The following is a blog post I did a few years ago. What's interesting, though, is that—while technology and society have marched on—the considerations I discuss are ever-relevant, maybe even more so. Read on and see for yourself.
I recently watched The Innovation of Loneliness (video below) and read Policing Twitter – Can the existing legal system cope with the technological age?. They got me thinking about creating and managing one’s online presences and what they say about the person and how they can impact that person’s life.
I recommend you check these two pieces out now, before continuing to read on here. Go ahead, I’ll wait, it’ll just take a few minutes….
Crafting Your Social Persona(s)
The first red flags appear when you are establishing your online profiles. You might have some for professional purposes and others for personal use. (There are legitimate reasons for segmenting your personas; I get that and agree and do this myself.) Each one is just a slice or contrived representation of You (with a capital ‘Y’). Then, when you actually start contributing to the platform, you’re posting cherry-picked images and text. How are people supposed to get close to one another and have meaningful rapports when the online ‘self’ is manufactured? There’s no spontaneity or unedited anything.
Reflecting upon the Courtney Love scenario in Policing Twitter (and the many news stories on pre-teens joining Facebook without physiologically having the intellectual capabilities to grasp the full impact and longevity of what they post), I started wondering if it is really so bad to say crazy, random, uncouth, ignorant, or inarticulate things on one’s social streams. Or, at least, what’s worse: no filtering what you share or too much composing of your prose and pics? Does working towards a ‘happy medium’ by definition still compromise your ability to present your true self?
Impact On Self, Impact On Others
In the video, Cohen talks about connections vs conversations. Social networks let you be ‘surrounded’ by many more people than in-the-flesh allows, but we are still lonelier on average. This is a quality vs quantity issue.
Your interactions are more superficial, spreading ever thinner over a greater surface area. With an ability to edit down to the best presentation of yourself, you are censoring what others can know of you. And, all too often, what people post is either inane, total BS, or regurgitation of someone else’s content (or some combo of the three…).
Perhaps looking at status updates et al can be a great way to keep tabs on long-lost or far-flung friends, family, and colleagues; but where’s the grit? How are you to get the in-depth intimacy that is a hallmark or close, enduring, productive, high quality relationships?
Social Media Diet
I have a friend who on occasion goes on a self-imposed ‘Facebook Diet’ during which he doesn’t interface in any way with his FB account for an entire month. After the Loneliness video and Policing Twitter article, I’m seeing more merit in his approach.
It may seem weird to propose this as I’m a digital marcom professional and I’m presenting this in a blog (which I will promote on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ soon!). I guess the idea of a SMD isn’t really intended to be so dramatic as to go cold turkey. As with food, alcohol, etc., the key is to moderate. Restore appropriate balances. Live a holistically healthy and well rounded life. This – for most of us – means putting down a gadget or stepping away from a keyboard. For a period of time on a regular basis. Maybe establish some boundaries for yourself (e.g., specific days/hours you allow yourself to be on social networks, limiting the number of networks/posts, etc.).
It seems a bit ‘old school’ or ‘retro’ but the alternatives to online environments can be awesome. It is nice to have a phone call or video chat with someone. Or even better, meet up for coffee or cocktails or a few laughs at the comedy club. I know I feel much more gratified by:
hugging my mom than sending her an email greeting,
seeing my boyfriend smile than a happy face emoticon in a text message,
gossiping with the girls over brunch than swapping one-liners on a social platform.
These things recapture and exalt real human ties and all the associated warm fuzzies. Personal contact gives you an opportunity to take time and care with getting to know others. It enables you build powerful relationships for the long term. That is so worth it!