Social media is a strange place for me lately. I find myself more drained than buoyed by the time I spend on Facebook or Twitter. I set up a Pinterest account and stared blankly at the "boards" there and thought, "What's the point here?" It doesn't seem like a vehicle for self-expression or social interaction but more like a visual wish list that announces who you aspire to be in terms of things. I just don't get it, and even though it's The Next Big Thing, it's passing me by.
Facebook, an application I really like, has a similar feel to it. I love the personal updates, the family stuff, the photos, but I find fewer and fewer people update that way anymore. Mostly my stream is full of news articles, inspirational quotes, music videos and links. Once in a while these generate interesting discussions, but mostly they're ignored or "Liked" and passed over as yet another link pops into view. Whoosh!
Instead of sharing things that are personal, everyone is becoming a curator of "content," defining their lives not by what THEY have to say but what OTHERS have to say that they agree with. I find myself subconsciously categorizing or remembering people not by where they live or what they DO but by what causes they espouse or what they read and feel compelled to share.
I find myself struggling to understand what's really going on with people I care about, trying to gauge their state of being by their content links rather than by what they say. There are fewer and fewer people saying ANYTHING that feels real to me, and the lack of personal content makes me reluctant to write anything too personal myself, as if I'd be blurting out something inappropriate. Which isn't to say I never enjoy the links (or post them myself), but just that it feels empty and incomplete to me, like reading a single section of a newspaper someone left behind on a Metro seat on their way to somewhere else.
Facebook and Twitter have become places to broadcast content, not really socialize, and I miss feeling like I was gaining a real sense of someone's life and not just becoming familiar with their political leanings. I seldom feel like I'm connecting to people anymore online, either in what I read or what I say. I miss the old days of social media, where bloggers and commenters shared posts that focused on *their* stories, *their* experiences, *their* creative endeavors. There was the joy of discovering kindred souls and different life styles. The world became bigger and smaller with social media, and I liked that, but now it's matured and sometimes it's nothing more than static and white noise, the roar of the crowd.
My friend Neil is always questioning social media: What does it mean? Where is it going? How can we be "authentic" online? How has the concept of "branding" affected online interactions? What's the future of blogging? Does it even have a future?
These are questions I have too, but I confess I'm reluctant to devote too much energy to exploring or debating the answers. I'll leave that to the academics. I know there is no right way to use social media, and I'm not convinced we can get a grip on this big electronic mass of marketing, activism, politics, promotion, news media, and personal expression. It's like trying to build something substantial out of Jell-O.
All I know is that it feels empty to me at the moment, and that's probably more my problem than Facebook's or Twitter's.
If this were an "authentic" post, I suppose I wouldn't be writing about social media but I'd be writing about my own moments of loneliness, the desire for human connection, the need to be seen and valued, to feel part of something more important and permanent than a scrolling comment thread. When I'm feeling isolated, Facebook is probably the last place I should go to seek comfort. I should pick up the phone, write an e-mail, make a date, take a walk, whatever. That, I suppose, is what this post is REALLY about, but I had to write it to discover that.
That's probably the most important part of blogging for me now. My blog motivates me to write and create and to discover and confront what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling, what matters.
If I didn't have this online space, would I bother to do that, or would I bury my truth and myself in a series of links?
How does social media feel for you at the moment? How has that changed?