From recent public Facebook and Twitter posts:
- (To a hostess) Sorry I couldn’t make Thanksgiving dinner with you and the family!
- (Status update) To all my friends and family, you are what has made my life worth living this year. Thank you for your support.
- (To a new date on a business trip) Call me if you’d like to get together before you head back to town today!
- (To a friend in difficult times) Love you! Call me?
A new dynamic in technology has taken root in our whirlwind world of relationships — the social media. Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other technovues (my cross for technologic venues) have crept, not only into our communication, but into our relationships. Whether this is positive or negative is a matter of opinion (and experience), but let’s consider another perspective: Are these media developing real connectedness, or do they just create the illusion of connectedness?
Many of us have “reconnected” through the social media with people from the past — former friends, former loves, former bosses, former students, relatives and so on. Initial contact is full of excitement, enthusiasm and acceptance. “Who are you now, and what are you doing with your life?” We might even make plans to get together — next week, some day or whenever. Sometimes, we even continue on the technological communication pathway for a time. But when the initial thrill of renewing acquaintance with someone has worn off, and we’ve thoroughly explored their pages and photos, seen their kids, their hobbies and previewed their successes — what’s left? Many of us claim “connected” with a good portion of these people and move on.
The posts in the opening of this blog were all pulled from public posts. Each of them implies a degree of familiarity and relationship, and hints at good character and intentions, but none of them actually reaches out person-to-person — merely post-to-post. In other words — the poster gets to “feel” connected without really “being” connected. The poster also gets bonus points for posting such sensitive comments in a public forum. When I see those posts , sometimes I have this nagging sense that there is another agenda at work — who actually was the intended audience for that post?
Admittedly, sometimes posts aren’t about brownie points. They may be about fear, disinterest or uncertain intentions. Though the posts above didn’t necessarily come from my pages, I’ve tried to put myself in the position of being on the receiving end of them and offer you my tongue-in-cheek point rating for the value of the post.
On a scale of one to five:
- “Sorry I couldn’t attend Thanksgiving dinner with your family?” Did someone really put themselves out there to invite you to this special family occasion? Then shame on you for not calling them with true regrets — person to person, heart to heart. Public Points: 4 , Connected Points: 2
- “To all my friends and family, you are what has made my life worth living this year. Thank you for your support” For those of us that really gave it up for you this year, why not express direct appreciation to us through a personal note or, if that’s too difficult, at least a “personal” e-mail to a list of supporters? But a public post to all 534 friends? Public Points: 2, Connected Points: 1
- “Call me if you’d like to get together before you head back for town.” Why don’t you just call and see if I’m available instead of relying on my logging onto a social media site in the middle of a business day? Oh, maybe I get it after all — you “tried?” Public Points: 3, Connected Points: 0
- “Love you! Call me?” Why not just pick up the phone to offer your love and support? It’s kind of an odd dynamic to ask someone to call to cash in on your love and support in a time of difficulty. Why not just call yourself and really be there for your friend? But granted, this post is definitely worth points on a public site. Public Points: 5, Connected Points: 1
Unfortunately, and I plead guilty here as well, an element of all this is that we do not always want to connect with someone — we just want to appear as though we are connected. It is much more difficult and self-exposing to call someone to say ,“I love you. Do you need anything?” than to post a similar comment. By posting to a false sense of connection, we avoid rejection, and the rest of the world thinks we are wonderful. How many of our posts are really about our own public persona?
One of my New Year’s Resolutions, and a challenge to each of us, is to take the risk of being truly connected and not rely on the false sense of connection offered up by social media. If we really want to connect with someone, let’s do it — even though it requires a little more time, a little more thought and a lot more risk. Happy New Year!
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