What did we do before social media? Well I know what we did, of course and what we didn’t do. We didn’t know our friends and acquaintances every move, thought, or action punctuated by a thumbs up or a heart emoji. We never saw thousands of photos capturing life in real time, sharing public and private moments that our friend circle and beyond have shared and shared and shared yet again. Snapchats and Instagram exposes life in instant time. And yet the great irony is that with all of this isolating technology, we do feel connected.
I do know what we did back then although I cringe to hear myself refer to the past as if I were withered with age. Life was just a bit quieter and moved at a slower pace although that just seems so in hindsight. At the time, I felt like life was fast. But one could wait for days or weeks for a phone call from a friend. We took so much on faith. No news was good news so our loved ones were fine. And then we had so much to tell each other once we did connect. We spent hours over dinner and drinks talking face to face, catching up on each other’s lives.
As much as one of my major pet peeves is the practice of staring at one’s cell phone at the same time someone is sitting across from them, waiting for their attention, I must confess I love social media. And it is mostly because I have been allowed to glimpse into my children’s and friends and family’s lives without having to waiting for the phone to ring. Social media lets me see things they like without them having to tell me. I can see what they are passionate about or angry about or events they might attend and even hear their voice in the world as they express their views. Social media is a helicopter parent’s dream!
But as with all seemingly magical gifts, there is a downside. There is a certain level of voyeurism in social media. Friends, family and acquaintances “friend” you and allow you to peek into their lives for better or for worse. Conversely they can peek into yours. It is up to me what I put out into the social media but sometimes more can be exposed then I might want it to be. What need does being a presence on social media fulfill for me? I find it ironic that I feel connection with the most disconnected medium there is.
This is truly a brave new world. We open ourselves up to others in ways never seen before. Sometimes our lives get opened up without our consent. Hacking is a sport, it seems. The goal is to see who can score the biggest revelation about a person or an organization or even a government. Conversely a person can hide who they truly are behind an attractive persona. They can reinvent themselves, be someone completely new. We could all live in an alternative universe with alternative facts. The truth can hide behind the many facades of social media or it can become something entirely different. That certainly seems to be the reality that we find ourselves in now. The irony. How ironic. How I love that word.
But going back to my original question: how did we get along without social media? I can’t even say because we have now lived so long with it. Social media allows a person to follow another person into places they may not have realized. I am happy to see glimpses of my children as they move through life. A Snap here, an Instagram there. A book that has a face, complete with eyes and ears and a loud loud voice. A post with a photo worth a thousand words. A Tweet that can uplift or shred a person in just 140 characters.
It’s odd to have an online presence. I can actually Google myself. Social media has allowed me to be a writer. It allows my writing to reach readers from around the globe. I love checking my WordPress analytics to see in which country today’s readers reside. What is more social than having your thoughts and words, your story reach someone thousands of miles away. It is a small world indeed. I relish being able to watch my nieces and nephews and siblings and friends and my children fumble and navigate their way through life.
Yet I must I confess this both excites me and scares the heck out of me. We all open ourselves up in a way that is both brave and reckless. Yet that is the world today and we must keep pace. Which brings me, as always, back to my children. How I love this tenuous thread that keeps us connected. I can still keep them close as I let them go. The irony of that is not lost on me. But I don’t care. I will selfishly and joyfully keep whatever connection to them they will allow me to. It’s not the only connection and it is most certainly not the most important one. But it is one I am grateful for.