In Defense of Social Media

“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.”
– cogitoergoblog

 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚
A reader named Sara wrote this on the blog yesterday and we loved it so much that we made this. Here's to allowing parenthood to be a catalyst to self discovery instead of a deterrent.
A reader named Sara wrote this on the blog yesterday and we loved it so much that we made this. Here’s to allowing parenthood to be a catalyst to self discovery instead of a deterrent.
  • 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!

facebook like

justine musk twitter

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 adventure
And newnessย 
And wonder.

And if thatโ€™s notย 
The life you want
Then get the fuck
Off this train.

  • I’ve had twitter conversations with Jennifer Pastiloff, Kate Forsythย (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?ย 

16 comments

  1. Sara, I’m sure when the Pony Express started people also were complaining. It’s human nature… change is difficult and met with MUCH resistance for 99.9% of the human population. For me it’s all about balance – I guess just like anything else in life? – I’ve deactivated my Facebook but while I had it it served its purpose ALL IN A GOOD WAY and brought people, who otherwise never would of came into my life, into my world. For now Instagram & blogging (sometimes Twitter) are my choices for online socializing. And I look forward to what is next in how we communicate and reach out…. I’m hoping it’s something like Star Treks “Beam me up” or maybe even Time Travel!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Yes, exactly Tahira – it is about balance and choice – and what is right for us in our lives. Sometimes we can be consumed by it, or it stops working for us – so we stop. All good ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Sara- I’m loving this post! I agree with you– Social media gives us access and connections with many who we would not be able to regularly enjoy — and as you say…if we don’t want to participate– shut down! There are many times I’m not in the mood and it couldn’t be easier to step off. That’s so fun about your meme! I need to pull it up on my computer b/c my phones screen is too small to fully appreciate,. Really great post. Xo

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  3. This is definitely a much-needed perspective on social media, which nowadays so often gets a bad rep for causing a lot of societal problems. When in fact, like you said, the problems were usually already there to begin with and is inevitably part of human nature. I think it only becomes a problem when people abuse social media and exploit it to harm other people. I also think that given younger generations are growing up not knowing a life BEFORE social media (I’m proud to be part of perhaps the last generation to have experienced this!), they don’t necessarily know how to draw boundaries that wiser, more experienced adults usually do which can sometimes lead to devastating consequences. In any case, I do think social media is a great tool but only when its used in a manner that’s smart.

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    • Yes, thank you Lillian. Like every tool, it can be used in unwise and inappropriate ways – which if course is not the fault of the tool itself! I also think that every generation has quite different ideas of privacy, quite shocking to the one before and positively indecent to the generation before that!

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  4. Thanks for this post! I started thinking more deeply about these issues yesterday when I posted a link on Facebook to a photo collection called “The Death of Conversation” http://www.boredpanda.com/the-death-of-conversation/ I used to reflexively dislike remote conversations interrupting face to face interaction. But the people in these photos are still somehow together (look at the body language in some of the images) and they are connected outwards at the same time. Maybe it’s just new way of connecting. Maybe we’re learning how to be more inclusive? But then again, maybe it’s just another way of tuning out the here and now. Still, social media allows us to connect with like-minded people all over the world in ways that were impossible just 10 years ago. In the end, like everything else, awareness and mindfulness are so important to how we live and the choices we make.

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    • Hi, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and the link as well. I too have been watchibg with sime dismay the effects of mobile devices…it’s worse in the cities, maybe because mobile reception is everywhere and it’s sporadic in the country, where i live. I don’t own a smart phone, because even though i enjoy social media, when i’m out, i like to be disconnected from the online world. For me, mobile devices and social media are separate – but i can see how maybe they’re not for others. Good point!

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  5. So interesting reading this and some of your other comments as well. Parts of social media I adore. Blogging and instagram have opened up so many wonderful avenues and experiences. I’ll be forever thankful for them.
    Mobile devices though? I’m torn with…

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  6. Some fantastic points here, Sara! While I do think that young people are too plugged in, and don’t spend enough time cara a cara, there are some truly fabulous things about social media as well! No doubt, I would not be reading your words; I would not have “met” you; we might all be a bit more isolated, without all of these wonderful blog posts and connections. Mazel on the exciting social media connections! Elizabeth Gilbert! *Sigh.*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dawn, so nice to read you here ๐Ÿ˜Š i think the mobile devices and being constantly plugged in and not paying attention is a problem – but not a social media problem per se. Like everything, it can be misused, but boy can it be a good thing as well. Elizabeth Gilbert – i know! ๐Ÿ˜

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  7. I have humourously erratic relationship with social media. Living remotely – it is a source of immense connection, great music, podcasts, perspective. I sometimes get swallowed up in it and have learnt to notice and respect the ‘soul ache’ (of disconnection, strangly, that I feel at times, generally when I have immersed too much in the reading of too many blogs/websites) (I have learnt to acknowledge and own this as my own experience, and not a s a judegment for others). I absoulutly agree it creates connections that I would never otherwise have.

    I have very minimal Facebook interactions – my 97 year old Grandma is one of my 3 friends. And I must say, communication with her via this format is fantastic – visual, sharing, short, connected, pride in a woman of her generation embracing such technology and the opportunities (and challenges) it presents her.

    I love to go offline for weeks at a time. And really really value this reality every now and again.

    I as yet dont own a smartphone – so the mobility of communication isnt too impactful (erratic coverage will also ensure that concistency of connection remains erratic). Which suits me. I do wonder at a world where lots of people are reluctant to be ‘off line’. The immense joy of now can sometimes get muddied in the alure of the screen.

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    • Thank you Kate for your thoughtful response (I love those the best!) I too live in the country where mobile reception is intermittent and non existent. I’ve worked in social media which I never will do again…overload! And I could never escape it. I think, like everything, it’s finding that balance within yourself, knowing when enough is enough ๐Ÿ’ž

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  8. i love this post! it is all about balance, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚ social media has opened doors i wouldn’t have imagined. like meeting up with a fellow blogger in a cafe in switzerland when i travelled there last summer. it’s a beautiful thing! i can definitely relate to the time-wasting aspect of it, but that’s more about personal discipline than anything. thanks!

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    • It is all about balance and discipline, isn’t it? That’s the thing about Earth School – there’s so many pretty distractions ๐Ÿ˜. Still, some really meaningful connections can be made and heart opening experiences can be had, which is beautiful xo

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