Saturday, May 26, 2012

Facebook Flounce (Sort Of)

I've been thinking a lot about the role of social networking in my life. Many of these have not been happy thoughts. Then I stumbled upon a video from a TEDx event that has framed the whole movement in a completely different way. I would highly recommend setting aside twenty minutes to watch this video, maybe not right now, but soon.

Wow! My reaction to these ideas is fairly deep horror. You see, I have one very strong foundation-level goal in my life, and it's based on the ideas of a man named Harry Hay. The particular concept that has become my underlying motivation is called subject-SUBJECT consciousness. It posits simply that every person enters into every situation with a lifetime of accumulated experience influencing their perceptions and the choices that they make.

This is easy to understand. It gets complicated, however, when we try to do anything together. Every person's idea of what we are doing is unique. It takes a lot of work to reach a place where we can agree on a set of actions that are acceptable to all while simultaneously remembering that we can never fully understand the motives of another. All people need a chance to speak their minds, especially if their needs are not being met.

The bottom line here is that I've set a real goal to live my life in a way that grants every other person's reality the same weight as mine. We are equal participants in our shared experiences. It's not easy. Reaching meaningful agreements takes time, sometimes quite a lot of it. Deep friends challenge each other, help each other to look at themselves critically, and support each other as they grow.

The opposite of treating others as equals with important subjective experiences is to treat other people as objects, existing to be used for whatever purpose we need them to serve at the moment. This sounds evil, but it doesn't have to be. It can be as benign as reading a social media newsfeed in order to stave off loneliness. Sometimes when we do this, we are using others and their stories to take the place of deep connections in realtime, with those same people or with others.

With social media, if someone says something that's personally challenging, it's easy to just scroll down to the next item without a moment's thought. There's no commitment to engage with them and work through it. In fact, people who try to do that are often called "a bummer". They are ignored or unfriended altogether. We're not on Facebook to get serious, after all. We're just sharing some fun stuff, right? The problem for me comes when this light and fluffy discourse makes up the majority of my social interactions.

And this is why I'm limiting my time on Facebook. I don't want the majority of my social interactions to be easy, quick, and shallow. Instead, I'm going to actively cultivate deep friendships with people who can eventually agree to really be there for each other, especially when the going gets tough. That's when the good stuff in life happens! Challenges help us to grow.

I'm not saying that I will be leaving Facebook. There are many good reasons to maintain the type of connections that it affords. What I will be doing is recognizing the limitations of this type of communication and asking people who engage online to take the conversation into realtime by utilizing antique technologies like (mwa-ha-ha) The Telephone.

If you've made it this far, maybe you are interested in these ideas, too. Do you want to cultivate our "physical real", "real time" relationship? Send me your phone number and let's chat! I know, it's scary, huh? Wanna talk about it?


sweatyknitter said...

Well said. I have a personal FB page but the only thing I post are articles or links to discussions of what I think are serious, compelling, social issues. Most people, from what I can tell, seem to use FB to update everyone on personal, daily issues (e.g., what they ate for dinner etc.). One of y dearest friends posted on my page, "Why can't you post mindless drivel like everyone else?" She was teasing (in a way). Anyway, thank you for addressing this so bluntly.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more Blossom. I too have been contemplating some culling of Facebook (well probably about 100 people who wanted to be my friend and I don't even know who they are and haven't heard from them since). I'm not quite ready to close it altogether as it has allowed me to find old friends and workmates and it would be a shame to lose contact with them but all the other stuff I can do without. My life is busy enough without worrying about all the other rubbish that someone else throws out there for the world to see. Do I think my life will be poorer as a consequence? Nope, in fact I think it will be enriched. Bev

Meg in Nelson said...

Great video and well-composed post.

I'm older and don't have a smart phone, so I don't text and am not as addicted to social networking as much as described in the vid. I also enjoying going off the radar from time to time.

I enjoy FB for entertainment, both for mindless dribbles, and for finding out art and textile events around the world. (I live in a small place at the bottom of the world.) But I have made some good in-the-cloud friends with whom I discuss real things by email.

I have, though, always found social interaction somewhat awkward, long before the Internet, and I've never liked phones. (I was a great teenager!) But now I see how, even for one who doesn't have to look "good", we, I, to varying extent feel compelled to perform our roles.

Curiouser and curiouser.