It’s ironic, right? Because you’re reading about how social media is terrible on a blog. It’s also ironic because anyone who knows me knows I am extremely active on social media. Heck, I even have a seasonal job as a director of marketing and events for a local ski shop and most of what I do is manage how we connect with our customers outside the shop through, you got it, social media! Social media is a massive invention that has revolutionized how we can connect with each other and improve information flow despite geographic, language and demographic boundaries. So if it’s so great, and I personally rely on it not only for entertainment, keeping up with friends, meeting new people, analyzing data, storing my pictures (and most details of my day to day life), but also for a livelihood, why am I knocking it? The answer is simple: sometimes we get so immersed in something, we fail to see the larger picture. I’m trying really hard these days to do that, to see past the micro and immediate and have this moment of clarity where I can really see things for what they really are. And social media seemed like a natural place to start.
When we post something to social media, we want the world to pay attention. The invention of the hashtag has assured that much. Someone doesn’t even have to have a direct connection to you to find your contribution to the virtual universe. It’s as if every post was the equivalent of you standing on a mountaintop screaming, “I just had ice cream for breakfast”! And you want the world to care. And what’s nuts is, often, the world will care. We also now have social media focused just on us athletes, most of us know it as Strava. Strava is amazing. I love everything about it. I love that I can keep my data all in one place, I love that I can see what other people are doing with their training. I love that I can compare myself in a healthy competitive way to others I know, and I love that often, I won’t even know the people I’m following or are following me. And then we meet in real life and it’s like “oh hi, I don’t know you but I follow you on strava”. It’s the equivalent of an instagram follower meeting you in real life and saying, “oh hi, I don’t know you but I know what you had for dinner last night. It looked delicious.” It’s weird, right? But it’s become the norm. I regularly now become friends withe people in real life who I had previously only known through social media. Through a mutual shouting on mountaintops and feeding into our own need to be heard and appreciated. Eventually, we will all be connected in one way or another. It’s completely amazing that we can now connect this way, but should we be warned that too many connections create nothing but a tangled web?
This age of self-importance has it’s own set of consequences in general but I have found, for me, the biggest pitfall of social media is creating a false sense of closeness among people. We feel like when we “like” something or “follow someone” or “kudos” something that someone did, we are showing them that we care. But do we? Not always. We are using our interactions on social media as substitutes for interactions with each other in real life. We keep up with people’s lives through Facebook and instagram. We know what haircut they have and what their kids names are not because we interacted with them in person in any way but because we searched the internet for information about them. We feel close, but are just growing apart.
Another consequence is the reality that we are selectively choosing to post certain things and not others. I recently had a friend go through a breakup and they posted nothing about that, but they managed to quickly post mushy pictures of each other after they got back together. The only reason I knew about the breakup at all was because I had a real and not social media interaction with that person and got the ugly truth. The ugly truth doesn’t make the social media cut. And when it does, boy is it a downer. I don’t go on Facebook to listen to someone moan about their day. I go on there to see that someone took an amazing trip to Yosemite. It’s our doing, but it’s not our fault. The system was created to be a fantasy world where skies are blue and dogs wear sweaters and kids are always cute and behaving and relationships are always romantic. Just another way that social media is not real life. It’s like the matrix. It parallels real life but it is not. Make no mistake, those kids go apeshit when you take away their toys after your photo shoot. Only the really cool parents take a picture of that moment, and have the humor to laugh about it instead of complain.
So what’s the solution? I don’t think there is one. Social media is here to stay and is only growing into it’s potential. And I’m sort of happy about that. I think my interactions with people in real life are quality and I think social media lets me have basic interactions with people who live too far to see regularly or people who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I have it to thank for many friends, some relationships, a job and well, this blog. I’m glad it isn’t going anywhere and I’m going to keep using it to connect with others and give and receive really fun pictures of clouds. But maybe next time I see a friend of mine had a really great race and logged it on Strava, I’ll pick up the phone and give them real kudos instead of virtual ones. Ok, who am I kidding, they’re probably going to get Strava kudos from me too 🙂