Perhaps enough has been said on the topic already, but for some reason I feel compelled to share my frustration with social media. Or, perhaps, with my own seeming inability to relate to its purpose. To put it in simple English, social media claims to help us connect with each other; however, my personal experience has been that the more I strive to be “present” on social media sites (like Facebook – to name the most obvious example), the more DISconnected I feel. The more “old friends” I discover through the platform, the more aware I become of the fact that we are, in truth, no longer friends, because we don’t really keep up with each other’s lives, the way we used to back in the day. Yes, perhaps I can see a picture of what a certain old friend just had for lunch; but that doesn’t tell me how they feel about their life in general, their job, their intimate relationship – if they have one – or whether they’re happy or suicidal, for that matter. That kind of information rarely makes its way into status updates – and, quite honestly, it’s the only kind of information I find worth sharing, more often than not. A superficial Facebook post will never replace a real face-to-face conversation, a phone/Skype chat, an old style “snail mail” letter, or even an email sent directly to me, reminiscing on some shared experience or asking a personal question. It seems to me that most people are not interested in those “outdated” ways of sharing anymore – and that makes the world a very lonely place, as far as I’m concerned.
I should probably add, by way of background info, that I am a somewhat secluded introvert who has always put quality far ahead of quantity in the area of human connections. In other words, a one-to-one meeting with a close friend has always been, and will always be, infinitely more “fun” and fulfilling to me than a public event or a crowded party. Therefore, my motivation in joining Facebook had nothing to do with competing with anyone over the number of “friends” we have. Instead, I was hoping to rekindle some of those more intimate personal connections that had faded with time. And I cannot hide my disappointment as I realize that this is obviously not going to happen. Because apparently even those who used to be perfectly willing to put in the effort to share more of themselves with me just a few years back, aren’t willing to do so anymore. Is it just the general cultural climate of the world this days? Is superficiality and “attention deficit” behavior the new normal? Does it affect everyone? Am I the outlier, or am I simply not finding the “right” people to engage with?
By the way, the very use of the word “friend” on social media sites is very misleading. If it were up to me, it’d be replaced with “acquaintance”, or “connection”, or something equally noncommittal. “Friend” carries a lot of weight in my personal world. I used to envy some outgoing, extroverted people their ability to make friends with no apparent effort whatsoever, at every turn… until I understood that, according to MY definition of friendship, some of them don’t actually have any friends at all. Not even a single one. And so, there is nothing to envy. What a relief that was. 😉
The flipside, of course, is that those really deep personal relationships take time and effort to develop, and it takes two to tango, and too often it feels like you’re the only one. And if you don’t socialize much, because you can’t bear the small talk and superficiality of most social situations, then your choice of potential new connections can shrink almost down to zero. A blogger acquaintance (;-)) wrote recently that we introverts used to dominate the internet a few years ago, and that it was easier for us to connect through it back then, because there were few extroverts around to “outshine” our appeal, and it was implicitly understood that the very purpose of the internet was to facilitate human interactions between people who suffer from social anxiety and similar issues. And now that EVERYBODY is online, we feel sort of pushed into the corner – much like we do in “real life”. I found this a very insightful observation. And so I decided to talk about it, as a way of reaching out into the digital void. Pointless, perhaps – but I find I’d much rather spend my time doing this than posting random selfies on Facebook or Instagram… so there you go. 😉