The title says ‘My Social Media’. I think it’s best to qualify any comment on Social Media with a ‘my’. It’s such a personal thing. We all have our own versions of Social Media and the funny thing is we all think we share the same one. We don’t though. If you went on Twitter and followed only people who loved, say, Donald Trump and somebody else went on and only connected with people who collected rare horror films on VHS then those two people would have vastly different Social Media experiences. Well, there’d be a few similarities, obviously…
So this, here, is about my Social Media. It’s worth remembering that. Although, I do think there are certain generalisations that can be made across the spectrum of Social Media interactions. One size doesn’t fit all, though, that’s the point.
I’ve been using Social Media in some form or another for the best part of my life. I include things from the dark ages in that statement. Ancient things like Newsnet and even, God help us, CB Radio. I’ve always been drawn to communicating with people who are not in my eyeline, mostly for fun.
My modern Social Media outlets have become stuck at Twitter, Facebook and this here blog thing, which effectively died years ago but which I keep cattle-prodding on a weekly basis because that’s what I do, I hold onto my old things with a tight grasp. I’ve never grasped the nettles of Snapchat or Whatsapp or other such fancy things.
And, I need to say, my Social Media has been important to me. As a natural progression in life, I’ve become someone who doesn’t interact very far in real life beyond family and workmates. As a result, the linkage and contact I maintain through the computer screen is more good than it is bad, although this may not always seem to be the case.
So, having qualified and contextualised the hell out of everything, let’s get to that gap. My gap, maybe not yours (enough with the qualifications now. Ed).
It’s all springs from right out at the outer reaches of how people use their Social Media. In the movies, when old Q was bidding farewell to James Bond, he gave him a couple of pieces of advice. One of them was the words ‘Never let them see you bleed’. At one end of Social Media are the people who seem to maintain their online presence entirely on this basis. Everything is Hunky Dory, all is A1, top of the world. Nobody is ever bleeding over here on the sunniest side of the street.
The good folk at this end of Social Media accentuate the positive of their lives and their relationships and their state of mind. They may do this to benefit their own personal situation or to benefit the impression they give to others. Either way, their motives are often positive, one feels. Often they simply think that it’s nice to share the good news and nobody needs to be brought down by hearing about the less-positive aspects of their lives.
I can write about this end of the Social Media spectrum because I belong to it. If you were to read all of my Social Media snippets over the last years you would get a fairly positive picture. If things are even moderately shitty, I don’t turn up to tell you about it. That’s just my way.
So, yes, I can see the reasons for the unremittingly positive Social Media landscape. But I can also see the collectively negative impression it can compound, particularly for the people who live on the other side of the street.
The people on the other extreme end of the Social Media rainbow simply don’t have any good news to tell. There isn’t even anything they can pretend about. They have 'run on for a long time' as we all have but life has caught up them now and is unremittingly shit. This is, in all likelihood, a passing phase, but that means nothing to Social Media which is always and forever only about the very moment it exists in.
For the people on this extreme dark side, that Social Media stroll up the bright side must be a tough gauntlet to saunter. It must be like going up a brightly lit street at Christmas, where all the curtains are open and the interiors are yellow-bright with warm fires and ceiling-high trees and presents flowing out underneath. While all there is outside, really, is the bitter cold and cutting wind and the water seeping gently into the hole in your shoe.
From the bright side, looking back, it might be pretty unpleasant too. The guilt of being in the warm bright room, while the other poor soul lurches past outside.
These are two extremes, obviously, and are so exaggerated as to hardly exist at all. But we don’t have to move very far inward from these extreme ends to start to find where the bulk of Social Media really lies. People have their positive narratives and people have their negative narratives and the narratives may swap and switch from time to time as life throws its dice.
But, and here’s my point, the two ends rarely converge. The middle ground of Social Media hardly exists at all. Some people share the good and some share the bad but the ordinary, part-good, part-bad story is rarely told. It’s understandable, perhaps. The ordinary is by definition… ordinary and thus not very invigorating or engaging.
It is also, however, where many of us live out the bulk of our lives.
Social Media shows us a heightened existence. A place where life is often very bright or very dark, very full or very empty, very good or very bad. I think over-exposure to it can tend to lead us towards a mixture of fearfulness and envy that is not really terribly good for us. This is not going to change anytime soon. For a short time, early on, Twitter seemed to achieve a golden moment of real life being depicted in short bursts but that has long gone. It is now more declamatory and polarised than any other medium (well, mine is anyway).
That’s it. I wasn’t going to write anything this week because this was what was on my mind and I felt it would come out sounding petty and irrelevant. “Never mind that,” I said to myself, “write it anyway.”
So there it is. There is a gap in my Social Media and Real Life exists somewhere within that gap.
On the flat world of our Facebook and our Twitter pages, it is often those things which we choose to leave unsaid that speak for us the loudest.
I think I'm one of the rare people who shares both good and bad, but it depends on how well I know you to how much of the bad you see.
I don't broadcast my bad days- I share them only with people I consider real friends. I connect on Facebook to a lot of people through business, whilst they are my "facebook friends" I am not disillusioned to think they are my real life friends, or that they have my interests in mind when commenting on my posts.
So in my "human" moments, I use the Fb function to share the status with friend "except acquaintances" that way I'm real to my friends. And I get access to the loving support my friends give me, when I need it.
I like helping my friends, so I like knowing when they're having bad days, so that I can offer support to them.
I believe in order to thrive not just survive humans need to be interdependent, we need to give and receive support from our "tribe". If we only show our positive moments it robs our friends of the opportunity to give to us.
If we only share negative, it causes a drain on our friends who are forced into the position of always giving.
You're spot on about the gap though, so few express their realities on social media. None of us can ever truly (without quantifiable research) accurately comment on the whole of social media, because what we experience of it is totally unique to the choices we make: How we communicate and who we choose to connect with, as well as which platform.
You make a good point, Ken. It’s an obvious one—by which I mean all the evidence is there in plain sight—but often we need someone to come along and state the bleedin’ obvious for us because we’ve not been paying attention and let’s face it it’s hard to pay attention when there’s so much coming at us from all sides. I used to wonder why pop stars used to end up losing all their money and the answer’s fairly simple: Half the time they probably didn’t know what country they were in. What I hate about Facebook (and Twitter even more so) is that all we get (mostly all we get) are bullet points, as you say the highlights or the lowlights. (Is ‘lowlight’ a word?)
On one level I’d much rather meet you for a coffee once a week and talk about what we watched on TV than do this blog thing. Somehow you manage to make it not feel forced or artificial but that’s where your talent lies and you are very much the exception there. I made a decision right from the start that I would not spend a lot of time talking about my private life. Because a) it’s private and b) with the best will in the world it’s really not very interesting. Until I started posting the poems I’ve pretty much kept to that. I’ve talked a bit about my health every now and them and I’ve made no secret who my wife is but other than the fact I have a daughter and two siblings I try to keep that side away from the public and if I do share an anecdote I’m careful what I say. Which smacks of dishonesty but who says transparency’s necessarily a good thing? It’s inevitably disillusioning. Online I’m Jim-the-writer and Jim-the-writer’s real enough but he’s only one aspect of me even if he is the most important one. I’d love to be Jim-the-writer all the time but he’s hard work. I always imagined people went to my blog to see what Jim-the-writer had to say in much the same way as people open up their paper to see what Jim Davis has to say through his voice pieces Jon and Garfield. I’ll be honest I’ve never given much thought to what Jim Davis does when he’s not drawing his cartoons. Does he play golf, eat marmalade sandwiches or meditate three hours a day? I’m content with what he chooses to share.
I think this sums up nicely why I left Twitter. I've decided to Mind The Gap, which for me is mostly definitely in the ordinariness of real life :-)
I've noticed the more negative and less "social" Social Media becomes, the less I "talk". It's actually increased my patience as I can now just keep on moving when I read something absolutely in the I'm-picking-a-fight-who's-gonna-take-the-bait? type of sharing. Last week I only posted once a day and my rule was it had to be positive. All the current negative is like being the victim of a social vampire intent on draining you to a shell of your former self.
Unlike most folks, I'm only "friends" with people I know. My family doesn't know of my FB presence because they argue/judge too much and I don't want to play that game. Honestly, the "real" me still lives on my blog...because that's where my real emotions, good and bad, come out. I know the folks who take the time to read a blog post wonder what's really going on with me.
Keep writing Ken. It gives me....hope. :)
I wrote a comment. I lost the comment. Having written it, but not wanting to repeat the act of writing it all out again, I'll boil it down to this:
I'm glad you're on my feed, Ken. Keep on keeping on, as they say.
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