Social media and me

ImageLately, as I’ve become an even more avid social media user, I’ve become more aware of the criticism that can be lobbed at people who admit that they use a lot of Facebook or Twitter. In one recent example, I was drawn into a conversation in the work lunchroom about Facebook. Someone I barely know was talking to a colleague whom I do know well, about Facebook. The conversation went something like this:

Barely known colleague: I just don’t get Facebook, I don’t understand why people become friends with people they barely know, and I can’t help wondering what that says about their real friendships.

Well known colleague: Um… well, I like Facebook. I find it really convenient. It’s a great way to organise things. It also means it’s easy to find out what old high school friends are up to now. It’s especially good for friends who are overseas.

Barely known colleague: See that’s the thing. I’ve lived overseas and I have a lot of friends in different countries, and I never have any trouble keeping up with them!

Me, interrupting: I love Facebook for all the reasons that well-known-colleague mentioned. It’s just easier to stay up to date. And I tend not to be friends on Facebook with people who aren’t friends In Real Life. It all depends on how you choose to use it.

Facebook is a tool, like any other. I suppose it could become too habitual or addictive. I’ve heard of cases of people being ‘different’ to their real selves because the online medium provides them with a bit of coverage. It’s the ‘online’ version of opaque glass or airbrushing, and they can fake a life, or at least choose to package it up a certain way to suit an audience. I vehemently believe that I don’t do this. I am the SAME PERSON, 100% me regardless of the medium. I hope that those who know me In Real Life would agree with this. Frequently, I take the piss out of myself, online, because I’m all too aware that my life might appear to be a bit of a 30-something yuppie cliche to the uninitiated observer.

I have heard that people can find themselves suffering Facebook Envy – where it seems everyone around them is having more exciting lives than they are. The harsh truth is – they probably are. Facebook perhaps isn’t for people who are already feeling lonely, depressed, unfulfilled or in some other way inadequate. But the point here is that there is a disposition to feeling this way – Facebook might serve as the catalyst for unhappiness, create unmanageable demands on our time, or induce self-loathing, but it’s not the cause.

What inspired me to write this post, aside from being home sick (again! – pesky cold discussed in previous post hasn’t buggered off yet) is that when I got home last night from 3 blissful hours with two very good friends, eating dumplings and sharing each others lives, I flicked on the telly and there was a show on the ABC about the empire that is Facebook. All manner of intelligent and learned commentators were discussing the phenomena that is Facebook. What pissed me off is the number of them who were convinced that the dilution of friendship, via an online medium, can have no other consequence other than lowering every human interaction to its lowest common denominator. Personally, I resent the implication that because I’ve allegedly ‘diluted’ my friendship capacity down by having *gasp* 100 facebook friends (!!) my real friendships suffer. They don’t. They haven’t. I’m as good a friend (or bad, depending) now as I would be without Facebook in my life. Maybe better in fact because Facebook makes it easier to arrange face-to-face catch ups. I’m not denying there’s a risk it makes us lazy friends. But it’s not me, it’s not my life, and it doesn’t define, or damage my friendships.

In my ‘research’ for this post (I use that term loosely), I stumbled across the The Anti-Facebook League of Intelligentsia. Oh. My. God. What a load of drivel. The name alone should alert you to the arrogant assumptions that are being made about those who use Facebook – apparently we’re not intelligent. They don’t just hate on Facebook either. One particularly golden quote says that “One recent piece of research shows that “periodically checking your e-mail lowers your cognitive performance level to that of a drunk.”” Um, ok. I wondered what my boss would say if I told her that I apparently spend my day performing at the cognitive level of a drunk. She’d probably be stoked to know that I’m apparently capable of far more than I currently deliver. My vocabularly fails me at this point. I’m an intelligent woman and not afraid to say it but all I can come up with when I read this crap is “bullshit”.

I’m sure the conversation I had with the two colleagues, and even some of the general social-media hating that goes on, mirrors experiences that you’ve had every day, most likely face-to-face, (although I do love the irony of an online discussion debating the whys and wherefores of online communication) with people in your lives. I would love to hear your views. Are you frequently called upon or in some way challenged to defend your love of a particular social media? Stay tuned for all the reasons why I love Twitter. Bet you can hardly wait 😉


4 thoughts on “Social media and me

  1. I love Facebook. First reason for this relates to my core group of friends. I would chat on the phone to these guys even if I didn’t have Facebook. But when life gets hectic (and with 4 kids under 7, that happens from time to time) Facebook lets me keep the conversation open as well as providing a great big SOS beacon. If a friend posts a status update that tells me she’s not ok, or private messages me at 3am, I’ll make time to get in touch. It also means I saw my niece’s first smiles, first steps, and first giggles, even though she lives on the other side of the country!
    The other reason I love it relates to “everyone else”. This relates to acquaintances, not-so-close friends and extended family. By chatting on Facebook I have some basic level of friendship to base our face-to-face catch ups on. In years gone by I would catch up with a cousin’s wife at a family gathering for example. Having only spoken to her twice before in my life, having no idea if we have any common interests I had no idea what to talk about, and being a tad shy (I know – unbelievable!) I just wouldn’t say anything. Now, thanks to facebook I know she likes baking, big bang theory, and the names and ages of her kids. When we see each other we are more like old friends than someone I was introduced to once.
    I don’t think facebook has diluted my friendships, but rather has enhanced them. I love Facebook.

    • Good point Rach, I hadn’t thought of the fact that it makes things less awkward at family reunions. I certainly feel that I know more about my cousin’s and their spouses now, and can appreciate them so much more, because we have more regular ‘contact’ than the once-yearly family event.

  2. My mother just rang to tell me that she still doesn’t understand Facebook and wants nothing to do with it, but my father said there was an EXPOSE of FB on the telly last night. I think I was supposed to stop using it immediately.
    I won’t.
    I use FB to keep in touch with friends. I use FB to keep in touch with family overseas (and those college-aged ones tend to move and change emails and lose your postal address and all kinds of things, never forget to check their FB or post their news). I also use FB to update the local community about charity fundraising, to keep in touch with people with whom I share work interests, to publicise blog posts, to plug my upcoming book. And no, I am not going to revert to doing things an old-fashioned way just because some people don’t use FB appropriately. What am I supposed to do, pop all that into the annual Christmas card? I believe in making good use of the good tools available to me.

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