Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Social Media and Me

On a recent flight to Edmonton, my colleague and I found ourselves discussing technology. She doesn’t have the internet in her home, or cable, with the intent of limiting what her young son is exposed to. There is, after all, a lot of material on TV and the internet that some may consider “questionable.” I could see her point of view. We had four hours to discuss the issue, and while we both saw the pros and cons of technology (in particular the explosion of social media), I think what concerned us the most was how much social media has “intruded” into our lives.

As a multidisciplinary artist, I recognize that social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can be powerful tools in the promotion of our brand. I enjoy interacting with those interested in my work, receiving their feedback, and thankful for their encouragement and support. Yet, at the same time, I still can’t help but wonder, by the way we are using social media in our lives, if we have lost a little (or a lot) of our humanity?

People walk down the street, their gazes fixed on their cell phones as they text, unconcerned about what’s in front of them or what they may bump into. Here in Ontario, despite a hefty fine, drivers still use their cell phones while driving. And I’m not sure which is worse, the distracted driver or the distracted walker …? It seems almost “acceptable,” when out with friends for dinner and drinks, to be constantly checking and updating one’s status on Facebook and Twitter. When did everything become so important? Remember when meeting up with friends, over coffee, dinner or a bottle of wine, really meant sitting across from them and talking? There was something human in that, seeing and hearing them laugh. No smiley face emoticon can emulate that crowing or nasal laugh, or replace seeing the joy beaming in their eyes, or the tears racing down their cheeks. That is what, in part, makes us human. Whatever did we do with our time before the advent of social media? And when did we become so obsessed with our “Klout”?

More often I see people in checkout lines talking on their cell phones and annoyed when the cashier asks them a question. I still chuckle (although I know I shouldn’t) when I think about another colleague of mine who dumped his girlfriend by sending a 140-character tweet. What happened to etiquette and good old-fashioned manners? What happened, in our everyday human transactions, to please and thank you?

Technology is both my friend and my enemy. These days, mostly my enemy. It can be all-consuming, all-encompassing. It’s easy to let myself be swallowed up by it as I sit down for thirty minutes to engage with my followers on Twitter or Facebook. How quickly those thirty minutes can turn into an hour, or more. In a life where I’m already struggling to balance work and life and creativity, technology moves me forward as much as it, sometimes, holds me back. I’m learning, ever so slowly, how to weave technology into my life so that I don’t feel blindsided by it all the time. It remains a work-in-progress.

When it comes to technology and social media, I try to set boundaries for myself, and respect them. I’m hoping that will allow me to hang on to my humanity.

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