I used to be a fairly hardcore computer geek. And while I’m no longer immersed in the computer-geek subculture, I’m still a good person to call if something goes wrong with your computer.
Now instead of immersion in geek stuff, I do the social media/blog stuff. I currently have six Facebook pages (speaking of which, won’t you please “like” my Facebook page? It would mean a lot to me!); four websites that I own and operate on a regular basis; one website that I work on with some other women; no fewer than 10 email accounts, most of which I actually use; two Twitter pages that I use sparingly; and one Pinterest account that I use to keep track of remodeling ideas. I don’t have an Instagram account because I don’t have an iPhone. There are other social media venues I don’t use, but you know, I am almost 35 and have three kids as well as paying work on occasion, and there’s only so much I can do.
I absolutely love this stuff, and, thankfully, the only time it distracts me from family, clients, or chores is first thing in the morning while I drink coffee (and that has more to do with the coffee), and maybe twice per week if there’s something new/exciting/difficult I’m working on. I’m really lucky that I type fast, do my thinking in the rocking chair, and don’t have an addictive personality. I realize, however, that many people *do* have addictive personalities, and that’s why the title of this post parenthetically includes the word “usually.”
Why do I love these things? I love writing blogs because I’m a writer and it’s fun. I love the social media part because rather than making me feel disconnected from “real” people the way so many others complain about, it actually brings me closer to “real” people. And since I — and most of my friends — are in a time of life when social interaction is limited by nap time and sick kids, this closeness is vitally important.
Old Friends Stay Friends
One of the greatest parts of Facebook is that old friends stay friends and, in some instances, become even closer friends than they were before.
Most of my friends live elsewhere and we can’t get together for a play date or coffee. Some of my friends have children (and/or spouses) I have never met. By seeing the status updates of these friends, the wedding photos, birth- and birthday photos, and just the everyday photos of their lives, I am able to stay close to them in a way I otherwise couldn’t. When I see these friends in person, I don’t feel like we need to spend the first two hours of our time together playing catch-up. I know about the recitals, the plays, the lost teeth and potty-training, the sleepless nights, and the new house.
Long-Distance Family Stays Close
The other greatest part of Facebook is that I can keep up with long-distance family. Just like with the long-distance friends referenced above, I can keep in the loop with my growing nieces, nephews, cousins, and others.
Acquaintances Become Friends
In a real-life, face-to-face relationship, people seldom bust out all their family photos, their politics, religion, and favorite TV shows and movies. It can take years to get to know a person on a deep level, because real-time interaction just doesn’t lend itself to “full” disclosure. And it probably shouldn’t. You can’t just meet someone for the first time and tell them all about your dad’s health problems, your child’s first day of preschool, or your husband’s new job. While some of these things certainly come up organically, to talk about these sorts of topics in large quantities would be one-sided and selfish, and who wants that?
But you know how you friend people on social media sites just because you sort of know them, but not really? When that happens, you see what pages they “like.” Which news stories they share. You can see what they have listed under “religion” and “politics.” You see how they interact with their spouses and children, what they look like without makeup, what they do on a daily basis, and what’s important to them. In seeing this, you start feeling like you know these acquaintances much better than you did before. Almost like…. a friend.
My time in law school is a good example of this. We were all busy, to say the least, and since I was a single parent and working part-time, I had very little social interaction with more than a handful of peers. So I became friends with people in that we knew and liked each other, but that was about it. Now that we’re “friends” on Facebook, we’ve gotten to know each other in a way that the hectic pace of law school would never have allowed. And this carries over to in-person interactions as well. When I see these acquaintances-turned-friends in real life, I (and they) feel like we truly are friends.
Current Local Friends Become Better Friends
The same logic from above applies here. I will admit, however, that there are some odd moments, such as when after a lengthy back-and-forth over the internet, or an especially personal blog post, you see each other in person and no one knows whether to reference the screen-based interaction or not (FWIW, I think it’s best to just mention it right away and get the “should I or shouldn’t I?” over with.) Or when you see a photo of someone in their jammies and slippers then see them in their Sunday best at church. Or, in the case of blogs, when you learn things about people that are deeply personal that may have taken years of friendship to uncover, if at all.
But because you do uncover these things so quickly, you become closer faster, and that’s usually a good thing.
As long as these outlets aren’t used irresponsibly and the bonds created carry over into real-life relationships, the screen time is well worth it. (IMHO : ))