Home > Culture, Digital Life > My Tenuous Relationship with Social Media

My Tenuous Relationship with Social Media


I’m really only half connected and I think that’s the way I want it to be. Mostly, I find social media potentially exhausting.

Of course, the grand daddy of them all, Facebook, has been a nice way to reconnect with a lot of people whom I would have completely lost track of. Because of FB, I carry all elements of my past life bravely into the future: my high school friends- the folks I connected with at every job I ever had. I appreciate that they are sort of “in for the ride” with me, and I with them.

I have found that some of life’s challenges like sudden unemployment or health issues have been easier to deal with because of friends that seem to come out of the woodwork at these crucial moments. My friends are very, very kind and have a way of making me feel warm and loved and have been there at some pretty damn critical junctures.

But I look at some folks I know who have purposely avoided social media and I feel a little jealous. Their privacy is total. Their journey is not necessarily a lonely one because they have friends and family with whom they communicate the old fashioned way; around a kitchen table, on the phone- or God forbid, sending an e-mail or a post card- but it is a narrower if not more intimate and possibly more substantive existence.

I am, in fact, amused that those few who avoid social media are kind of like 21st century Henry David Thoreau’s; their internet-free lives the modern day equivalent of living in isolation in the 1840’s at Walden Pond. Thoreau was a lot of things- a poet, an abolitionist, a historian, a surveyor- but mostly he’s known for being a leading transcendentalist and his book, Walden, was a tome to simple living in natural surroundings. I would call that the exact opposite of the way we lead our lives now.

Oh, I imagine there are a lot of folks into meditation or yoga who get glimpses of internal quiet, calm and centeredness and are then perfectly capable of tweeting 140 characters on something or other when they’re back in social mode.

But I don’t know about ‘ol Twitter. I use it as a marketing tool to basically announce when I have posted something on this blog. But I’ve never really used it they way you’re supposed to. First of all, if I have something clever to say about current events, for example, I prefer to write several paragraphs than create snarky Haiku. I’m just too wordy and editorially undisciplined for Twitter.

I do appreciate the role Twitter has played in being used as a tool for truth and as a vehicle for mobilization in regard to a number of recent global political revolutions. But it is also the purveyor of rumor, innuendo and outright falsehood and has done a remarkably effective job at humbling a number of media organizations through the years.

I find it amusing that with social media still being kind of new, there is so much focus on the medium itself instead of its content. For example, when something weird happens in the world, like a black-out during the Super Bowl or Clint Eastwood talking to a chair at a political convention, the headlines are not about the public reaction, but how that reaction gets disseminated. How long do we have to go on reading headlines that read “Twitterverse explodes over X event,” or “Social Media abuzz about X transgression.”

Really, who cares HOW the reaction is going public. Shouldn’t the focus be on the content of the reaction instead of the tool that was used to broadcast it? I suppose some reporter somewhere once wrote that the President arrived to a particular town by train. But eventually, people figured out trains were here to stay and so they just started writing that the President arrived without mentioning how he got there.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter reactions to the world’s events can be hilarious and highly entertaining. And it’s kind of cool that you can follow, say a famous person like a ballplayer and you can send them a message and sometimes they respond.

But remember Foursquare (it still exists)? For awhile there, people stopped using Facebook to announce where they were and started using Foursquare to communicate their location at an event, restaurant, sports arena, museum or whatever. Who cares?

And then there’s Linked In. I’m supposed to care about Linked In. I get e-mails all the time telling me that someone is trying to connect with me or join my network or has endorsed me. Thank you, I very much appreciate being endorsed. I hope my friends who have tried to reach me or connect with me via Linked In don’t take it personally that I only log into the thing about twice a year, approve 30 or 40 connections and then get back to my life again. I’m just not a Linked In kind of guy. I’m sorry. I do feel guilty about it. That’s why I get on the site twice a year to kind of clean things up. But, sheesh, why should I feel guilty about not really caring two bleeps about Linked In?

There are lots of other social media I am totally missing. Wikipedia lists about 180 social media sites, of which I am familiar with about six. Some of this ignorance on my part is totally due to the fact that I am getting old. I know, I know, a lot of people don’t consider 56 to be old. But I am and sometimes all of this social media stuff just exhausts me. “Help me, I’ve fallen, and I can’t keep up!”

Hell, I was born the year the last known Union Civil War soldier died. I was born a year before the Soviets launched Sputnik. I’m so old, I would have to explain to 85% of the world’s population what Sputnik was.

And I was born just 94 years after the passing of Henry David Thoreau, who, in turn, was born just 40 years after the American revolution:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Irony Alert: I would have really enjoyed his blog.

  1. channing carroll
    February 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I’m glad to know that social media has been a support to you at times. We all seem to be so busy these days that it is impossible to stay in touch in the traditional ways. I was not social in my high school days but I still have very fond memories of our middle school days, playing Woodie Guthrie & Beatles songs, etc.

    I always enjoy your insightful, humorous posts. In this one, you have expressed exactly what has been on my mind in everything you stated, including the Thoreau references. I have begun to feel like a curmudgeon and your post makes me feel more validated than curmudgeonly. Thanks for that.

    “Rock on”!

  2. February 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    “Helping the elderly since 1956.” You are one of the great finds directly attributable to social media. We sang Tom Joad. With Ken Elam. Feels like it was yesterday. We were thinner and had way more hair. You really are such a kind and good friend. Maybe we should get a drink someday, huh?

  3. Taryn Bailey (Ellison)
    February 22, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    See, Social Media leads you to bars and alcohol…can’t be all that bad:)

  4. Jim Hawk
    February 23, 2013 at 2:19 am

    You made me laugh with the end line about Thoreau – “I would have really enjoyed his blog”. And your LinkedIn exprience mirrors mine – I just don’t get the point, if there is one. From someone who remembers Sputnik (and Echo and Vanguard, etc.)….

  5. mike and brandy
    February 23, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    i sometimes think of joining FB, but then i rethink “if you have 1278 ‘freinds’, do you ‘really’ have 1278 Freinds?” We all have only a small handful that we can ‘really’ count on when we need help moving, need a talking with and ‘To’. and with what i’ve been reading about how the Govt/CIA use FB and other ‘Social Media’ sites for ‘data mining’ and intelligence gathering… it makes me want to put Less of myself out there in Cyber-world and not More.

    spend time and energy and relationship with ‘Real’ freinds who care and are there for you.

  6. March 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but reading this the day after a new pope is selected…as we awaited the announcement one of the top trending on twitter was #replacemovietitleswithpope, to which shamelessly contributed. I wonder if people are offended by this or just accept that this would be the same as a group of people watching TV together might joke.

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