Not So Social Media

I always hated the idea of Facebook.  I couldn’t understand the point of it and all that ‘like’ and ‘friend’ business reeked of playground bullying to me.  Even as a marketer, it took me a while to see the sense in it, but finally I saw its potential in building brands.  But if you want to communicate with your ‘friends’, why wouldn’t you send them an email or pick up the phone or, heaven forbid, put pen to paper?

After railing against this faceless, brainless, online monstrosity for years, while friends and family frittered their lives away checking their pages and updating the online world with their every move, I finally got involved.  I found some wonderful resources I never would have come across otherwise (Peaceful Parenting, Ram Dass, Rumi etc) and began to understand the fascination.  It wasn’t long before I was ‘blocked’ by my own sister who failed to see the humour in some witty repartee between myself and a young cousin over something she had posted.  Then I discovered that the fall out from Facebook in circles of friends, families, book clubs etc is rife.  Because we think we are faceless online but of course we are not.  And what we post is writ large and lives on, long past the moment, and is open to interpretation in as many different ways as there are people to read it.

I survived the family row that engendered – heated transatlantic phone calls and icy silence from the sister in question for a year – oy vay. And then I posted something on the Peaceful Parenting page not understanding that apparently my ‘friends’ and family were alerted every time I said anything, anywhere on Facebook.  Does anybody really understand how fb works?

The fallout was huge but actually very healing, a lot was said that needed to be said, my husband stood up for me, I stood my ground and I feel free of a great burden.  Facebook as a healer?  I don’t think so – just my ability to use any and every opportunity to heal.  There is much debate about fb’s privacy settings, but clearly the only way to ensure your privacy online is not to use it.

At least I never got into that whole Instagram this is what I am having for breakfast, lunch and dinner thing – what the hell was that all about?

And then I discovered Twitter.  Like fb for grown ups.  And after all these years free of addiction (except for my black tea consumption which I have finally accepted as pretty harmless) I found myself addicted to ‘the conversation’ and have been frittering away my precious child free hours on Twitter.

Partly because after a whole day’s dialogue with a 5 year old, it is so refreshing to go online and see what intelligent adults are saying about the politics of the day and other issues I am passionate about.  And once again I have made wonderful connections I never otherwise would never have found.  And maybe it is better than my EBay window shopping addiction – although for someone who lives 80 minutes from the shops and rarely buys clothes or shoes etc, I guess that’s pretty harmless!

It’s a great escape, the online world, and as a passionate procrastinator, it gives me another excuse not to do what I am supposed to be doing.  And then I rant about my lack of time!  Hello?

But I am waking up to myself.  I have to accept that no-one gives a flying f@@k about what I think about the tragic state of the Australian nation, and there are plenty of others more succinct and knowledgeable than I to make the case on social media.  And all that time could be far better spent writing the books I have started and need to get stuck into if they are ever going to make it into print . . .

It’s like reality TV shows, gossip or glossy fashion mags, the latest TV serial or whatever – escapism from the brutal banality of most of our lives.  The truth is, we all need to spend less time online, and more time talking to peers, colleagues, friends, lovers, family.  Engaging with the real people who make up our small real-time communities.  Sending long emails or snail mail letters or cards which touch hearts rather than ‘poke’ puffed up online personalities.  At the risk of sounding like the hippy I am enjoying becoming . . . ‘get real’.

I see people constantly checking their iPhones while walking on the beach, while sitting with friends at cafes, or sitting down together at the end of the day or the close of the week.  It’s compulsive.

More twit I for falling for the glossy seduction of the faceless allure of social media.  I’m sure I will still get sucked in occasionally (when I crave the company of adults after a long day at the child rearing coalface!).  And I still say for building a brand it is invaluable.  Also for sharing information, starting and staging revolutions, finding like-minded souls and reconnecting the dots of our fractured pasts.  But I am limiting myself (10 minutes a day), plugging back into my own world, and wresting back that time for writing.

I want to look into your eyes, hear your voice, share from the heart and know who you really are, not who you pretend to be online.  Slow food, slow down, slow conversation with real friends and family.  After all, when I die, it’s highly unlikely that my fb ‘friends’ or twitter followers will be at my funeral, or miss me when I’m gone. If I’m going to make a mark on this world, or leave behind a legacy, it won’t be in cyberspace – it will be here, on earth, in what I build and shape and make and craft and whose hands I hold and hearts I touch and space I share.

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