May 9, 2012

Communication | How Social Are We Really

I try very hard to be a social person. It’s not always my biggest comfort zone, but it serves me well to know those around me when I need a favour or shortcut during the day. I don’t need to mention (again!) about how it also led me to starting an incredible journey of sexual discovery and experience.

But there are moments when I get a little concerned over how we have more ways to avoid communicating face to face than we do to interact on a physical level.

I was reading this article online the other day about how social media – specifically Facebook – has changed our way of sharing major life changes to those around us. The article was focused on the issue of updating your FB status when a relationship has come to an end, but touched on other elements of what it has done to our personal TMI filters.

The woman being interviewed commented about how she felt awkward changing her relationship status following a breakup because it invited comments from everyone such as her distant aunt to high school friends she had not seen in years.

It made me think about how much we have grown into a very self-centred society – as we seek electronic validation for “finally dumping the idiot” in our search for “the right guy will come along soon, be patient.” I think what amused me was how there seems to be a whole generation of people who think this is how we relate to each other on an intellectual level.

Heck, even in my own circle of people I actually know, I learned my best friend from high school was pregnant (I won’t mention the not-being-married, not-sure-if-the-divorce-is-final status she should put on Facebook) when she changed her little avatar to the ultrasound image of the fetus.

It was just one of those things that made me think we have accepted that we don’t have any real friends other than the wireless gadget that vibrates in our pocket every time someone IMs or Tweets us.

I see it in my own children, whose friends continually send friend-requests to me – even though I have a reputation of “strict Mom” – because it is more cool in their preteen circuit to have hundreds of online “friends” than it is to head to the park and play a pickup game of soccer or ball hockey with real boys and girls.

As a society, it seems we have become so fixed on our electronic popularity that we will reach out to almost anyone whose name we recognize. (Which reminds me; Johnny Depp, if you are reading this, you haven’t accepted my friend request just yet …)

In a twisted way, I had to laugh when I heard the news that ESPN had fired one of its employees – I think they term they used was “parted company with” – for her deceit in creating a fake following on Twitter in order to seem more “networked” than she was. The woman purchased a followers list from someone else, immediately boosting her own cyber popularity by 1,000 accounts. And I say accounts, because there is no factual evidence to suggest that the package actually included live, breathing organisms.

Followbots continually show up in my Twitter account – and are not hard to identify because they don’t actually “tweet.” They can’t because there is no real person behind the account to offer randomly, amusing sexually suggestive statistics like I tend to share. So, when reviewing who follows me, I can usually determine that if you have a sexy porn star image for an avatar, follow exactly 1,583 others (much like yesterday’s new follower under a different name but the same porn star avatar), have gained 619 followers but have never tweeted a single tweet that you are probably not a living, breathing frustrated bicurious female with a labradoodle and paying way too much in rent.

The Internet – as I believe in all my naïveté – is not meant to be the mechanism through which we solidify relationships with others. It’s a nice toy to occasionally reach out and touch people who we may be geographically distant from, but to notify my mother that I just had a bowel movement by posting on her wall … yeah, not so much.

And social media is already to blame for so much that is anti-social; as a society we are learning how to disconnect ourselves from interacting with those around us in favour of electronic toys that can share our message with cute little emoticons. I guess it is too much trouble to actually smile at someone else.

On top of that, this so-called “social” tool has dulled our ability to sift through what should be private and what should be public. I can imagine the shifting of the planets that would occur if I actually used my personal Facebook account to update my status with my occasionally naughty exploits. Maybe what Facebook needs are some more realistic relationship status options:
  • Married with a hall pass
  • Decidedly against members of the opposite sex
  • Currently engaged … in something exceptionally kinky
  • Singularly responsible for someone’s divorce proceedings 
Anyway, since most of you on here don’t get to be “social” with the real mind behind the madness, count yourself lucky. As Brad Paisley sang “I’m so much cooler online.”
Andee     xoxo

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