Social media is both a blessing and a curse for many of us. For me personally it is both.
It is defined in WhatIs.com as “Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.”
It then goes on to define different areas of social media..
“Websites and applications dedicated to forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis are among the different types of social media.
Here are some prominent examples of social media:
- Facebook is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
- Twitter is a free microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices.
- Google+ (pronounced Google plus) is Google’s social networking project, designed to replicate the way people interact offline more closely than is the case in other social networking services. The project’s slogan is “Real-life sharing rethought for the web.”
- Wikipedia is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users known as Wikipedians. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; registration is not required to edit articles. Wikipedia was founded in January of 2001.
- LinkedIn is a social networking site designed specifically for the business community. The goal of the site is to allow registered members to establish and document networks of people they know and trust professionally.
- Reddit is a social news website and forum where stories are socially curated and promoted by site members. The site is composed of hundreds of sub-communities, known as “subreddits.” Each subreddit has a specific topic such as technology, politics or music. Reddit site members, also known as, “redditors,” submit content which is then voted upon by other members. The goal is to send well-regarded stories to the top of the site’s main thread page.
- Pinterest is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online. Pinterest requires brief descriptions but the main focus of the site is visual. Clicking on an image will take you to the original source, so, for example, if you click on a picture of a pair of shoes, you might be taken to a site where you can purchase them. An image of blueberry pancakes might take you to the recipe; a picture of a whimsical birdhouse might take you to the instructions.”
Without Facebook I would not have been able to connect with people from around the globe. Some of these individuals have now become good and trusted virtual friends, who if the opportunity ever arose, I would jump at the chance to meet up and chat with over coffee and cake. It also affords me to remain connected to those who I do know in the physical world but who live too far away for me to visit or see regularly, if at all.
Facebook has also provided me with “closed” private groups which provide support for individuals, like myself, with specific medical conditions. The activity within these groups is not seen by anyone outside of them, which I find invaluable ~ I can vent, ask questions and share experiences with like minded people without worrying that other healthy friends or family can see my activity.
I use Twitter as a place to flit through and enjoy without any pressure to interact with anyone. I laugh at the funny posts, rant at the political and despair at the environmental ones.
As for Instagram ~ I am greedy and have two accounts. One for my own personal everyday silly photos and the other for my hobbyist photography photos. Looking at my hobby one I can clearly see the progression and improvement of my photography over time which is satisfying.
I have a Pinterest account which I now rarely visit, it was fun in the beginning but now it seems quite unnecessary.
On the flip side though social media can be overwhelming and depressing. Seeing how “well” people live and what they are up to can make me feel like shit. Also when others are complaining and bitching it also can impact on my mood ~ a good mood can easily be broken by seeing numerous downbeat posts, ridiculous comments and views that can wind me up.
Recently I completely cleaned out my Facebook friends, I had tried opening a new account so this wasn’t necessary but the powers that be kicked me off it deeming it fraudulent. SO, the radical unfriending of 500+ friends occurred. I felt terrible doing it, as I was unfriending genuinely lovely people who I admire and love ~ but I needed a safe, quiet social media space where I could access my support groups and blogging page without being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of posts by my friends.
It sounds selfish of me I know, but with my friends active on my timeline, tagging and direct comments involving me in their lives were both fabulous but exceptionally draining. I wanted to be a good friend, supportive and interactive within this social medium but just couldn’t. I started to dread opening up my account and finding the right words to support friends.
Since clearing out my friends to a mere handful, including my family, I feel much safer. I can log on and see instantly what they have said and posted and have a free view of my support groups.
I have however made a simple page for my blog posts and where, if my removed friends wish, I can interact with them. I have switched notifications off for the site and so will only see interactions when I choose to look and feel well enough and in the right frame of mind to chat to folks.
My blogs, I suppose, can be included as social media too ~ I am happy to interact with comments on here and find writing the blogs therapeutic and beneficial to my mental well being. Plus, I choose what I put on here and what I share with you.
I don’t like the thought of others having their expectations of what they want from me being more than I can give. I use up all the vast majority of my energy and love on my family because they are my priority ~ leaving me precious little for other areas. What I do have to spare I would rather use wisely for those who mean a lot to me than supporting folks I don’t know too well and who don’t really care what I have to say at the end of the day anyway.
I hope the numerous friends I unfriended realise that it wasn’t a personal decision against them ~ more of a self preservation action for myself. I also hope that they read this blog and can understand my reasons, perhaps then moving on to liking my blog Facebook page to interact with me there, on the occasions when I pop in and check it out.
That way I have more control on my social media interactions and actively make the decision to visit and chat to anyone on there when I am in the right mental frame of mind.
One big downside of social media is that in many cases expressing yourself via replies to posts can sometimes not be received in the way you intended. When you chat to someone either by phone or in person your tone of voice and body language help convey what you are saying, whether serious or tongue in cheek. When interacting via the written word alone this can often be missed and what you have written misinterpreted.
Then of course, as in all walks of life, social media has its trolls and bullies. Many people who wouldn’t say boo to a goose in real life find the virtual world allows them the opportunity to spout hate and spread malicious rumours and start fights for no good reason. Plus on top of that is catfishing ~ when you are not talking to the person you think you are ~ that is one side of the internet that really bothers me.
I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in a era where the internet or mobile phones weren’t available to me. We had pay phones and when cashless ~ reverse charges on calls. One telephone ~ a landline, in the hall of our homes ~ where you had to sit and chat with your family around you ~ or wait impatiently to make a call whilst your mum chatted away to her friend. We didn’t email, we wrote letters ~ I had a awesome wax seal kit which made me love writing letters and sealing them shut before posting. Then there was the thrill of waiting for a letter in reply. If you wanted to see a friend you had to bike or walk over to their house and knock on their door to a) see if they were in and b) see if they were allowed out to play.
I know life goes on, the world changes but part of me longs for the simpler days of my childhood. Yet, without the internet my youngest daughter would not have been able to attend virtual school and gain qualifications. For me it is very much a double edged sword, a love/hate relationship. For some it is a lifeline to the outside world that would otherwise be shut off from them. For others it’s a place to search for information and opinions.
What are your thoughts on social media? Do you love it, hate it or are you indifferent to it?