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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Media Junkies - Could this be you?


I'm not quite certain as to when the world shifted. I know we have always somewhat been a voyeuristic society, but in the simpler days, it involved a nosy neighbour named Gladys who kept watch of the community, and spread any juicy and usually harmless news at leisure.

Take a drive and look around. Nobody is talking anymore. Everyone is glued to their phones and Blackberries either texting, sending a Facebook/Twitter message or ignoring an incoming call so the caller can leave a message and then the owner can text them later. What ever happened to conversation?

Both of these points lead me down a path that I am both familiar and guilty. When Facebook (cleverly referred to as Fakebook) first emerged, I was elated. I had lost contact with so many people throughout the years, and how else in the world would I have ever reconnected with a friend from highschool who now lives in Lebanon, or an old neighbour who had changed her last name through the institution of marriage.

I could now add people as a friend, see friends of their friends or mutual connections, and photos of their entire life (or what they wish you to see). On top of it all, I could now snoop into someone else's comments to see how popular they were by reading all the comments on their wall. When it was a birthday, the comments quadrupled. When it was my birthday, boy did I ever feel important to have 56 emails in my inbox, all excitedly chiming something like: "Happy Birthday Wen, Wend, Wendel, Wendy...Love ya xoxo." Wow, did I feel important and loved!

Three years later, still on Facebook, I notice a few things. First, a bunch of people are taking stock of their Facebook "friends" and deciding who they really want to be peeking into their daily world. They figure, if we never speak, never meet for coffee and never make plans, why on earth would these people be privy to every single detail written or posted? So they take the very careful and brave step of "de-friending" someone. Take it from personal experience, hell hath no fury like a distant cousin's scorn if they are no longer allowed to snoop into your life, yet never pick up the phone or have a nice thing to say to you. Then, you're faced with a nasty retort, demanding to know why they cannot peek into your life anymore. Is it okay to keep your doors and windows open, give your password associated with your email and bank accounts and tell everyone the dollar amount of your pay cheques? No, you answer. So why the hell would you trust private information to anyone, let alone people you do not even like.

Here within lies the problem. Technology can be great for re-connecting people, ensuring transactions happen quickly and researching just about anything at all. You can find a home, plan a vacation, pay your bills, create photo scrapbooks to music and even find your true love. (May I add, thank you plentyoffish.com)

The problem , and I do believe for the teenage generation could be ten times worse, is the "Mean Girls" syndrome. Back in our day, the mean girls would not invite you to a party, spread rumours in school or tease the shit out of you. Now, it's too easy to hide behind a computer and cyber bully adolescents. They start groups (i.e. I hate Sarah Bender" group) post unflattering photos or write untrue things that, with a click of a mouse, can be sent to the masses. With adolescence already being a stressful and confusing time, this bullying could really push someone over the virtual edge.

In my generation, it's all about proving how great our lives are. Even in conversation, everything is always "Great Great!" Everyone and everything is about competition. In previous generations, this was called "Keeping up with the Jones' ", but now it should be called "People are killing themselves living beyond their means to pretend they have it all."

My friend Ben said it perfectly yesterday. Social media has made us all a bunch of ego maniacs. If I woke up, after my wedding day and didn't have anything written on my Facebook wall, truthfully I probably wouldn't have felt very good. Similarly, although I could be having an amazing day, I find myself comparing my life to everyone else's. My husband and I had a terrific time at Christmas, but then I see other albums on Facebook, and I think "Oh." We weren't with a group of 20 people skiing in Collingwood. My Christmas tree didn't have those beautiful expensive matching ornaments. So and so looks fabulous and I feel dumpy.

Then, there's the people who you aren't sure if they are telling the truth or really just have a perfect life and want everyone to know about it. For me, I certainly don't post on Facebook or Twitter that my husband and I just had a huge fight about socks or money and I ran down the street in tears. I don't post how bad I feel when a friend is angry with me. I sure as hell wouldn't say if I was off work for stress leave because a pervert in a power position didn't know right from wrong.

Why are we all so ashamed to be human? A former colleague and I were chatting a few weeks ago about such topics. She said something that was interesting to me. She said that she visits an acquaintance who's house is always in sheer chaos, and she loves it. She feels comfortable, and she feels real.

In six weeks, I'm moving. My city, phone number and address will change. I removed my Facebook account for many reasons. First, sharing information amongst friends in my eyes, has or should always be a two way street. If I'm going to be vulnerable and share my utmost ups and downs, secrets, plans and dreams with you, then you must also share that with me. It's a give and take. I do not like when I know nothing about someone, yet they are in the loop constantly of what I am doing. I'm not that important. Really, I'm not up to that much.

I do not like the feeling I get when already nasty people, use Facebook for pure evil. They post photos of events you were not invited to, and write things they want you to see. You fear removing them off your list, however they would never walk in your front door and start thumbing through your phone bill. So why should a computer screen change the boundaries?

I don't like finding things out through Facebook. Today, I found out 2 friends had children and another bought a house. Another's relationship status has changed from "Married" to "It's Complicated." It's complicated alright, because I feel things are not my business unless someone tells me themselves and vice versa. I also do not need to know what others think of me through social media. I often refer to something I read once: "What other people think of you is none of your business."

I have fallen into the trap of curiosity getting the best of me and constantly wanting to know what people are up to. Friends have admitted the same. We are busy people! We should be doing busy things. We are career women who are moms and wives and daughters who are trying to keep up in a busy life. To me, Facebook is nothing different than a highschool reunion, where everyone wants to prove how wonderful their life turned out.

I cut many ties in my life for reasons of my own. I do not like backstabbing, gossip or mean people. I choose to have quality over quantity in my social surroundings. It's really not a big deal that I had 300 Facebook "friends" on my profile because at the end of the day, the ones who really count are the people you can be real with. When my husband has an Addison's crisis, are any of those Facebook friends around to visit him in the hospital? Do they call me to see how I'm doing? Did they come to my wedding with well wishes? Do they treat me with kindness? Similarly, do I do the same for them?

Don't you often feel you were born in the wrong generation? Whether I'm driving through a smaller town or sitting by the dock at a cottage, I truly feel that people are conflicted. They rely so heavily on technology yet loathe it at the same time. Manners have been replaced by tweeting at the dinner table. Conversation has been replaced with text and acronyms (Teenagers these days I'm surprised even remember how to spell. Is it not cool to form full and proper sentences?)

I'm just sayin'.

I offer no solutions to this media pandemic that surely is not dissipating any time soon. What I truly feel is that we are all very much the same through generations, culture and media. Don't we all really just want to matter? Are we starving for affection and attention so badly that we truly are reaching out in various ways through technology; the same vehicle that is responsible for isolating us? I always try to write an old fashioned letter or card to my friends and family to let them know they matter. Do I matter? I've rarely had one card mailed to me that wasn't an invite or RSVP in years (with the exception of my two moms and others in their generation.)

But with the irony of this message being broadcast via a web blog not withstanding, sometimes the method outweighs the result. This blog is supposed to be about all things beautiful. The beauty of this post is that I realized what truly matters, before it was too late.

I think I'll go phone a friend.



1 comment:

Michael said...

Fantastic! And beautifully written!