Monday, April 04, 2016

Social Media - Good or Bad?

A very long time ago, when I was about eight years old, social media consisted of the ringing telephone at my grandmother's house, or a "yoo hoo" from one of her neighbors.

She was in her 40s when I was born - and she gave birth to a young son a year later on my birthday. After a time, she took care of me and my brother while my mother worked, along with her own two younger children. One was in school, the other, of course, younger than I, and my brother younger still.

Looking back, I think her life was lonely. She had little adult conversation. Many times a week the phone rang and it was "Mamma Fore" and during those conversations we were to leave Grandma alone. On Fridays, she walked us all about five blocks up the street to her sister's house, where she did Aunt Neva's hair. That was about it. She had been known to keep a salesperson on the phone talking for an hour, probably just to hear a voice in a range that was above "pipsqueak child."

My grandmother's social media consisted of the telephone, the TV, the newspaper, and whatever gossip she picked up from "Mamma Fore," her sisters, neighbors, other relatives, my grandfather (until he passed away), and my mother. She did not go to church.

Jump forward about 45 years. My social media consists of the landline telephone, a cell phone, the TV, two print newspapers, multiple online news sources, email, Facebook, and this blog. I have a twitter account and a linkedin account, neither of which I use much. We are more connected than my grandmother ever thought possible.

Yet is this good, this connecting? When I see a family sitting in a restaurant not talking, each bent over their electronic gadget, I have to wonder. When my friend ignores me because the cell phone rings, and I sit there banging my spoon against my plate in idleness while I wait for her to finish a conversation apparently more important than any we were having, is this a good thing? We are inundated with news 24 hours a day, we see stuff happen on TV that maybe we shouldn't - and we all have some kind of traumatic stress issue.

My grandmother's life was relatively simple. I think sometimes she wanted more, but she made do. We don't "make do" much anymore. As soon as a cell phone dies, we must replace it. Computer breaks? Gotta fix it.

I confess I leave my cell phone in the car - all the time. It's still a flip phone. I don't text. I don't want to be reachable 24/7. I don't want to take a drive to a Parkway overlook only to have my image of the vista interrupted. I like my alone time.

Social media, though, also connects me in ways I never imagined. I have friends that I've made online that have stuck with me longer than people in "real life." I can empathize and sympathize and occasionally find a like mind to commiserate with. It keeps me from being alone with the reality is, I am alone quite a lot.

Keeping away that sense of loneliness is the allure of social media, I think. We are afraid of our thoughts, fearful that we might discover we don't agree with something or someone we've always agreed with, maybe, if we think on own. Schools don't even teach children how to think anymore - only how to parrot. But people aren't parrots.

Some people worry that social media is destroying, well, everything, I guess. Some people think it is great. Certainly I think social media is good for invalids or shut-ins or others who, for whatever reason, aren't out and about in the world.

But I also think that if you're having lunch with a friend or a family member, you should cut the damn cell phone off.



  2. I share many of these thoughts. I don't keep my cell out all the time either. Many of my coworkers do and ask why I didn't return their text in the evening. I tell them I am spending time with family and doing other things. Not on the phone all the time!!!


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