Your life is more than your Facebook page. The same is true for your LinkedIn profile, your Twitter feed and any other social media that you use. Your life and mine are defined by our relationships with real people that we see, hear and touch. Family, friends, colleagues, customers, clients, and partners in volunteer and civic work all make up our lives. Social media is a side dish, not the main course.
The Atlantic ran a story in May 2012, posing the question, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” A response printed in the July/August issue stopped me mid-sentence and prompted this blog article. Here is an excerpt: “I spend a lot of time on Facebook but have essentially zero in-person friends… (I’m) lonely. I need to figure out how I’ve let my personal life become almost solely defined as an online activity.” How sad!
The social media play a role in our lives. Like anything else, the many sites we use and devices enabled to access them should be seen as tools, a means to an end, not an end themselves. We can have fun, maintain connections, joke, gossip and do so many things with the technology, but in the end it is an empty pursuit. Unless we jump from virtual friendship to real relationships – a shared meal, a round of golf, help painting a room or caring for a friend’s pet during a vacation – the constant tweets, updates, check-ins and the rest all just suck up time and leave us feeling like Lonely Reader. We ask ourselves, “Where did the time go and why is my life empty of meaning and real relationships?”
The self-centered ME, ME, ME of Facebook can lead to a world in which we are constantly broadcasting, sending updates about our lives, to nobody in particular and sometimes nobody at all. If your latest post isn’t funny, inflammatory or interesting enough, if it doesn’t include a picture or link that gets others talking (or at least clicking), it is the existential tree crashing to the ground without a sound. So what could Lonely Reader do to get a life and maybe a few real friends, someone to share lunch with or a walk through the park?
It’s simple, really. Pick up the phone and call some of those friends. Make a date to meet and do something fun. Get involved in civic, volunteer or religious organizations. As someone involved in leadership roles in both a service organization (Rotary) and my faith community, I assure you that you will be welcome. What are you good at? Volunteer. VolunteerMatch.org is a site that will give you options in your area. Do something to help someone else, moving your focus from yourself onto another.
When we come together and work together towards a common goal or interest, real relationships take root and flourish. And that will be something to tweet about.
Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.
4 thoughts on “Unplug. Live.”
How true. First my prejudice, I am not a “Facebookie.” Keeping up with emails, phone calls, and appointments feeds my social outlet enough. I also don’t care about what others had for breakfast, unless it was extraordinary (yes, social media is all about the mundane), or when my dog went “outside” last, and I do not think that others want to hear about that from me, so take my comments with a grain of salt!
If one uses the current social media as a primary communication, socialization and dissemination tool, one not only falls afoul of Bill’s insights, but one also becomes increasingly limited in one’s ability to communicate in person. Reading the subtle cues that we exhibit to indicate mood, emotion, or mental state, signs that cannot only help us to be more caring, but help us to avert disaster, are learned like any other discipline. For some, like introverts, such reading is a survival mechanism, but for all of us, it should be a discipline of our life together to be engaged enough in another that we are able to pick up on the subtleties of the unspoken word about us. Social media makes us ignorant of this component and thus robs us of the fullness of humanity both personally and corporately.
While lunching at Panera’s the other day I was privy to a sight that, if it were not so tragic, would have been comical. Three very nice looking and well dressed teenagers seated in a booth. Each had their hands going fast and furious over the keys of their cell phones. Each oblivious to the one seated next to her. Over the hour I was there for lunch I think that these three exchange at most three verbal words, yet the texts were flying, as the opportunities for real dynamic interaction with each other and engagement in the world faded.
I guess in the end I am not a “Facebookie” because it is all about me, and I want more to my life than to make Mark Z. rich by the advertisements. I spend too much time at a keyboard. I spend too much time in an office. I want the life of my family to be richer than just putting out there that I had pancakes for breakfast.
Thank you for your real life example and story. I appreciate your comments and insights.