(previously published 1/2014)
Since I’ve been at home, rarely leaving the building (admittedly it IS winter in IL) I find that I interact with my computer far more frequently than before. I email and spend time on Facebook multiple times a day. I did that before via my cellphone but the amount of time was limited by the demands of my work day. But this habit I have poses a bit of a conundrum. Is social media really a viable social connection?
It’s not a new question, sociologists have been discussing it since its inception but it begs a review by the very nature of it’s longevity. With so much of it available it’s tough to avoid (though I have a friend who vehemently does and she’s very difficult to get ahold of ) and since time is everyone’s most precious commodity it is a simple and efficient way to keep connected. I’ve grown to hate phone calls, with the exception of my family, I rarely talk on the thing; so it better have a good camera, fast internet connection and be able to pair with my car! I’ve even resorted to that lame habit of texting. It’s lazy but I cave to peer pressure, especially when I can do it while I watch TV. But I wander off topic; is social media a viable substitute for face to face or voice to voice interaction?
I admit I love Facebook even though every now and then I worry about some outside behemoth viewing my interactions and I threaten to take down my page – I am addicted. I enjoy reconnecting with people from my past and finding that their lives are no more perfect than my own. Some are married as many years as me and others are on their 2nd or even 3rd marriages. Children are getting married, or not, and having grandchildren to dangle on my friends’ knees. Weight is gained and lost along with hair. Careers and jobs are advanced or eliminated and it’s all there for me to see, comment on, sympathize with, congratulate or ignore. Of course I know that making comparisons is not the best way to gauge a life lived but I’m human, I do it anyway. I also love seeing what my current family/friends are up to and what their kids are doing. In fact, we had dinner at a friends’ house one evening and the first thing we did was discuss our daughter’s new school in Oregon because they’d viewed all the pics and comments we posted on Facebook. I didn’t have to have anything developed, pay for it or bring it with me to show off her school digs and friends. Time and money well saved.
Which brings me to the pictures on Facebook. This is probably my favorite part of the site, I adore the photos both professional and amateur, several of my FB friends have professionals in their families so my photo stalking is highly rewarding. I’ve seen new babies, weddings, deathbeds, gardens, houses, vacations/travels (I’ve virtually been all over the world), recitals, parties, decorations and so much food! What is the thing with the food?! I mean really! How many family dinners, creative sushi, birthday desserts, coffee foams, glasses of wine, fancy drinks and appetizers can a person view in a lifetime? It doesn’t stop me from looking! Which brings me to the recipes and lifestyle tips – so many. I’ve tried a few of them and been thankful a time or two for the blogs they originated from, joined a site or added an app to my tablet so I could easily access these nuggets of creativity. I’m on board with all of it. It reminds me of times us moms in the ‘hood’ would sit at each others tables and discuss our dinner preparations trading tips and ideas while the kids played.
Another aspect of Facebook are the shared posts that I read. For example, yesterday my dedicated liberal friend posted an article from a financial guru who thinks that big business is driving the Feds to increase the FHA loan rate. My dedicated conservative friend posted an opposing article stating that it was the government who wants these rates to climb. Who needs a newspaper anymore? Today’s topic was about the patriarch of Duck Dynasty, one a cynical take that claims his offensive remarks are about adding to the dynasty’s publicity, ergo increasing it’s ka-ching value; the other stating that A&E was bowing to special interest groups’ demands to limit his free speech. I say – who cares (and WHY is this news?) It’s a bunch of guys with enough facial hair to keep a lone Fuller Brush sales man in the black all because of a duck whistle. I remember many discussions like these with moms at the local McDonald’s, again, while our kids played (we HAD to do something adult during those years). We felt validated and smart, like we could solve the nation’s woes just by discussing them intelligently. It gave us a chance to hone our vocabulary skills and impress each other with our political insight. Now these discussions take place on FB with various people contributing sound bites of information and opinion or “liking” each other’s posts so we know which side they fall on. It’s entertaining but I don’t think it replaces the more in-depth face to face mom talks we used to have, those sharpened our intelligence and helped us mature as individuals, I cherish them.
Does all this interaction make for a viable alternative to my previous types of social interactions? Sometimes, yes. Maybe it’s my age but I enjoy social interaction that occurs while drinking coffee, sitting in an old bathrobe before you’ve showered, knowing you sound witty, intelligent and charming. You have time for formulate thoughts before speaking them aloud. It concerns me a bit to see young people growing up using these formats to build relationships from scratch. Even my adult daughters are as accustomed to this kind of connection as a live one. Do I think it can be socially stunting? Absolutely! No matter what happens in life everyone will leave their dwelling at some point for some reason and will encounter live people in the process. I’m thankful that my daughters feel this way also. Knowing my future grandchildren will be required to learn manners and social behaviors is important to me. Come on! Of course I want to impress my friends some day with these future darlings’ perfectly adorable quotes and activities and Facebook is an ideal vehicle for that purpose.
After all–it IS a contest as to who’s grandchildren are the most precocious and well spoken – right?