In an age of email, IM, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, how do we keep things organized and avoid social media overload? These days many of our friends are people we rarely see in person but follow regularly online. Whether it be from reading their tweets or looking at their pictures on Flickr, we are suddenly part of a huge network. Many argue that these relationships are not as real or as valuable as the old-school talking or getting together types. In part, I agree but I still think these new online relationships are a part of our changing times and deserve to be fostered in their own right. Usually these online friends are not complete strangers but people we met a couple of times or old friends that we are reconnecting with. Regardless of how we met, we obviously found them interesting enough to want them in our lives to some degree.
The problem with having hundreds of friends then becomes making time to keep up with their lives, even if that is merely reading a daily status. Today I found myself trying to scroll through Facebook and like or comment to my friends, read interesting tweets from those I follow on Twitter, reply to any personal emails, and then checkout my blog and read and reply to any comments on WordPress. My head is suddenly spinning from things that are not even part of my daily responsibilities. Because these things have to be squeezed in between our normal workload, we’re often catching up while on our smartphones (hopefully not while driving) or multitasking while doing other things.
Suddenly we know all kinds of stuff about the lives of our online friends or followers but have possibly overwhelmed our own. With social networking and our online world, we have made our lives more social but also more hectic. In our parents’ generation, socializing was a way to relax while catching up with friends. Though social networking doesn’t require you to cook a meal and clean up for guests it is often not as relaxing either. It keeps you from feeling completely lonely but doesn’t give you the full satisfaction of connecting with a friend. I guess there needs to be a balance. But, how does one keep up with it all???
The irony is that for all the social connections our culture seems to demand, we are innovating and making products to make that connection easier. We can keep up with the latest vacation pics while commuting to work, and more importantly share those pics with family members casually over a cup of tea ….something that would have been an arduous task without tablets and smartphones. That craving for connections has always been there, and I feel that products are finally blending together well that we can streamline these connections.
Sure some people will say we should limit our connections. I agree with that. No level of social connection should ever take the place of dinners and physical connections. That is what it means to be human after all. But by catching up on all the offline vacation pics and random chatter, it allows those physical connections to be more meaningful and deeper. Having drinks with the boys means actually enjoying the drinks and subsetting the 30 minutes of “catching up” …. meaning more fun for all !!
So i say bring the social hysteria. Just another way for us to connect – and remain human.
Great insight, we are living in a “brave new world.”
I apologize in advance for waxing philosophy/theory, but during lunch I was reading for class, so it’s fresh on my mind. That said…
In Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition, she traces the development of human existence. For the Greeks, there were only two realms of life: public and private. However, with the Romans, the social realm appeared, and since then, especially since the rise of modernity, the social realm has been increasingly dominant over the others. I think social networking is a perfect example of this. That which we held private for our close friends and family is given a space to be made socially public. And while there are both advantages and disadvantages to this development, it does make we wonder if we have profaned the private by being so eager to share it. Do we undermine the seriousness, the personal nature, or the integrity of our emotions or events by allowing anyone (okay, well not just anyone, but rarely discriminating between our 500+ Facebook friends, etc) to know intimately about them? I just hope that we are still able to do justice to our private or personal lives in a social realm.
I agree and am fascinated to learn that the social realm did not exist before the Romans. I think we are still in an early stage of social networking and the internet in general and I think over time we will all have to create boundaries. I think sharing with our hundreds of online friends can give a certain level of satisfaction but it does have its disadvantages. I also find that when it comes to truly serious or personal issues, most people don’t share those on Facebook, etc. It seems then we still crave a real shoulder to cry on or a hug!