Social media friends: People you associate on social media platforms but rarely interact with in real life.
We’ll get back to that definition a little later, but first …
I know all about the privacy issues. I know all about the studies that say social media is an addiction. I know all about the people coming over to rob my house because I ‘checked in’ to the Eiffel Tower or shared photos of myself having the time of my life at the La Carreta restaurant that’s walking distance from my house.
But despite all the negative studies and research results, there’s a lot to love about connecting with other people, even if it’s only in a virtual cafe.
For starters, reconnecting with the past. The past is something many of us would rather leave behind. But it’s something that, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, continues to influence us as adults. Social media is a bridge from the past to the present that helps us heal the scabs our elementary school-skinned hearts left behind.
Let’s face it, there’s something wickedly satisfying about getting a Facebook friend request from the most gorgeous person you knew back when you were a nerdy, pimply, frizzy-haired pre-teen and seeing that she grew up to be, well … a not-so-gorgeous grownup. (Any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)
It’s truly humbling to learn that the people who bullied you in elementary school have had more than their share of sadness and misfortune. I’m not celebrating those misfortunes, just observing their lessons from the perspective of hindsight.
Karma isn’t so much a bitch as she is an equalizer.
I was a shy kid. I grew up to be a shy adult. My idea of working a room is to stay home, listen to the Muse and write down the truths she inspires. Social media gives me the freedom to speak those truths unapologetically.
Social media is a self-publisher’s best friend. As a writer, it lets me try out material with a select few before releasing it to a larger audience — much like a comedian trying out a few jokes in a small group of intimate friends before using them in a show in front of hundreds of people.
And once written, social media is an excellent source to release those words into the world. Does it stroke my ego when people respond to what I write? I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. But as I always remind those who praise my writing … The words are not mine. I am simply the messenger.
Feedback from my social media audience acknowledges that I’ve fulfilled my responsibility as the messenger of its true Author.
Social media is also a great platform to share our triumphs and sorrows and for others to share them with us. Social media solidarity is just as comforting — and much more accessible — than that which we find in the “real world.”
I also enjoy social media because there’s always someone awake and ready to engage in a conversation when I am. I didn’t realize how many insomniacs there are until I opened a Facebook account.
I do, however, recognize that social media carries its dark side.
Some classify it as an addiction. If you’re checking your social platforms while having dinner at a 5-star restaurant with people you can physically reach out and touch, perhaps there’s a problem. All addictions begin as benign habits. Balance is the key to keeping them that way.
I’m also careful not to befriend someone I don’t know or accept a random friend request from someone with whom I have no apparent connection. That handsome, widowed soldier hugging a Labrador retriever with soft honey eyes, whose “About” page lists loving his daughter as his main trait, is likely a child molester with nothing better to do than troll social media for victims to stalk.
I also never give out personal information, such as my exact location. I do ‘check in’ every once in a while. But by the time you see my check-in from Punta del Este, Uruguay, I’m snuggled safely in my bed 4521.718 miles away in Miramar, Florida.
So, please don’t judge me or preach to me about the horrors of social media. Don’t remind me that my 1000+ Facebook “friends” are not really my friends.
News flash: I can tell you who my social media “friends” are, even if I’ve never met them personally.
Which brings me back to the definition of social media at the top of this column. We may not interact with our social media friends in “real life,” but having the ability to interact with people with whom we otherwise would not have the ability to interact sounds pretty real to me.
Perhaps its the definition of “real life” that should change.
Social media opens up a world of possibilities. Using it responsibly lets us enjoy our ‘friends’ with benefits while keeping us safe from its pitfalls.