Social media wasn’t always a part of my life, as in, it didn’t exist when I was a child. What is the verdict several years later? What is its place?
That answer is easy, I enjoy it very much, and I don’t care about it at all. Without it, I am equally happy. In the past, I’ve deleted my Facebook account and gone without it for one year. It was nice. My life was the same.
Now, I use it a lot, daily even, though less now that summer is underway. Social media allows me to participate in an increasingly disconnected world, and to be seen and heard, and to see and hear others, even when we are very far away. It allows me to share my work offerings, freely.
But consider how Facebook, specifically, was a tool made by boys, so they could rank the attractiveness of fellow student’s faces. And now it has clarified so much for us, about the full messiness of our human experiences. It continues to clarify how many of us are wiling to shift accountability for human behaviors onto anything that we can.
We tend to blame the tools at our disposal for somehow pulling the humanity from us. I won’t go so far as to theorize re: the accuracy of the blaming, and I’m sure there are studies that castigate social media sufficiently. I know people are always looking for justification around how tools don’t harm people, people do, but that is rhetoric, and I don’t indulge rhetoric if I can avoid it.
It’s odd that when something doesn’t yield the results we want, or we are overusing it, or underutilizing it, that we don’t start with a bit of inquiry. Wow, this tool is provoking so much in me, I wonder if I could use it differently, or change my own behaviors or expectations?
How would things feel different, if that skill became innate?
When I share something, it’s an offering for others: a laugh, a celebration, a thought, a call to accountability, a tender or heart-opening moment, or even a warning. It means a piece of information is important to me.
And I understand the same about your posts, that they are an effort to be known–to be seen and understood, and to share something that is important to you: your product, your family, your worries. It’s not much more elaborate than that, though we make stories about each other all the time–who’s using it right, and who’s not. We assume too much, and we judge.
You’ll never know someone’s full story, and to try to flesh it out around bits and bites of shared moments is an egregious error. Social media is one giant collection of story editing tools, in the end–life-story editing tools, and brilliantly so. When we understand it as such, we can take things with less gravitas.
My friend group is large, but not the largest I’ve seen. Like yours, it is comprised of close friends, family, acquaintances, and people I barely know, some with similar interests politically, socially, or professionally. I continue to add people, and then I have to accept the challenge of trying to defy what Facebook’s algorithms force feed me, because diversity of thought is important. Different people, from other places and communities, think differently, and I love that.
People talk about the bubble. I am grateful to have a bubble that is large and disparate. Sometimes, that makes it feel discordant. Reality is discordant. I can’t celebrate everything my friends are celebrating, so I look for the things I can.
Right now, there is so much to be happy about, but there is so much to lament. So much to brag about, and so much to nag about. Celebrate, grieve. It’s all a bit much, and chasing the news cycle leaves us so engaged that we have to take rest seriously.
We have to take the time to pop offline and sit, in our homes, or in our gathering places, or in our forests and beaches, and integrate it all. It’s heavy-hearted work, the integrating. Reality is heavy. And then it’s light again. This is being human, and especially human and online.