Falling Trees, Selfies, and Antisocial Media
That was the question that I posed to my philosophy student friend, Dave. His response, “No Tweet? Never happened.” Of course, he’s totally kidding (I hope), but it brings up a relatively disturbing point: at what point did social media become so incredibly anti-social?
Now, I’m all for using the internet to communicate with other people (I write this blog, don’t I?) My company’s workday is about 95% telecommuting. I keep in touch with my friends around the country and the world via Facebook and Twitter. Besides that, I’ve moderated several forums and an IRC channel over the years. I know how much good can come of social media. I also know how much bad can come of it.
There are basically two ways a social media platform goes down: A) quietly, without so much as a death whimper, or B) in a fiery explosion of flaming and ranting that leaves everyone ticked off. In my experience, it tends to be the second.
My final paper for my Nonverbal Communication this past spring was all about the nonverbal cues that show up in online interactions, and how those can trigger conflicts. However, I’ve been getting entirely too philosophical on this blog in recent months, so I’m not touching that with a ten foot spacebar.
I remember when the camera phone was invented. I feel old when kids gawk at this revelation. “Seriously? How did you take pictures?” Simple. You either planned on it and brought your Poloroid (remember those?), or you looked at it long enough to remember it well, and describe it later. Generally, the second approach carried less of a risk of being murdered by your co-workers upon returning from a vacation. It’s harder to run away when someone is trying to show you seven hundred printed-up selfies with Mickey Mouse and friends, and won’t take no for an answer.
On that note, it’s even harder to run away when they’re using their iPhone to show them to you, primarily because you can’t chuck a $300 piece of technology out a window without risking some sort of lawsuit.
Incidentally, where did people get the idea that the selfie was invented in 2013? I remember the MySpace era, when people were obsessed with posting grainy pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror, holding a cell phone and unintentionally (read unobservantly) posing with their toilets? I never said I wanted to remember that era, but I can’t seem to block it out. The duck faces didn’t help.
Finally, Apple saved us from learning about the layout of every single internet friends’ bathroom by inventing the iSight camera. Now we just have to deal with an outstretched forearm obstructing the view (and, to a lessening extent, more duck faces.)
I tutor at our local community college, and I had a student tell me the other day that she noticed something unusual: her grades improved significantly around the same time that she deleted her Facebook account. Cheers to her for being gutsy enough to do it, too. Almost everyone I know threatens to leave the big blue book forever, and never actually does. I’m still on there, rather begrudgingly, because I run two Facebook pages (an exercise in futility, I might add), and because that’s the only way I can keep in touch with many members of my family.
I long for the day that they close that book, literally and figuratively, once and for all, so that my friends will all find better ways of communicating. I get tired of logging into my Facebook, and reading through a mile and a half of news feed, filled with memes of kittens, pictures of lunch, misguided political rants, flame wars, and advertisements. Seriously, I don’t know what Facebook means by their whole ‘relevant ad’ spiel. I don’t have the slightest interest in Discover Card, Allstate Insurance, or Sprint.
Actually, I find it rather creepy that visiting a website for three seconds implies that I will spend the next five months ignoring advertisements begging, pleading, and bribing me to go back and buy something. I’m an entrepreneur. I want the right to look at a company’s website without silently committing my web browser to their cause for all of eternity to come.
It seems that society has traded loving and living for liking and sharing. If you scroll through my Twitter feed (@indelibleblupen), you’ll see that I actually don’t post very much. There isn’t much of a point to it, when a social media post will spend less than a day in someone’s news feed, if that. I have a handful of people that I share for: people that love me and actually want to know what is going on in my day. These people don’t just have me on Facebook, however. We sit down for lunch. We go for walks. We talk on the phone. These are real people, with whom I have a real relationship. Whether any of my social media posts reach the rest of my friends remains to be seen.
Honestly though, at the end of the day, I’d rather seek out these friends and describe it all myself. I want to engage in that uniquely human activity of interpersonal communication. I want to interact.
To that aim, Sundays are a special day. As my friends and employees will tell you, I can’t be reached on Sundays. My computer is off, my iPod is charging on my desk, and I’m outside building spaceships out of cardboard boxes with the neighbor kids. I have the beautiful opportunity to show them the world beyond the computer screen, and I’m taking that opportunity with both hands.
Batteries not required.