“Food doesn’t taste better or worse when documented by Instagram. Laughter is as genuine over Skype as it would be sharing a sofa. Pay attention. Take in nature, hold someone’s hand, read a book. But don’t ever apologise for snapping a photo of a sunrise after a hike, or blogging about the excitement of having a crush, or updating your goodreads account. All of these things are good and should be celebrated. Smile at strangers on the sidewalk and like your friends’ selfies. It’s all good for the human spirit.”
Social Media gets a bit of a bad rap, have you noticed? Considering that nearly 2 billion people worldwide actively use social media, there must be something good about it, don’t you think? Perhaps the criticism comes from people who don’t use it! They say:
We don’t socialise face to face anymore (um…is that really true?)
Social Media encourages bullying, trolling and other bad behaviour (yes, because before social media, people were always kind and considerate to each other.)
People present their best face on their social media profile, not their true face (Yes they do, just as most people try to present themselves well in every social situation – media included. I’m all in favour of that.)
Social Media is a time suck and decreases our productivity (yes – before social media people were uber-efficient and productive, and never got distracted by anything)
You know, it’s funny. Whenever the way we communicate changes, there are always people who resist. That’s okay, but a little bit of perspective is useful. Did you know that when humans started to write our stories down instead of handing them down verbally, people worried? Would we still gather and talk to each other? If we didn’t use our memories to store the stories, perhaps we would lose the capacity to remember! When the phone came in and replaced letters and telegrams as the main method of communication, the same thing happened – people worried that we wouldn’t write anymore. And then when email came in and replaced letters on paper with letters on a screen which get delivered instantaneously, people worried about that as well!
People, we still tell stories. We still gather and talk. We still write letters to each other – although not many letters are written on paper these days. I think that’s a good thing – we do not have infinite resources. We still talk on the telephone – although now we have skype, so we can see each other! How awesome is that? Just because something new comes in, it doesn’t mean that the old disappears (although sometimes it should – cassettes!).
Yes, there are some problems – but these problems were not invented by social media. Tell me, before social media, was bullying ever a problem? Did young people ever gather together and have conversations that their elders disapprove of? My friends, you know they did. They gather online now in virtual spaces – as well as physical spaces – and sometimes they speak badly to each other and hurt each other’s feelings. Sometimes they go way over what is okay with tragic consequences – and yes, teenagers have been known to do that as well, way before social media came about. Yes, we should have discussions about what behaviours are okay and what are not. Yes, using discretion and discernment is smart, and yes, good manners and kindness go a long way in every sphere.
On the way home from the beach yesterday, I was thinking about some of the amazing experiences I’ve had with social media. Here are some of them:
- Glennon Doyle from Momastery converted one of my comments on a blog post into a meme and shared it on her facebook page with 260 000 of her closest friends…I saw it scrolling down my Facebook page and just about fell over :)
- For my 12th weekly inspiration post, I shared it on my facebook page as usual with a little description of what was in it and mentioning Elizabeth Gilbert who had written yet another thing that I loved. Who then came over and liked my post! Yah!
- I shared my most recent weekly inspiration on twitter, as I normally do, mentioning Justine Musk, who wrote a fabulous essay on the Heroine’s Journey. She tweeted back, quoting part of a poem that I had written in the post:
Just so you don’t get too concerned about my potty mouth taken out of context, here’s the whole poem:
I want a big life
A bold life
A life with colour
A life that pushes the boundaries.
I want excitement
And if that’s not
The life you want
Then get the fuck
Off this train.
- I’ve had twitter conversations with Jennifer Pastiloff, Kate Forsyth (one of my favourite authors), Danielle La Porte and many others – and my point here is that these are people that I would probably never get to meet or interact with in any way – except social media allows me to read and share their work, it allows them to read and share my work, and it gives us a platform to interact. It’s pretty awesome when you think about it.
- Let’s not forget – blogging is a social media – and how damn rewarding is blogging? I have made some wonderful friendships, had interactions with people all around the world – and it gives me a platform to write, share and express myself.
- Facebook has been a wonderful tool as well:
- I am administrator of a Facebook page for my community – we share events; people who have lost things or need to know information about the area leave messages there; during floods, storms and other events that affect us, we provide support and information to each other.
- I use groups as well to interact with people of specific interest, like my school community and people who are interested in yoga, meditation, local food, car pooling or whatever. These groups can be a great way to support each other, particularly for commitments like 40 days of yoga.
- Like everyone else, I have found Facebook to be wonderful for keeping in contact with far-flung friends and family – and for discovering lost friends.
- I find an astonishing amount of inspiration in my Facebook feed. I’m kind of picky; I don’t like it when my feed gets cluttered up with dross or people use it to sell things to me – and if someone repeatedly posts negative or offensive posts, I just block them. Let that be a warning to you ;).
- I get access to all kinds of alternative media, news and viewpoints, that I would never get to see if I just used mainstream media. In fact, I don’t watch the news on the television or read newspapers anymore. I just don’t need that stuff in my head.
I have never been bullied, harassed or been treated inappropriately on social media – I don’t know if this is because I’m lucky or if it’s because I treat people with kindness and compassion and I receive the same kind of treatment back. I don’t like everything that I see, of course, just as I don’t like everything I see and hear in the real world. I exercise my right to switch off, ignore or remove, just like I do in my life.
So, tell me – what is your experience of social media?