(Warning: the following may contain a whining tone that may not be appreciated by all readers.)
This post has been bubbling for a long while, festering might be a better word, in fact and the term “post” might be replaced by “rant” or “complaint”.
Anything that takes me away from my life is not social. It eats up my time away from the people and activities that I love: my children, my husband, my friends, my inner nature; nature, yoga, hiking, reading, Netflix.
It’s not that I spend that much time socializing or living through social media. “There’s the rub,” as William Shakespeare wrote. And now to quote the title of a novel by Milan Kundera, for me, “Life is Elsewhere.”
Social media for me is work. Similarly, for me my computer is mainly a work tool and not a portal to fun and games, as it seems to be for my children. It used to surprise me how as little ones they would come around and look over my shoulder when I was working at my laptop, as if were a television or a floor model wireless radio in the 1930s when everyone would sit around it to listen.
I know I am not the first person to raise these gripes and concerns. Likely too, many of those who share my complaints and like me feel they have had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the social media dimension also share my demographic status. I am on the cusp between the Baby Boom generation and Generation X, born just two years after the brilliant Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland who wrote the zeitgeist-defining Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was born. Which means I remember seeing real hippies in their natural environment of a university campus in the late the Sixties. I remember 8-track tapes, hand-writing university essays, typewriters and life before email and the Internet. That’s the technology. Socially, I remember pen-pals and writing lots of letters to friends and family. In my neighbourhood, we didn’t lock doors. If you didn’t find your friends already out on the street, or in the playground you would go knock on their door. Otherwise it was the phone and as a teen and tween we were scolded if we tied up the phone line for too long.
Photo Source: http://extranet.editis.com/it-yonixweb/IMAGES/118/P3/9782264002198.jpg
However, I do admit that there are some many social upsides to social media. It is fabulous how my retired school-teacher and book-club friend can connect with thousands of people who read and comment on her literate and fashionable blog Highheels in the Wilderness. It is marvellous how quickly, easily, cheaply and widely we can correspond with people all across the world, with images, video and translation apps at the click of a finger making even language barriers almost disappear. I expect I will be happy, when I am retired, to have social media to help me connect to an audience beyond my real-life social and professional circle. But currently I feel I can only invest the time and energy to social media for immediate and mainly professional purposes. And it frightens to me to think how much we may also be losing to the addictive power of social media networks and the technology that enables them.
With so many connections possible quickly and easily via social media networks, the quality of these connections often seems to lose out to the quantity. How deep or real are connections made after a quick read and comment with someone we have not and probably will never meet? And should we call those relationships?
I believe the crux of the issue really is time. With digital memory, space, length and word-count virtually limitless, the new hard limit is time. The time we have to read, to consider, to respond to, and to cultivate those connections is at a real premium. And I believe really is most valuable currency in the social media economy and where we risk paying the greatest price by spending so much time on our devices that little is left to cultivate human contact in real time and real life. Much of our human interaction is being outsourced to or because of technology and the effect of this, what author Craig Lambert calls Shadow Work is stealing our time, jobs and shortchanging our person-to-person interactions. As I said above, I am very conscious of the fact that the more time I must spend on a device, the less time I am getting fresh air and exercise, enjoying the natural world and changing seasons and interacting face-to-face with not only my loved ones but other people in the community.
I sometimes feel that we are being forced to see and experience everything on a screen or via media as if a horrible sci-fi prophecy has come to pass. With the advent of this powerful, multipliable way of communicating with others, it seems that everything has become marketing, sales and self-promotion and because the technology can count nearly everything, we risk falling for the fallacy that everything can be measured and valued with numbers. And if a number can’t be assigned their must not be worth there. It brings to mind the old saying, about knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.
Studies have shown very real negative impacts of too much social media and technology-mediated activities: screen time interfering with the ability to sleep, for example, and the dramatic finding that people who spend much time on social media, gazing at Facebook in particular, are left feeling sad, lonely and down on themselves.
Digital analyst Brian Solis writes that too high a degree of social connectivity can lead to a net result of “social and emotional bankruptcy.”
Blogger and internet marketing specialist Tommy Landry points out that social media facilitates an amplification of ignorance and the an intensification of the phenomenon of all talk no action.
Time is the new space, it seems. To some extent, each of us is caught up in an accelerating technology-driven changing world. I recently heard about a fascinating art project by artist, anthropologist and computer scientist Jonathan Harris on CBC Radio’s Spark program recently called the Network Effect Network Effect which suggests that our online connections are creating a sense of disconnection and alienation. CBC labels the project “a powerful critique of the limitations of constant immersion online, and a reminder of the time and space we need in this digital age.”
How real and important are your social media connections to you? Or are you like me and not quite there yet? Bear with me as I try to get real and stay real with social media.
P.S. Thanks for reading if you stuck it out this far in a too long post.