i love taking pictures, being in pictures, and looking at pictures. i like the idea of being able to capture a moment and freeze time. and i like that looking at a single picture can you take you back to a different place. and by now, i hope you know that i genuinely care about what people are doing, what they are thinking, and how they are feeling. and if you know these two things, you can probably guess that i find extreme value in social media sites. you might even know that i am a facebook stalker and a little obsessed with instagram.
facebook has connected me to resources and has helped me answer different questions. some of the most interesting and thought-provoking articles i have read came from friends sharing them via social media. and when you don’t get to see your precious little niece on a daily basis, at least all of these sites can help you watch her grow.
to put it simply, i love the immediacy of it all. and i like the conversations they can start. i like that it helps you be part of someone’s life, no matter how far away you are or when you last knew one another. for me, facebook is a tool to keep in touch and a way of knowing how others are doing. instagram lets me know how people perceive their world, and twitter gives me a sneak peak into what people are thinking. while all similar and different, their supposed purpose is the same: to bring people together.
but i wonder if it is has.
i began to realize that facebook wasn’t serving its purpose when i would spend more time reading about someone’s life than talking to them about it. i started to wonder if the more i was updated about their minute to minute activities meant the less and less i would really know and understand them. because in the midst of connecting with friends, i started to get caught up in the description of their lives-what they were eating for breakfast, what color they painted their nails, and what they looked like for the day- rather than understanding how they are living. i am not sure when i decided i would rather write someone a two sentence birthday comment over singing “happy birthday” in my out of tune voice over the phone, or mailing a handwritten card full of love. and when did it become easier to have personal conversations over the internet instead of in a cafe?
what i am trying to say is that i started to feel impersonal.
my use of social media has turned into waking up in the morning and checking all three sites before i start my day. it has turned into compulsive checking and ‘refreshing’ pages and pausing to take a picture before eating so that the rest of the world could see that i was. my use of social media has turned into a way to know someone without really getting to know them. and an occasional update now feels like an obligation to let people know what i am doing. the truth is, i have allowed these sites to take up more time than they are worth. i’ve lost, spent, and given away so much of my time that i end up not doing the things i intended because i choose to click mindlessly to page after page.i end up being less productive and more distracted. i spend less time being present in my life and more time learning about what others are doing right now in theirs. you get the point.
and after a few days of missing my wyoming.michigan.colorado.newyork.semesteratsea. friends, i started to wonder how much i was really connecting with people. today was meaningful because i turned off the computer and picked up the phone. today i decided to start to update myself on people’s lives by using a different approach. a phone call, or even a text message. a handwritten card or a mid-day email. dinner dates. because while i believe that technology truly has the ability to bring us all closer together, i also think it has the tendency to keep people apart.
after all, some things are just better in person.
i will be the first to say that i still love, appreciate, and value social media. and for now, i know i will more than likely continue to use these different tools. but i will no longer let it replace the conversations i should be having in person. and i will no longer get behind on goals for impersonal communication. i’ve decided there are better ways i would rather be spending my time. and i know there are more valuable things i could be doing. all things have a purpose and i think that’s important to keep in mind.
and in the end, i just don’t think that looking at a picture can replace hearing the sound of one’s voice.
try communicating differently. it will feel different, i promise.