlike Twitter, Facebook wants a lot of personal information when you sign up, including the month, day and year you were born. When I first signed up I just ignored that, but then was bombarded with requests from all my Facebook ‘friends’ for the day, so finally I caved in and entered the info.

Then I pretty much forgot about it. Nearly a year went by when my birthday rolled around at last. And yes, you Facebookers guessed it; I was practically inundated by a veritable tsunami of happy birthday wishes. From near and far, from people I saw every week to people who I hadn’t talked to in ages, they just came rolling in.

It was amazing, it was fantastic, and I hated it!

It bothered me so much that I ended up taking my birth date out of Facebook and have learned to deal with its constant attempts to make me put it back in. But I refuse to be assimilated on this one, and to this day am holding the line against all the wiles of Facebook’s programmers. (I won’t put the date here either, but it is in December which is why I’m writing this now.)

Why do I feel so strongly about this? It might be because I’m becoming an old curmudgeon I suppose, but I don’t think so. I try and embrace and use as much new technology as I can, and in general I love it. But I also keep in mind what it actually is and try to never mistake it for what it’s not.

Facebook and Twitter are technological websites that allow people to share information with others in a variety of ways. That’s what they are and that’s all they are. They aren’t a conversation (unless you’re using the talk function), they can’t substitute for real people in your life and all the ‘digital hugs’ in the world don’t equal one real one.

What really bothered me was that most of the people who sent me birthday wishes didn’t have slightest idea when my birthday was, and only sent it because Facebook told them to! People I’d been trying to talk to for months or years didn’t have time for that but somehow did have time to write a few words at the behest of the website.

Really? You may call that friendship but I don’t. I’d rather someone take a minute or two and drop me a few lines about what’s going on with them and asking me about myself than get a phony, mechanical and annual reminder that I’m one year older.

Thanks but I’ve got that one.

What I’d really like is just one real conversation or at least a message or email that has something of substance in it. Real relationships take time to build and are made out of sharing the substance of our lives, not trite clichés on the appropriate occasion. I don’t miss Facebook reminders any more than I miss getting Christmas cards with phony mechanical signatures in them.

As far as I’m concerned, 15 minutes of real, deep, open and honest conversation is worth several lifetimes of computer generated age reminders. One is a sign of real friendship; the other is just annoying.

Facebook, Twitter, texting etc. are all great as add-ons to a relationship, but are shabby substitutes for one at best. That explains all the studies showing that people who are big users of social media tend to be more lonely and depressed than those who aren’t. Technology is just a tool and can never substitute for real human fellowship.

So as Christmas draws ever nearer this year why not make some time for real, personal and meaningful interaction with your friends and family? You know, up close and personal if that’s possible. That’s the kind of thing that really makes Christmas merry!

So Merry Christmas everybody! Now get off the net and go talk to somebody!

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