It is for certain that times have changed... our social lives now revolve around the web and applications like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Instead of calling each other on the phone or better yet seeing each other in person (what a concept) even emailing and texting seems out of date. We are using very impersonal computer terminals, iPads and iTouches, and Smartphone’s to keep our personal relationships personal... So I beg the question, is this social media technology doing more harm than good? And, how can one possibly keep up with it all? I'm trying to keep up as it makes sense for me, but I think I may have officially hit my limit with the various web 2.0/social media apps! And, it seems when I choose one application for a specific purpose, it then leads to another and having to set-up yet one more account with a profile picture and description of myself, my life, my interests...somebody stop me!!!
My first experience with web 2.0 technology was in '06 with MySpace. My motivation to set up the account was simple, I wanted to connect with old friends and share photos online. It did not become a daily habit or even weekly for me, really. I even remember having to remind myself to check it every now then so I could update it with new photos, music and a new "theme" for my page. I think at that point, I was also trying to keep up a Virtual Tourist page tracking all the places I have traveled to...Back then this type of technology was so new that it was not yet tied to our daily routines and vital to how we communicated or kept in the loop on the latest news or trends. After awhile I thought I'd try Facebook because honestly, it seemed simpler and their "friend-finding" capabilities were cutting edge. Facebook also felt like a better "fit" for me and, sad to say, for my "age" group, so I ultimately switched. Soon after came the Totsite webpage for our family when I had Chase, and that was fun to do in the beginning. I could post videos, keep a journal, add photos, create slideshows, choose a theme for the webpage, etc... But after Colby was born that soon become something I felt guilty about because I wasn't updating it enough... there had to be a better way to keep all my "friends" and family in the loop... I then solely began to use Facebook for this, my mom got a FB account, brother/sister, even my dad and now I feel they are really looped in as FB has become a daily habit, even a 5-10x a day habit that I do so I can feel close to them but also be in the loop with friends and what's going on in their worlds... it really is genius if you think about... but at the same time there is this sense that "real" life is happening all around us and we're missing it while we're sitting at our computers reading the latest News Feed or Status Updates.
Really, I'm not knocking this method of communication/technology, I am actually quite the advocate for it, but I am questioning what it's doing to our lives, our relationships. Personally, as I said before I'm hooked. I live far from my family and these types of technologies make me feel closer, help them "know" me, what my life is like and helps keep them connected to my kids... I'm just a little concerned that it my seem that we are so focused on what our old high school friends are up to and their lives than our own. I know that is a little extreme but often times I really find it a little silly and weird as I get a glimpse of their thoughts and current lives as I scroll through all the status updates and uploaded photos on my blackberry. It seems a little voyeuristic and at the same time surreal, that we're now all connected again almost 20 years later in sort of an intimate and not so intimate way... and at the same time the thought occurs to me, is what you're reading and seeing reality or is it just a facade, the reality that they want you to see? That is probably a whole other blog post in itself, really... sometime is does just feel like high school all over again... :-) It seems that if this is the case, what a major waste of time! Reading all those stories and updates for it all to just be well, fake and made-up...and what does that do to your psyche? I think there's a Stanford study that just came out about this... But, I too write the stories, post the photos, update my status so I guess the reality I portray on these various types of social media should ultimately be questioned by skeptics like me I suppose...
So, back to the question at hand...Are we indeed closer with our friends and family because of this technology and all the options we have now to share thoughts, photos, and information about our lives? Or, is it an excuse or maybe even becoming a barrier to really connecting with someone in person genuinely, like meeting for coffee to catch-up, picking up the phone to hear the other person's voice on the line, or maybe even writing a letter or personal note in your own handwriting -- yes, a handwritten note! When was the last time you sent or received one of those, not a holiday card but a note to just say hello, let them know you're thinking of them?
I've got a blog, actually two now that I recently started -- which is obvious considering I'm using one of them to write this -- I debated starting one of these for awhile. I didn't want to get caught up in the whole thing and also it seemed a little narcissistic, but at the same time and at this point in my life it felt that it could be therapeutic and give me a little "me" time that I so often crave these days with two young children...The last few weeks though I've felt that I've been bitten by the social media bug... once I got the blog going which I'm really enjoying, it led to the next thing which was a YouTube account to post videos... Then, I had a friend invite me to set up a LinkedIn account, which I spent most of last night (with Colby asleep on my lap :-) setting up. (I have to say that it is a pretty incredible tool for professional networking...) As I was setting that up it asked for a Twitter account... and even though I actually did have one that I set up to follow my husband's school postings -- he's a principal and often will post breaking news, school closures, or changes for parents -- I never use it. So, as I went back into Twitter to refresh my memory about what it was about, I have 13 people following me, people I don't know and who don't know me which was a little creepy, but I've decided since I'm not really using it or "tweeting" rather I guess that's okay.... but should I be? I love connecting with my faraway family & friends through FB, it's so easy and convenient, most of the time unless you become obsessed :-) The quick status updates take care of those quick little thoughts or updates that you want to get out into the world to your "friend-base"... so what is this Twitter about? All the celebs use it, but clearly I am not a celebrity and who really wants to follow what I have to say, seriously? Am I missing something... as I pondered this question, it now occurred to me that I have a Facebook account, a LinkedIn account, a YouTube account, two blogs, a totsite account/webpage, and now a Twitter account to manage... oh, yeah and that virtual tourist account I haven't logged into for years (probably because I haven't traveled anywhere interesting in years :-)
How in the world can I manage all of these? And, really to be honest, what's the point? Why do I feel as if I have to? Again, you could say I'm a little overwhelmed by all the 2.0 technology and at times I can’t keep it straight, the passwords, the logins, what connects to what and if I post here will it post there...Another thing, I think my husband is going to kill me if I continue to devote as much time to all of this as I have been the last few weeks.... but how can I resist? It's fun!!!
Well, in the end I guess it's about balance and not letting yourself get too carried away or take any of it too seriously... finding a good balance might just be the key. So after all this, my plan is to try and do both... I know I can't fully disconnect and honestly, I don't think that is the solution. I do think that there is a place for social media, I think it is incredibly valuable to develop and cultivate personal and professional relationships but again balance is key. I'm going to try to "connect" in a variety of ways not just via my blackberry, a Facebook post, or text message but in person, over coffee or on the phone. By keeping a nice healthy balance of both, I hope to keep my sanity and my husband :-)