Antisocial Media

Putting stuff out into the EEEEeeeEEEeeEEeether is not social. It’s narcissistic and self-serving. It’s ego-stroking. And I am the worst for this. (For reference, see “centre of the universe: the dreaming”. AKA: this bournal.)

It is altogether too easy to whip off a comment on a post without actually having to interact with someone. This is not social. This is sociopathic in some cases. Most of the time, it’s just babble.

I’m sounding very cross and very grumpy and I’m not, really. I’m just trying to be blunt in attempting to explain myself.

We don’t “talk to people” via social media. We put text out there; blank and austere text that carries with it no inherent interpretability save what the reader can ascertain. Some of us are better at composing than others, and so our meaning is often, but not always, easier to suss out. This is no different from reading a book. It *is* different from other forms of written communication, however.

It’s understandable that we may *communicate* more via social media, and I am coming to think that is a Bad Thing. Not that I don’t want to hang out with all y’all on a regular basis. I do. I love you guys. As much as I love you, I don’t want all of you in my living room, bathtub, bedroom, or pocket every day. And I find that with social media, we condition ourselves all too easily to wait expectantly (is there any other kind of way to wait?) on tenter-hooks to see who’s going to say what next.

We don’t, in an actual *social* context, sit and stare at one another until someone says something.

…okay, well, some of us do, and we call you ‘weirdos’…but that’s beside the point.

You have said that you don’t call people and that you hate the telephone. I also hate the telephone. I HATE having to talk to people on the phone, and it is something that I avoid at all costs. This is also a large part of the reason why I am a Bad Friend.

But let’s look at what being “social” really means: it means being a part of society, or to the organisation of society. And while it is absolutely true that an online community is a kind of society, it’s a false society. Which is to say, it is, by and large, pretend. That’s not the word I’m looking for, but it’s going to have to do until I can remember the proper word.

Sure, we all know one another, for the most part, and we communicate regularly via social media. And that can, in some cases, strengthen our community. But in most ways, I think, it is divisive. We don’t say much of *meaning*. We don’t actually *connect*. We are just words on a screen. And yes, this is coming from someone who makes a living putting words on a screen.

Breaking the term “social media” down further, “media” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the main means of mass communication regarded collectively”. Ergo, “social media” is a means of attempting to be a part of society via the engine of this mass communication. But that’s so very backward. The way we make our way in society is by making connexions *one person at a time*. That is how social development works. That is how proper social interaction works. You don’t drop a kid into a group of other kids (yes, I was tempted to say “tank of piranhas” there, because I am a Bad Person) and expect the child to present some kind of dissertation to everyone in the room. You expect a child to meet other children, and form relationships, one at a time.

No, I don’t think it’s *impossible* to do this online via ‘social media’. I think it’s not ideal. I think it in some cases does cause harm. As for me personally, I don’t have much of a problem ignoring the asinine things that people say that piss me off when we’re in an *actual* social gathering. Words come and words go. Voices float and dissipate. But in this ‘social media’ type setting, those words are permanent. Or at least semi-permanent. And we see them again and again and again and it’s much more difficult to just let things go when you are faced with a constant reminder of something that did, but perhaps oughtn’t have, stuck in your craw. (Yes, I know I can just ‘mute’ posts and comments. That doesn’t, unfortunately, make them go ‘mute’ on all devices or screens, and so they keep coming up, like bad chili.)

So I don’t think that ‘social media’ is particularly social. Social media in and of itself does not create communities or societies. WE do that. In the really-real world. WE make connections in real life. And as for the media side of things, yes, these are methods of communication. But too many of us don’t focus on the back-and-forth that communication is supposed to be. And too many of us are ill equipped and ill prepared to be proficient with text-only communication.

I really don’t mean this to sound as snarky as it does. It’s not about being a good writer. It’s not about being a good reader. It’s about social media not presenting an actual society or connexion. The pundits chalk a lot of this up to ‘overload’, and that’s part of it, I’m sure. Like I said, I love you to bits, but don’t want you to have access to me all day, every day. And I don’t want to feel beholden to crack the door open just a hair to check in on what you’re up to every half hour either. I don’t want our houseboy carrying me a slip of paper on a silver platter every time someone says something.

…that would be incredibly cool, actually.

My point with that is, I guess, that I crave actually being with you. Actually sitting down and talking to you. And yes, we live far away, some of us. And yes, it’s *difficult* to do that. And yes, it’s improbable that we’ll get to have face-to-face discussions very often. But that’s what I want. And these ridiculous social media engines are pretending to be something they’re just not. G+ is not the loft. Effbook is not some diner. Twitter is…okay, well Twitter is unexceptionally fun because we just look like idiots when we try to get in to protracted discussions there. I’m going to have to think more about what makes Twitter different from these other social media platforms.

I want YOU. Not your Garamond/Arial text on my screens. I want to hear you laugh. I want to sense you in the room. I want to catch your eye and share a subtle glance. I want to have to avoid looking at you because we’ll both break down helpless in tears of laughter otherwise.

And here’s the thing: I’m willing to do just that. I will make time to see you in person. I will make time to have you come visit, or to come and see you. I will do that, because you are important to me. Sometimes, it’ll be in a game setting. Other times, I’ll just come out for an afternoon or a weekend or an evening, because I want to be with you.

I don’t want social media to be a poor and paltry replacement for you being here. And that’s what it’s become, in many ways. In nearly all ways. It has become exactly anti-social, because I think that more people are less willing to make the effort to actually physically see one another. I think more people are less willing to actually put *themselves* into their communications, and we all end up communicating with these flat extensions of syncopated and percussive finger-taps on plastic keys. That makes me uncommonly sad.

And I am very, very fortunate that in most cases, you are willing, and sometimes, are able, to spend time with me in really-and-truly. That is just a tiny part of why you are so amazing, and why I would rather REALLY see you.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

13 Comments

  1. Great post, I am so guilty of this. This is why I want to organize a #yxe, I want to put faces to names and have real interactions.

    1. People in #yxe have been known to have gatherings called tweetups where we meet and interact in the really real world. I love meeting everyone in person.

  2. It’s because Twitter isn’t “social media”. It’s “micro-blogging”. THAT’S the difference. There’s no real expectation of artificial back-and-forth on Twitter.

  3. This is why I unplugged from social media. It stopped feeling as though I was connecting to people and more as though I was being subjected to people. There was little valuable back and forth. I very much disliked the inclusion of people whom I didn’t know in conversations that I wanted to have with someone. All of these acquaintances who are online “friends” and people who become linked to friends of friends and so on drive me crazier than I already am. How can I weigh a comment if I don’t know the author? I have problems discerning the tone of some of my friends, and I am notorious for being misunderstood in written communication. The only thing I kept was google chat so that I can have some one on one conversations with people geographically distant.

    I suppose I also have my blog, but I don’t consider that a social medium. Sometimes I need to release or work through something even if no one sees it. I don’t think that most of my friends or extended social circle know about it. Even if they do, I never assume that they’ve read it. It’s not a substitute for talking about things with people; it’s another way for me to think.

    1. Yes. The one-on-one thing is important.

      It’s why I like the micro-blogging (Twitter) and the bournal and the chat and the texts. Because in these places, it’s just you and me, baby. It’s just you and me.

  4. Illusive. That’s the word I was looking for. Fictitious and illusive. Which is to say, “social media” is a facade for actual “real” social interaction. The kind that builds and solidifies communities. Social media is a tool, not an end.

  5. I quite value my social media interaction. But that is only because in a lot of cases it has led to interaction in the real world and I have made some fantastic relationships as a result. Also too, it is my only means of communicating with those I might otherwise not see. And I have come to hate the phone too.

    1. Note: I don’t consider Twitter “social media”. See above notes about it being a micro-blogging service. Which is different from social media in that social media (effbook, G+, foursquare, fora, etc.) include this “inclusion of the whole in all discussions” thing (the ‘media’ bit), and I think that’s part of what I don’t like. That facetious or dichotomous “society” that isn’t really a society at all.

  6. I agree with the most important message here — seeing people face to face is good. It’s the best thing. We should make time for it.

    However, numerous studies have confirmed that social media use correlates with face-to-face interactions. That is, the more social media you use, the more likely it is that you do spend real valuable time with your friends. In the real world. This, of course, does not necessarily imply a causal link. But it does tend to cast doubt on the idea that people are generally replacing real social interactions with social media.

    For me, far from being a replacement for human social need, these social sites are a way of reminding me, from time to time, of how much I do like the people in my life, and how I do still feel connected to them, and very much want to see them.

  7. For someone who is as phone averse as I am, social media is a lifeline.

    But at the same time, it all feels so empty sometimes…

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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