“Social media complicates interpersonal relationships in that it can seduce the user into thinking that online and in-person communication are the same.”
I came across this quote in my e-travels this afternoon and it stopped me dead in my tracks. It was like I was looking into the mirror of my own psyche, a psyche that has been wrestling with the meaning of social media and how it does/doesn’t, should/shouldn’t fit into my life and into the fabric of our society.
Let me first get one thing on the table. I use social media. I have Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Pinterest and Goodreads accounts. I probably have more I’m not remembering. Let me get another thing out : I get lost in social media – often. And when I do, I hate myself. I hate myself because instead of learning and enriching myself, I’m off on some bunny trail, wasting time, seeing who did what to whom, and fooling myself into believing ‘this’ is the real world.
Is social media a bad thing? I don’t like generalizations, but I have concerns. Many. Take Facebook: A study performed by German researchers earlier this year found users engage in ‘rampant envy’ on what the researchers called ‘an unprecedented platform for social comparison.’
Other studies blame Facebook for causing depression in those who see themselves on the sidelines of Disneyesque worlds portrayed in posts and pictures of people who are surely richer, happier and more beautiful. Ironically, many of these richer, happier and more beautiful types have reserved their own sideline views where the proverbial parade also passes them by.
Yes, I am a social networker. No, I don’t like it. I feel dehumanized and yes, I admit to twinges of envy now and again. It makes me tense and stressed. It is a Mecca for braggarts, bullies, and scammers.
So why do I continue to use social networking? I do it because I teach business communication and social networking is ‘the’ place to be to connect with colleagues, customers and employees. I need to talk about and demonstrate it and its positive uses to improve business communications. Ironically, it does do that – improve business communication in many ways. In these classes, we talk about the ethics, integrity and positive uses of social networking. We also talk about productivity and business sense and the ludicrousness of having 1500 Facebook friends or over 100,000 Twitter followers.
There is a difference here, and that, I think, is that we have not put social networking in the personal pigeonhole into which it belongs. In business it is a place to visit, a tool to use and a means to an end. On the other hand, in personal realms, it has taken on a life of its own, a life that threatens to swallow many with falsehoods, fiction and fabrication.