Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Social Media and Me: A Love-Hate Relationship

I know it’s the 21st century, and advances in technology have changed the nature of communications. The rise and popularity of social networking sites Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace, Skyrock, and the list goes on is proof that the way we communicate is ever-evolving. Add to the mix text messaging, online dating sites like e-Harmony and Lavalife, and e-mail. It’s easy to see why letter writing can be perceived as an archaic art form; it’s much easier to send off an e-mail, a text message, or a 140-character tweet than it is to write a letter or pick up the phone and call.

As a working artist, I see the value in using social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter can help an artist expand his or her audience, connect with other artists, stayed informed. We each use social media for different reasons for some it’s a way to keep in touch with friends and family; for others it’s a tool used for professional growth and development. I guess my question is this: where do we draw the line?

We saw over the weekend (and this is not the first time but the most recent) the inappropriate use of social media when a now former employee of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s office sent out a tweet asking why Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith didn’t have any biological children. It wasn’t just an inapt use of social media by a young employee lacking judgment (although it was that, too). It suggests a growing, and in my mind worrying, trend with respect to social media: the No-Filter Syndrome. We simply type, in 140 characters or less, the first thing that comes to mind and press “Send.” There’s no thinking about the weight of the words, or their power to harm. We shrug it off, saying, “Well, I’m honest and direct.” Or, if it’s our misfortune to be called onto the carpet for what we tweet, we can reply, dryly, “Fine, I apologize,” and carry on with our day.

It is fine to be honest and direct, and I appreciate someone who can say what they mean more than someone who has to tiptoe around an issue. But there is something to be said about tact and diplomacy, about being able to talk to people without constantly demonstrating man’s inhumanity to man. Or am I just crazy?

My point is this. For all the benefit and value that Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin provide, nothing takes the place of live, direct communication, either on the phone or in-person. An e-mail or a 140-character tweet cannot carry the intonation of the human voice, or a wide-eyed look of horror, or the crowing snort-sounding laugh. And EmotIcons (J) are no substitute for human emotions. It’s hard to sustain a friendship, let alone a relationship, that is based solely on text messages (although I know a few people who have tried). I don’t think that it’s right, or should be allowed to become “acceptable,” to announce to friends the death of a beloved by text message. Or, maybe, I am crazy …?

Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and how we choose to use it will speak more to who we are. I don’t have 50,000 followers on Twitter, or 10,000 fans on my Facebook page, but then again, I don’t live vicariously through social media. Some people like to tweet about life, others like to live it. Don’t get me wrong because some days I love social media. But as you may have guessed, today isn’t one of those days.

1 comment:

  1. It was great hearing your voice this week! I like that we have social media to communicate, but I like human conversation even better.