Why I Both Love And Hate Social Media.

I obviously love it more than I hate it (because my Facebook account is still active and as lively as ever), but I have a large bone to pick with the whole “social media” department.

I’d like to do this old-school.. preview my points, like a five-paragraph essay, and then go into each point with detail.  That way, if only one point interests/ strikes a chord with you, you can skip to it and ignore the rest of my electronic drama.  But outlining my complaints as I am now also serves another purpose: keeping me on topic and organized.

So here is my thesis sentence:

I see social media negatively affecting and challenging three areas in our society today: early childhood socialization, personal development, and the existence of actual, meaningful relationships.

Let’s go in order, and keep it simple.  I’ll try to be brief.

 

My childhood: the phrase brings vivid images to my mind.

Bicycles.  My favorite bike was from the Salvation Army;  I got it on a Wednesday when it was half off.  It was black, purple and pink, really tall, and probably designed for a woman (not a girl), but it was a perfect fit for me.  It was also stolen when I turned 12, and I’ve never had one quite like it since.

A second image: rolly pollies in a little red wagon, pulled through driveways and across yards by my boy friend Travis and I.  It was our mission – on the weekends, and every day after school, to search every inch of green in my big backyard and his small front yard for all of the rolly pollies we could find, and once we had finished, we would simply leave them quarantined in his little red wagon and go to our homes for supper. 

The rolly pollies were usually dead the next day, and we honestly couldn’t figure out why.  I still don’t totally get what caused them to lose their spirits in that  little wagon; perhaps the bright red confines just terrified their claustrophobic little souls?  It is more likely that they could only pull their oxygen and food and life from the earth and being removed from it for a stretch of 12+ hours traumatized them to the point of absolute exhaustion and defeat.

I also remember carrying a weird smelling lunch box to elementary school.  The orange and black school bus.  Green lizards.  Car rides that made me nauseous.  Me and my brother sitting on broken down (flattened) boxes and flying down grassy hills on them, tightly hanging on to their flapping cardboard sides, a white dog running beside us, excited by our laughs, biting at our hands and heels.

I picture trees, climbing, wood and nails.  I never successfully built a treehouse, but I tried for a few hours once.  I imagine water, lots of water, in a blue, inflatable pool at Grammy’s house.  I picture garden hoses, black and white swimming tubes with D’s all over them, colorful, bendy noodles and cheap dollar store goggles.  I remember picnics with mosquitos outdoors and goofy, happy dances in the rain when hurricanes would hit the western coast of Florida.  I still remember skateboarding on rocky concrete roads, falling on my face and scratching up my knees and elbows because pads were stupid and made me look like a girl.  I remember heat and sweat, shade and breeze, drama, laughs, and a good appetite.

As a total sidenote, do any of you adults remember how BIG the world used to seem when you were just a kid? The grocery store seemed to carry infinite millions of items, the city you grew up in appeared to extend in all directions, theme parks were like a whole other, better universe and schools were so big, long and wide that you were certain you could easily get forever lost in them. 

I remember hardly being able to contain my excitement and wonder because there was so much to see, so much that was still new for my senses to discover.. and now that I’m older, I see that the world, especially the Western hemisphere (since I’m most familiar with it), isn’t that big or endless or magical after all.  With the exception of differences in terrain, altitudes and intensity of weather and seasons, each city and state is just a collection of houses, stores, churches, schools, parks and decrepid buildings.  Each city and state is a copy of the last or the next with just a few variations and “beauty marks.” 

But one thing that will always retain its magical, mystical, enchanted nature for me is caves.  They are the coolest thing on this planet

ANYWAYS.

 

Now, there’s Childhood 2012: Television.  Facebook.  Iphone.  Kindle.   Twitter.  Playstation 4, or three.. whatever.

I smell McDonalds for breakfast instead of fresh, buttery pancakes from out of an Aunt Jemima box. I feel a Wii remote, strapped to my wrist, instead of an actual basketball gripped between my hands. I imagine receiving Facebook statuses (more later) and text messages during class instead of tangible, personal, hand-written notes.  I see small children watching Victorious and other “mature” television shows rather than the innocent, animated cuteness of Rugrats and Blues Clues that taught me to be more like Tommy, adventurous and kind, and less like Angelica, selfish and evil, and to use my mind, reasoning and imagination to solve life’s mysteries and to find the answers to questions I could get by myself.  I picture ceiling fans and cool air conditioning in dark rooms inside of stone or wooden boxes instead of the invigorating fresh air that cleansed my lungs and kept me outdoors, craving the rush, the satisfaction, of full-body exercise and fun.

These kids are missing out.  These kids are getting fat, and lazy, and they are unhappy.  My childhood was my golden age.  They’ll never know anything like it, and old movies like The Sandlot, Milo and Otis, and Homeward Bound can only give them small, shallow glimpses into the enchanting wonder of outdoor adventure. 

You know what the problem is, don’t you? There are so many plastic, electronic toys out there that tell kids what to do and how to use it that streets and sidewalks are a perpetual, dull gray. Gone are the containers of chalk, missing are the boxes of legos.  Do these kids even know what double dutch means? Creativity is suffering.  Have any of them ever even held an etch-a-sketch? Health, too, is out the window (literally; step outdoors every once in a while and maybe you can reclaim it). 

In other words, capsulated and clear, a strictly indoor, technological life is way too limiting for a kid.  Go get dirty, children.  Scars aren’t ugly.. scars are awesome!  White shoes are pointless, and bruises are a part of growing UP.  Climb that tree, that fence, or that over yonder mountain in your back yard.. do SOMETHING!

 

Gone, also, are old-fashioned, healthy childhood social interactions (and here goes my rant).

I learned how to defend myself on the playground.  I learned how to talk, share, compliment and get along with other kids in school and in outdoor social situations.  A kid asked me something stupid once: “Hey, can I throw rocks at your brother?” Another stupid kid, a girl on the school bus, once yelled out “herrrr brother is the RETARDED kid!”  I told the kid who wanted to throw rocks at my brother that no, he could not, and the bitch that called my brother retarded got a very cool (freezing cold) statement from me. 

Then we move on to 2nd grade, the year of the torn dress.  I wore  a yellow dress to school one morning that my Siberian Husky dog, Riah, had eaten the butt area out of the night before.  I obviously didn’t realize it, or I wouldn’t have worn the dress.  I was nine; I put dresses on every day and never bothered looking in the mirror. A stupid kid noticed the hole early that morning and then every kid in the classroom was pointing and laughing at me. I held my head high, denied their absurd, rude accusations and held the chair to my butt for the rest of the day.  I was humiliated, but I was in control of the situation.  It taught me composure (and the merit of turning your body in front of a mirror). 

But reactions and statements on the internet usually aren’t as meaningful, self-defining and.. tactful.. as reactions and statements that occur in real life.  Example, posting an indirect status (#1 on my list of pet peeves) on how you “believe girls should stop doing the duck face” and telling the girl in real life who does the duck face all the time that she looks like a stupid, vain, retarded crossbreed between duck and horse, will produce completely difference outcomes.

Everything is so computerized and technological now, kids can be whatever they aren’t: they can hide behind social profiles that say “I look like this” (with a thousand filters on the best of a hundred shots) and I “like” this, too (whatever the kid who got tons of likes before them liked).  I remember being bored as a kid: you know what I did?  I went outside.  I played.  I brought out the monopoly box and begged my mom to play just one game with me.  I eventually bought a keyboard, and later a guitar, and instruction books and taught myself how to play these instruments. 

You know what kids do now when they’re bored?

 

Notification: New photo upload. 

Caption: lol I’m soooo bored

 

They take pictures.

Lots of pictures.  ..and they don’t even punctuate correctly.  Where’s the period, stupid butt?

And why? Why all of these redundant, uninteresting pictures? Is it boredom, or is it vanity?  Or is it simply the outgrowth of this self-obsessed, I’m the best culture?  Can we move past this superficiality and return to the days when accomplishments and hobbies were more important than “likes” and pictures? As a side note, can you seriously not think of something better to do with your “spare time” than to take pictures of yourself in the bathroom, the driver’s seat, or the break room at work? 

 

II.  Self-development and culture.

First of all, let me start off by saying that my husband’s father isn’t doing well.  The first time we met was at Chris and I’s wedding, two years ago.  He was recently admitted to the hospital, so Chris and I decided to pay him a visit.  When I entered the room, I didn’t recognize him.  He looked like he had aged at least twenty years and his charisma, enthusiasm, and the dazzling smile I had remembered so vividly had softened into a few gentle gestures, a tangle of blurred words, and a weak smile.  I was sadly amazed.

After being in the room with him, his wife and my husband for about an hour, I unconsciously reached into my purse and pulled out my phone.  My finger thoughtlessly touched the Facebook icon on the front screen of my Samsung Galaxy SII and I started browsing the news feed.

You DO SEE how WARPED this is, right? I’m not CRAZY, am I?

In the hospital, with a dying man, and checking Facebook.

What.the.fu##$@$%Sk.

Anyways, I realized what I was doing and shamefully put the phone away.

I decided to myself, right then, “I want to delete this pile of poo from my phone and my life and I NEVER want to see it AGAIN.”

I quickly concluded, however, that doing so would be a rash decision — I have family members who I only keep up with on Facebook and friends that I’m close enough to email and “wall” but not call on the phone, so Facebook does, admittedly, serve a purpose.

But where do I draw the line?  Why is Facebook so addictive? ..Why does it make me so obsessive? Why is it so important to people?  Why do we care if one person likes our status or fifty-four persons (my personal record)?

 

Self-culture.  Is there such a thing?

While I eat a quick breakfast, around 7:32 in the morning and before a long and demanding day at work, I browse my Facebook feed. 

7:40: while I use the restroom, I catch up on my Words With Friends games.

8:02: I’ve just exited the shower and am now getting dressed for the day.  I either call my mother or listen to a hippin’in happen’in song on YouTube.

8:18: I’m fully dressed, with my water bottle and purse resting on the kitchen table.  I grab my dog and take him outside our famous “three-minute walk: potty now or suffer until lunch break.”  I’m definitely on the phone with someone at this point; I require constant amusement.

By 8:23 I am going about 4x the speed of sound as I exit my apartment complex to get to work on time (8:30).  The radio is playing in the background; I’m checking my email in between keeping an eye on the car in front of me.

 

Okay, at this juncture, we’ll skip to evening time.  Just assume that I’ve listened to Pandora and texted/ played on my phone multiple times throughout the day.

 

5:42, I’m at home, starting to cook a healthy, nutritious dinner.  A pot of water begins boiling and I’ve got the oven on preee-heat.  I whip out my phone for the second “big” Facebook check of the day (I’ll perform one last check around 9, before bed, to catch up on the life of  “late-evening posters”).

6:48:  We’ve finished dinner by now and have started watching a movie (if it’s recently, probably an incredible anime).  I have my phone beside me on the chair rest (just in case someone sends an earth-shattering, hold-the-press text).

 

Have you noticed how RULED by technology my life is?

I am disgusted and embarrassed as I type all of this out for the world to see (or at least the three bored internet surfers who managed to get this far). 

I just wonder to myself, how much time have I wasted on social media — casually browsing my Facebook feed, playing simple-minded games, and re-listening to the same old songs? (which is not always a bad thing, but I could have learned to appreciate something new.)

 

I claim to be a musician.  A writer.  If I had devoted half of the time I spend on Facebook to practicing scales, or reading books and blogs (yes, it is a form of social media) to improve my own writing style, I would be a better person today.. better at what I like, more sharpened, refined and competent.  I want to iterate here that I’m not saying social media should just be completely tossed out the window and removed from everyone’s life — it can be a good thing.  It just seems, to me, that its tendency is to take over our lives. 

Often, the source of your excitement for life is altered: instead of being legit happy about going to watch your favorite band play or spending your birthday with your “Boo” at The Cheesecake Factory, your excitement is transferred to your Facebook status that says WHAT you’re doing and when, and you wonder, “how many likes will this get?”  That determines the success or pleasure of your evening.  That’s sick.

 

If one thing is clear, it’s this: something’s gotta give.  Now that was a good movie.. somewhere between it and The Shining, Jack Nicholson became one of my favorite actors. 

 

 One more thing (since this has officially become an aimless, unsupported rant): I’m pretty sure that with the way things are going now, both marriages and funerals will soon become e-based events.  Watch.  Wait for it!

 

III.  Real (not imaginary), meaningful relationships.

You know how it goes.  You strike up a friendship with someone at school.  The academic year ends, you move from Florida to Idaho and lose touch with the person in virtually all aspects.. but you’re still friends on Facebook. 

You go to your local community college class (in Idaho) and the person you sit next to seems friendly; she’ll whisper the date, share last Tuesday’s notes with you and laugh quietly at the teacher insults you murmur “to yourself.”  You casually mention that you should “add her” on Facebook, and you do so.  The semester ends and so does your communication with her.  She becomes another face on your “friends” (and acquaintances and family members and altogether strangers) list. 

So you pick up a part-time job working at The Cowsy Wowsie (a grocery store).  You start off bagging and are soon promoted to cashier.  Way to go, pal! This makes you feel accomplished and recognized. You start getting confident and chatty with the assistant manager, take down his number and text him on game days, saying “booooosch” and “in yohh face,” along with other random, drunk profanities.  You quit the job in a few months time so that you can move on to something better, and you quickly forget the dude you called “buddy.” 

 

Your phone mysteriously plunges itself into the toilet one day and you have no other choice than to get a new one.  At the Sprint store, the sales lady mentions synching over old contacts from your previous phone.  You realize that you don’t really care about all of the old numbers and forgotten names on your previous phone and tell her, don’t bother.  The two people you do keep up with?  You have their phone numbers memorized.

 

Do you see a pattern?  Adopt, and drop.  Use, and go.  Amuse me, leave me.

It’s our society.

But, I guess that’s what the Facebook Timeline is for.   I guess that that’s why I have literally hundreds of emails saved in my “blah blahs”  folder, all from a girl I talked to every day for more than 8 years but who I haven’t spoken with in over 2 years.  I suppose that’s why people leave faces on their Facebook “friends” page, faces that grow somewhat unfamiliar but stay recognizable, so that they can remember that that person was once a crucial part of their existence..

or maybe just a friend along the way.

 

“Likes” are the new compliments. Perfectly uniform-lettered comments have become the hand-written letters that would grow wrinkled and fade inside of our hidden drawers and boxes.   Texts are the new phone calls we receive and wall posts are the visits we used to have in person.

 

My big point (that probably got lost along the way) is this:

social media just takes the effort out of life.

Sometimes, along with that effort, meaning is lost.

Aun Aqui

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