Yet another one of those points which could have been a book or a website in its own right. Please don’t think that we are anti – social media. Also please note that this is not a section about how to market yourself (IE. your brand) via social media. There are many readily available resources that deal with this topic. For our 2 cents, it goes without saying that the number one rule remains:
“Maintain ‘The Eternal Commandments‘ and live like a pro.”
Most internet-savvy humans tend to like those thumb or heart shaped internet points just as much as the next Gen-X, Y or Z. They remind us that people are thinking of us, validating us and maybe even genuinely valuing us. It’s also a terrific way of maintaining contact with mates further afield, as well as getting news and media dispersed quickly. And, as always, profile and the all-sought ‘blue tick’ of verification reigns supreme. However…
We are seriously concerned about the purported level of ‘connection’ that social media claims to provide. Further to that, we are also highly sceptical of the level of ‘reality’ represented in the day-to-day digital self via highly-curated online portrayals of ‘candid authenticity’. We still cannot shake the worrying feeling that we as members of modern human society are becoming increasingly ‘digitally segregated’. It’s this bizarre paradox that whilst humans are now more connected than at any other point in history, we are still no closer to being genuine in the ‘genuine’ portrayals of ourselves. History teaches us that history never teaches us. Maybe that will never change…
Social media complements human interaction. It shouldn’t be confused as a viable replacement for it and it certainly doesn’t ‘hold the mirror up to nature’. During World War I, the population of Germany was subjected to strict rationing systems and many of the standard foodstuffs were replaced with questionably edible substitutes to save precious food resources. These included everything from roasted and ground acorns (coffee) to leavened potato starch (bread). The Germans called these food substitutes ‘ersatz‘, which literally translates to ‘replacement’. Likewise, social media is not real interpersonal connection: it’s an ersatz substitute. We only see a superficial representation of day-to-day goings on. Over a prolonged period of use, we can start to believe that other people’s lives are just a series of incredible and invigorating events without even a smidgen of bad times. A friend won’t post that they’ve just had a horrible fight about financial woes with their partner. But they’ll damn well share a photo of the thing they bought that caused the fight!
In short: The real danger of social media as a substitute for human connection is that it can rid us of the things that make for real, meaningful communication, whilst simultaneously convincing us that we’re actually getting better at it. Jeepers, Batman! Waleed Aly puts it nicely when he says that it conjures up an ‘anaemic version of friendship’. By anaemic, he’s referring to a lack of all the real and good and hearty things that make for genuine human relationships: the kinks and the quirks, the mistakes and apologies, the imperfect and the unmanicured. In short, both the bad days and the good days.
Social media has the capacity to turn our entire social presence into a performance to be reviewed, both by others and by ourselves. We actors are already performers by nature and career, so the temptation to tread another stage can be very tempting indeed. Especially when the chips are down and we don’t want to look like a failure. Just because we’ve been educated about social masks doesn’t mean we’re immune to them.
Kinda related, but kinda not, here is another genuine question to ask yourself: Do you find yourself knowing exactly what any of your Facebook Friends shared or insta’d over the last fortnight… but still can’t remember the last time you sat down over a coffee with them and – in the words of the great author Adrian Plass- ‘gave them a good listening to’?
Chances are there will be quite a few of you who are silently nodding inside your heads. You’re mates are all bigger than their profiles, their likes and their check-ins. If it means doing some quiet pruning of your social tree (see ‘Mates’ vs. Mates) just do it and reconnect with those who inspire you to do this crazy thing called life.