One of my best friends and I have an ongoing discussion about the highs and lows of social media. On one hand, we both love using it to stay connected to friends and family members, not to mention that we have met some amazing people, including each other, via social media. On the other hand, we both dislike how social media has become an alternate world of sorts, in that you can share words and images about absolutely anything, anyone, and any place at any time with whomever you so desire with the click of a button. Whether it is the truth or not is irrelevant, as appearances seem to matter more than reality, in some cases for some people.
At first, I resisted joining Facebook, as I couldn’t grasp the concept and questioned its purpose and relevancy. Why wouldn’t I just visit, call, text, or email the people I want to connect with, instead of posting a status update or reading my news feed? Why would anyone have an interest in my little dog and pony show? What is this whole “friend” and “unfriend” business? And on and on I went with the questions, until I finally set aside my reservations and set up my own Facebook page.
It definitely has been a learning process for me, as I have navigated the turbulent and murky waters of social media. Even after all of these years of posting, publishing, and tweeting, I still find myself asking the same questions I had before I entered this arena. While there are somewhat clearer answers, I am not sure that they are necessarily valid ones. I definitely do not post as much as I once did, and when I do, I ask myself to be honest about why I am posting whatever it is I feel the need to share and if what I am posting is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth or some convoluted version of the truth. In the past, sometimes, I was guilty of having a hidden agenda when posting something and/or leaving out certain aspects of a story. Then, my world imploded four years ago, along with my façade. As I put the pieces of my fractured heart and mind back together, I set out to ensure that my private and public lives mirrored one another as best I could.
That marriage of my life offline and my life online has been one of trial and error, but I have found a balance that works for me, which is not to say that I am perfect by a long shot. Along the way, I also have developed a heightened awareness of who are the people in my social media circles and an increased sensitivity to what they share, and I find myself having to reconcile that social media is more about smoke and mirrors than authenticity and genuineness. It is about creating and maintaining a certain image, and it can create a false sense of intimacy among virtual strangers. I used to think that maybe my perceptions were unique to my online connections, but I have come to realize that they are not.
It has gotten to the point where if something doesn’t get shared on social media and “liked”, then it does not count, almost like an updated version of the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I am careful about what I do share and do not want or need to share most aspects of my life, as I truly am not that exciting or interesting, but when I do share, it is my hope that I can entertain, encourage, and/or educate at least one person.
I cannot alter the social media landscape, but I can continue to strive to be myself, flaws and all, and to share of myself as responsibly, accurately, and genuinely as possible or not at all. The truth is stranger than fiction, and I admire and respect people who are brave enough to be themselves, instead of a carefully crafted online presence. I never gave that much thought, until last summer when someone remarked, “You are exactly the same in person as you are online. I admire that about you, and I wish I were more like that.” It has become one of the most unusual compliments that I ever have received, as it is a sad indictment on life in the technological age. That said, it is a compliment that I cherish, as it means that I did what I set out to do. What you see is what you get with me, online and offline, whether that’s good, bad, or somewhere in the middle, and I am more than okay with that.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story