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Social Media or Anti-Social?

I had dinner Friday night with my best friend. She’s been a part of my life for the past 13 years or so. The first three or four years we were merely co-workers—although I’m sure she saved my bacon on more than one occasion. I was laid off from that job after nearly four years, but she was instrumental in getting me hired in a different division a few months later.

Over the years we’ve gotten closer. She knows me. She knows almost everything about me. She knows about all my ups and downs, my frustrations, my accomplishments. We share our dreams and fears over cocktails and dinner.

Friday night over one of our not-frequent-enough dinners we were talking about Facebook—I’m pro; she’s con. I was yammering on about all these people I’ve reconnected with—old friends from grammar school and high school. For me, it’s been exciting to catch up with people again at this point in my life. People who, for the most part, good friends at one time. Others were acquaintances—kids who were part of a very extended circle—but I’ve enjoyed finally getting to know them now as adults, without all the bullshit and drama of high school insecurity.

My friend doesn’t see it that way. Her thought is that people drift in and out of your life at specific times, and when that time passes, you move on. I’m sort of taking editorial liberties with this, but I think it’s the gist of things. She jokes about having a scrap heap—a jumble of people who have come in to her life and for various reasons have gone. Sometimes it’s a matter of outgrowing friendships. Sometimes it’s a matter of not being treated well by someone. You wash your hands of them, and that’s it. I have my own version of that scrap heap. Very few make it off the heap and back into my life.

So when I was telling her how happy I was that I’ve caught up with specific people, on Facebook, people that I didn’t just drift away from, but had deliberately cut out of my life,  she reminded me that there were reasons I was no longer friends with them, and she pointed out to me the ways that I’ve changed since I’ve becomes so socially active online. And not necessarily in a good way.

I like to think that all this social networking I do is sort of healthy. I am not the most social person I know in real life. Far from it. I’ve always been painfully shy but I’ve tried to overcome that as an adult. But I still get nervous and insecure when I have to meet new people. I still hate the idea of making small talk with a group of people I barely know. It’s not exciting to me or an adventure. I am bad at networking in real life because I can’t stop tripping over my tongue. I get so nervous that a person’s name goes right out of my head. I am full of non-sequitors in conversation because I can’t get out of my own way and listen to whomever I’m speaking to. I wonder if people are calculating how many seconds it will take them to get away from me. I wouldn’t blame them because I’m usually calculating how many feet it is from where I’m standing to the bar.

For me, my online social life is safe. I can relax, hidden behind the security of my lap top. I can take a second to think of what I want to say (although I’m sure I hit Publish too quickly sometimes), which makes me feel witty and smart. I’m fully aware of how pathetic and anti-social this sounds. I don’t really think I’m either thing, though. I do actually leave the house and meet people and have real-life friends and relatively healthy relationships.

But I do wonder if it’s made me a little narcissistic. I think in status updates sometimes—for Facebook and Twitter. I try to think of clever, funny comments that get people’s attention. That all falls in line with sometimes being obsessed with my blog stats.  And none of that is in line with why I started doing any of this to begin with.

I started this blog because I needed a creative outlet. It was never supposed to be about stats and comments. I wanted to start writing again. This blog was supposed to be an online journal of sorts, a place where I could go and write about what I was feeling or thinking with my own little sarcastic twist. Twitter was just supposed to be an extension of IM for me—another way to keep up with friends and see what they’re up to. Soon, my list of people I followed whet from 10 to 180. And, weirdly to me, my list of followers shot up to 175 at one point. Swoon! They want to know what I’m thinking! It’s sort of like Andy Warhol’s concept of 15 minutes of fame. Facebook was definitely meant to be a way to stay in touch with people, but it’s made me a little out of touch with myself, my real-life relationships and the people who matter.

It’s probably a safe assumption that my friends and family are less then thrilled about being surprised on this blog with  big revelations I have about myself and my life. Where I used to talk to them about things, work out issues over long (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations or just have a good laugh, now I sort of vomit ideas on my blog. I have a thought! I must blog! It’s a little chicken shit. Thank god I haven’t found a way to replace cocktails with friends with an online version or I’d probably be friendless right about now.

I’m not saying that I’m going to quit blogging (sorry, you won’t be let off the hook that easily!) or Twittering or even trolling around on Facebook, but I am going to be smart about it. When something is bothering me I will step AWAY from the keyboard and get some good old-fashioned face time with the people who matter. I’ll stop taking all the wrong things so seriously and start remembering what’s important. Without real social connections, nothing else is really real.

(How’s that for Buddah-like insight?!)


10 Responses

  1. I love this post. My favorite posts of yours are always the ones where you drop the wall totally and put 100% of the real Mo out there. As I always say: The world needs more Mo!! I think the key is in your last paragraph – finding the balance between the two. Just because some people (ahem) don’t really want to get on board the Facebook train doesn’t mean that Facebook can’t be a great thing for people who do! In other words, just because I’m kinda anti-Facebook doesn’t mean I’m anti-Facebook for you! Just as long as you are happy. That’s all I ever care about.

    And just as long as you remember that I am way, WAY more awesome than Facebook. Plus? You are totally stuck with me, since closing your Facebook account doesn’t delete me. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

    Great post! Totally honest and well written. You didn’t “get in your own way” once! Yay you!!!


    • I know, you always love the ones where I do the one thing I hate—bare my soul! I did realize the other night, through my haze of dirty martinis and cold medicine, that I’ve been hiding behind this stuff. Oy.

      And? Of course you’re way more awesomesauce than Facebook ever will be. It will never replace you—even if I could find a way to delete you I probably won’t!


      • You *probably* wouldn’t cut me out. Um…yay??? 😛

        OHYEAHRIGHT. You can’t live without me. Oh wait. Or am I getting that confused with I can’t live without you? Well, you know. Whichever!!

        I do love these posts best. What can I say? I think your soul is pretty special.

        (I’m trying this as a “reply.” Not sure how it will look once I click submit.)

  2. I love that you wrote this post. I feel the same way you do in that I feel like I am different online than in person. In fact, I doubt anyone who knows me online would recognize me in person. In person, I am very quiet, very reserved, and not nearly as clever or witty as I think I am on Twitter or once in while in a blog post.

    I also agree with Lesley on the people drift out of your life (or are cut out) for a reason. I have no desire to open those closed doors or reconnect with someone who I didn’t have anything in common with years ago. But, I have a lot of friends who love that type of thing so I know it works for some people. It’s just a different personality trait, I suppose.

    Great post! I love learning more about you. 🙂

    • Debra: I’d totally recognize you! As long as you were wearing a green top and standing in front of a yellow square.

    • Thank you!

      I think you and I are similar in some ways as far as the whole being social thing goes. it’s tough to put yourself out there sometimes, so I just don’t.

      I agree with Lesley 99.99%, but there are a few people I’ve reconnected with that I was genuinely friends with and the main reason we drifted was because someone moved away. Back in the day you had to kick it old school and actually sit down and handwrite a letter. Staying in touch took more effort than it does now. There have definitely been people who’ve tried to drift back in that I have nothing in common with except a few memories, which isn’t enough to build a relationship with.

  3. Greetings,
    I like Facebook too and its a neat tool but I always wondered about some of the people on there who ‘collect’ friends. Meaning, the type who you barely know and already want to ‘friend’ you. They usually end up having 5,000 friends who are actually just strangers!

    • I’m always totally suspicious of those who collect people. I mean, really, are you really friends with 300 people? I try to be picky about who I friend—just this week a guy I interviewed (and didn’t hire) for a job 6 months ago tried to friend me. It was weird that he sought me out and tried to get in touch. Then again, these are tough times and I guess you do what you gotta do to find a job.

  4. I can relate to this post on so many levels! I struggle with many of the same questions and I expect to continue struggling as my blog experience grows and unfolds.

    Everyone has to do their own thing, though, I think – what they’re comfortable with.

    Fantastic post!

    :^) Anna

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