I hate when a post begins with a caveat. They make me leery and overly critical of what follows. Usually what comes after is an overly biased (everything comes from some bias or other), one-sided argument that adds very little to any conversation. Still, knowing all that and though it makes my heart hurt from the thought of it, I will throw one out. The good thing: I waited until the second paragraph to do it.
This post is not meant as an indictment of anyone I personally know or a criticism of any individual or their actions.
There, that is out of the way.
I spend a fair amount of time on social networking sites and I really enjoy the interactions I have. I use sites like Facebook and Twitter for entertainment, for quick conversations and most importantly ( in the case of Facebook) maintain connections with people I would most likely never speak to or contact in any meaningful way. I have found friends I thought I would never speak to again, old girlfriends, professors and co-workers. Several of these people live overseas or out of state and I value the ease with which the Facebook platform allows me to quickly make contact and share in what goes on in their lives.
I also understand the addictive nature of these sites. When I first signed on to Facebook in 2008, it was popular but the real wave was just beginning. A few months before my 20 year high school reunion, several hundred of my classmates were signing up and connecting. Old photos and stories were posted and for about six months, old friendships were renewed, almost baggage free. I would easily spend three and four hours a day online. It could have been more. All the memories swam up and it was exhilarating to let myself float in them.
Soon things slowed down, the bliss of the initial contacts faded and the fact that we were all 20 years older and had gone many different ways in life began to manifest. Many people bored with Facebook and either cancelled accounts or stopped logging in. It was not unexpected and while there are a few of those people I really wish were still online, I am not upset by most of those that went away. It was obvious that whatever had allowed us to be friends two decades ago was not enough to sustain an adult friendship. And that’s just fine.
My addiction to Facebook also subsided. I still enjoy it and still use it multiple times a day. There are some who hate it and everything it represents and that is just fine as well. I am not writing about the merits or failures of the platform. It is a place to connect and that is what I use it for.
What I want to talk about, what interests me is how the backlash or the fear of addiction has taken center stage, or (more fascinating) how some feel it a statement to cancel an account in favor of “real world” interaction.
I have difficulty understanding the argument that by using a social networking platform you are by default ignoring other more tangible social interactions. I can certainly understand a need to spend less time online, to spend more time with family and friends and I can even understand feeling like for an individual it might come down to a choice between one or the other. What I have never understood (and this argument has been being used for items other than the Internet: music, books, writing, drinking ( a tiny joke there), anything really) is the need to assign to others an obsession that may or may not exist.
Get out and see the real world.
Unplug and have a face to face conversation.
The sun is shining, go find a friend.
For years, the argument on another site I used was that we all spent too much time arguing or conversing in an online forum, which had to mean we had no life outside that forum. It may or may not be true for some, surely it is not true for all. I refuse to feel guilt or shame for enjoying my social networking time. I get out. I meet friends and family. I do things other than type on a computer screen. Honestly, I like both. They both have value to me and I see no reason to stop either of my activities, virtual or physical.
Again, I am not critical of someone who feels they need to cut the wire, to stretch their “out in the world” muscle and get back to what they feel they need to connect with. I only ask that you keep assumptions about others, their use or perceived abuse of something to yourself. Trust in your fellow human beings to also know what it is they need and that they will act accordingly. For the most part, we all want to better ourselves, be stronger, smarter, happier people and most of us are finding ways to do it. Have faith.
Whew. Not too preachy, I hope. Maybe only a little offensive. Regardless, your thoughts and opinions are always welcome. We can talk here, on Facebook, or face to face over coffee and cake. Yes?