Social Media: The Ultimate Two-Faced Entity
My opinion of social media, on most days, is that it is a time suck that draws me away from my writing. And while that statement is true, it doesn’t fully address the issue. The Naked Truth is that social media is a two-sided coin that allows me the pleasure of staying connected to readers and writers, friends and family, while conversely shooting my blood pressure into the stratosphere with some of the idiotic/gory/sad/eyeroll-worthy things I’m subjected to on my daily stroll through the newsfeed.
But just when I’m ready to throw in the towel, something happens that reminds me of the good things Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc. have brought to my table, positive things that take the aforementioned connections to a depth not achievable without this virtual water cooler that is social media.
Let’s start with blogging.
I started Writing in the Buff on Blogger in March 2009. When I began, Cathy C. Hall was the only reader I had. To be fair, she felt obligated, as she peer pressured me into blogging in the first place. But, God bless her, she was (and is) supportive and encouraging, and it stuck. For weeks, hers was the lone comment following my fledgling blog posts. But it was enough, that lone comment, to keep me going. And then something happened. As I learned my way around this blogging thing, I branched out and met other bloggers. Over the years, many have come and gone. But a core group formed, a handful of readers/bloggers who visit here and whom I visit on a regular basis. They’re like pals at the office. We drag up a chair at each other’s desks and shoot the breeze for a few minutes. We chat about writing and publishing, television shows we’re addicted to, books we love, and family joys and crises. We share. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We support. We encourage. We hold on because over time we’ve become more than what we started out to be.
These blogging relationships have lasted longer than some marriages. And yet, except for one or two exceptions, we’ve never met in person. Never had the privilege of saying after lunch at TGI Friday’s, “Hey, there’s spinach stuck in your teeth,” or “You have a toilet paper tail wagging from the bottom of your shoe.” But somehow, even though we’ve never met, the connection is there, the bleeding together in black and white, saying, “Here I am. Here’s what’s going on, and this is what I think. What about you? Tell me. I’m listening.”
Blogging does that for you. The relationships unfold and are as real as any other. If you’re a blogger I don’t already follow, please say so in a comment here and share your blog address. I appreciate you visiting and would love to get to know you if I don’t already.
Let’s take a look at Facebook next.
In comparing blogging and Facebooking, I’d say blogging is like a club where like-minded people get together to talk shop. Facebook is more like a college frat party after half the keg is gone. Everyone shows up and few are wallflowers. The anonymity—which is an illusion, by the way—opens people up to say things they wouldn’t otherwise dare. It’s like the sweet 16-year-old girl who flips off other drivers who cut her off in traffic. She’d never raise that middle finger anywhere else, but in the presumed safety of her closed-up vehicle, she turns into someone else. Someone who isn’t afraid to cross the line from patient geniality into expressive gesticulation. Facebook allows for a lot of flipping the bird, buttercup.
Facebook started out as a way for family and friends to stay connected. Over the years it has become a vehicle for mob mentality, bullying, and the rampant spreading of lies. One of my favorite Facebook memes is a quote about Facebook itself, attributed to none other than Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know who created this, but I love the wry irony.
A scroll through the Facebook feed will garner you views alternating between funny dog and cat videos and photos of abused children and pets. Ads, which at Facebook’s inception did not exist, now run rampant. If you’re friends with a lot of writers, then you see a stream of “Look! My new book!” posts. (Color me guilty.) But since Facebook has become the one place to blast information, who can blame any of us? Facebook, of course, has stuck their finger in the advertising pie. Their algorithms look for certain “sales-like” words and those posts are seen by a limited number of people. Want more than four people to see the post sharing information about your new release? Pony up to the bar, buttercup, with money for a sponsored ad. Only through sponsored ads will large numbers of people see your Facebook posts.
Still, as with blogging, friendships are made on Facebook. There are a number of people I have never met, and likely will never meet, in person. But we share each other’s stuff, like each other’s posts, leave comments, and even exchange a PM every now and then. When something bad happens personally—the death of a beloved pet, for example—the Facebook community opens up with support and thoughtful comments. Strangers, who are virtual friends, take the time to offer condolences and prayers. They respond to positive posts, too, especially those that relate to anniversaries and birthdays. Want to celebrate? You’ll find people out there who are happy to offer congratulations, even if it just a one second click of the iconic thumbs-up.
So is social media a horrible time suck? Or is it a place to cultivate friendships? Is it a haven for trolls and bullies? Or is it a gathering of generous spirits? A gift or a gag?
It is all of those things, of course. And perhaps, more than anything, social media becomes exactly what we make it.
What’s your take on social media? Love it or hate it? Or both? How much time do you spend on social media—not just Facebook or blogs, but Snapchat or Instagram or one of the others? What do you think the next “big thing” will be?
See you next week for more of the Naked Truth!
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