Occasionally, I wonder if having an active social life- one which includes real life friends and family, blogging and bloggers, Facebook, Twitter, forums and all the others- is entirely healthy.
Before you drag me out and pelt me to death with your smartphones, hear me out.
I know I personally bounce from one emotion to another a lot more often in a day than someone who doesn’t use any form of social media! Let’s say for example I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Five years ago I probably would have stayed in that mood all day. Now, I check in on Twitter and Facebook and I read some blog posts, and within the space of an hour I have laughed at jokes, commiserated with someone’s loss, felt heartache, disappointment, excitement, irritation, marvelled at a miracle, got annoyed with shocking spelling and grammar, gone back to feeling a little down (and posting about it somewhere), and then feeling better because I got it off my chest and a whole lot of people told me they think I’m awesome.
With a “normal” social circle in the days before Twitter-blogging-forums-Facebook et-al, your close friends would be a handful of people, and if you were lucky you could include your family. These would be the ones with whom you shared various aspects of your life, to varying degrees. These were the friends you invited to birthday parties and special celebrations. These friends were the ones you called if you had news you had to share.
Announcements of things like engagements, pregnancies, birth, death, divorce and the like didn’t happen every day, and if something big happened- someone having a baby, a couple splitting up, the loss of a parent or someone losing a child- you had ample time to process it emotionally before the next proclamation, in theory of course. And these announcements could be shared personally and intimately. You didn’t have to include a disclaimer when you spoke to someone to please not post it on any social media spaces until you’d had a chance to share your news yourself. There was no chance of finding out someone you loved had died, via a Facebook update.
And on the other side of the coin, you also had no idea just how much you were actually not included in or not invited to.
And I’m speaking here as an adult and to adults. The effect of social media on children and teens is a whole ‘nother kettle of bananas.
With my social circle now HUGELY expanded since I fell into the internet I still have the friends I had before- and I have many many more friends. Not just friends in terms of reading their blogs and their Twitter feeds and getting to know them that way. I’m talking about real friends in terms of knowing them outside of my computer. And a lot of these new friends I would never have had the opportunity to meet in real life and I think that’s fantastic. I now have people I count as real friends from different countries, different race groups and different cultures and without the internet I would never have known them.
In the days before smartphones, no one would have known I’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed. No one would have known just how many times I butt heads with my knucklehead or how many cupcakes I bake. No one would have known just how wonderful my husband is. Losing my Taxi cat recently is a good example. I would have texted my mom and my sisters, and they would have been sad with me, but even if I had told more of my real life friends than I did, few of them “got” how sad I was and how much I miss him.
Now thanks to blogging and social media I can put something on Twitter or Facebook about how I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and not only will I get 10 messages back in commiseration, I will get 20 from people who are jealous that I slept that late, 7 from people still in their beds, and 2 from people who don’t have beds.
I know that social media in all its forms keeps me very firmly grounded and very aware of just how blessed I am. I love how social media allows me to be the centre of attention sometimes. I have become far more aware of real life issues and causes than I used to be. To my mind, social media has done more to break down the invisible barriers between races and cultures than politics will ever do.
It is awesome.
It is powerful.
It can empower you and make you feel like you actually have a voice on this overcrowded planet.
But I also believe that emotional overload is one of the main reasons people take extended “leave” of blogging, Facebook or Twitter, before they feel they’ll have to take leave of their senses!