Friday, January 13, 2017

What if social media was honest?

the other day, Ryan said to me, "you know, Facebook is kind of pretentious". I was semi-offended, because I'm on Facebook, but then i thought about how right he is. Now, I have nothing against social media - I'm a Millennial, after all. I see the value of social media for creating connections. I have friends from college that I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with if it weren't for Facebook. But that doesn't change the fact that Facebook is, and has always been, a place to brag about how good your life is, and even bad news is expected to have an ultimately positive spin. My dad is a great example of this. Even his cancer updates are usually wrapped in some positive, upbeat note about some of my siblings. My own Facebook page does this too - and even more so my Instagram page. Instagram is even worse than Facebook, actually. Capturing the perfect picture and sharing it is the punch line of many jokes recently - like the term "Instagram husband". If a picture is worth 1000 words, than every Instagram post contains the same rose colored view of life as a month's worth of Facebook updates.

The other big use of Facebook (and Twitter, for this one) is to share anything that argues for something you believe to be right. In the current political arena, this is mostly presidential, but it applies at all times, not just now. Sharing why it's better for the environment to be vegan/vegetarian. Sharing why you should care about causes. Again, I totally do this. I share articles from Goldie Blox or A Mighty Girl declaring why you should teach young girls the STEM fields are awesome. But in a way, this is just the same positive spin on everything that the above statuses are about. Even if the article that you share only talks about the world falling apart, you are validating yourself and your opinion by sharing it. You're saying "hey look, someone else feels how I feel, and that makes me right, and I want you all to know I am right".

Facebook is the online equivalent of someone asking "how are you doing?" and hoping that you just give the socially acceptable "good" and move on. Facebook is the online equivalent of someone expecting you to fall into their socially comfortable, normal boxes. And because that's what people want, it's what we give out. People want you to talk about how you are #Blessed and how you are #rockingIt, but not about the times you are hurting, or confused, or anything else. Because Facebook is a network that is a mile wide, but an inch deep. And like I said, I see the value of this - I just get frustrated if that's my ONLY connection to you.

So here are two examples of honest statuses I might write:

Emily is jealous of her co-worker, who got the position I wanted to get but didn't get, and who got promoted to the next level the same time I did, even though she has been at this job less time than I have. This co-worker is a really nice person, but my issues get in the way of us really connecting.

Emily feels frustrated, sad, and confused about the political state right now, and feels like friends on both sides of the political aisle are telling her she's not doing the right thing, and to be honest, just wants to stick her head under a rock till it's all over. Which, I'm sure, some of my friends will tell me is the wrong/cowardly thing to do. And I know that. But I'm scared, and it's easier to be complacent than to take a stand, OK?

Do you see why social media is not honest? Because it reveals our sins to be honest. It's easier to pretend to live the perfect, righteous life than it is to address our own failings. However, one of my new year's themes this year was connection. So I'm making an effort to connect with people - both by sharing my honest mess, and by asking you to share yours. I can't promise how I'll react - part of my mess is that I'm a judgmental jerk more often than not - but I'm working on it. The End.


Dianne O'Grady-Cunniff said...

This deserves a truly thoughtful and honest response. and one day in the near future I hope to have an insight worth posting to it! But for now I have a ton of work to get done. The strange, paper thin glimpse into the lives of friends through social media from far away is better than nothing... but usually lacks the honesty of friendship in person where we know our friends as the ones who can see the good in us even when we've lost sight or it ourselves when we get stuck in swamps of frustration or tough times.

I'm at a stuck place where I feel like a gerbil in a wheel going round and round trying to get computer science education adopted as a piece of what every student has a chance to be exposed to in public schools: how can anybody resist the fun of solving puzzles, making things follow your commands on screen and all the incredible, fun new ways they've rolled out to give kids a chance to get exposed to CS? But it still feels like we're in just about the same place of barely holding on to keeping at least 1 CS class in high schools and sporadic progress in a few middle and elementary schools... and I spend almost all my "free" time trying to get this CS beast moving forward and it just feels like it's barely changed at all.

In the meantime I ordered the paper magician series seeing it on your recommendation list for the next time i find myself in the air with time to read. :)

Emily Brown said...

One day, when you do get the chance to breathe, I want to take you out to lunch so we can talk. :)

Yes, I'd like to talk about CS education and what if anything I can do to help you - but also just because you were easily my favorite teacher ever and it would be nice to catch up for real instead of these brief comments on my blog that we only get to read every so often.