Tuesday, July 7, 2015

[soh-shuh l]•[net-wurk]

I pretty much have a hate / hate relationship with all forms of social media.  Maybe that's a little harsh, it's probably more of a disgust for how we use (read: abuse) it that puts me off.  Here we are, surrounded by The Jetsons-esque technology -- stuff of pure childhood fantasy that most of us never thought we'd ever have in our daily lives, and how do we use it?  We show off, grandstand, thump our chests, bully, lie, cheat, even steal by snatching other people's content and passing it off as our own.  Frankly, we don't deserve it. Our technology has officially (if not far earlier than this moment) surpassed our maturity to use it, not just responsibly, but even graciously.

Step, if you will, through a portal with me to a time when Facebook was emerging from its infancy, before it was public, when it was only open to students currently enrolled in a college or university program.  Sure, I gave it a whirl.  A funny little place where you could keep in touch with friends, and peers, and annoy each other with "pokes," or mildly amusing posts to our "walls" (I mean, what WAS that fresh new term, it's like this personal, digital bulletin board all your friends can see ... WHAT?!).

And then, I deleted my account almost as quickly as I'd activated it.  There was something about those college days of waking up to be at the sewing lab by 6:00 AM before my 8:00 AM class, spending an entire day stomping all over a sweltering campus like a packhorse shlepping materials from one corner to another, finally getting to go home to gulp down a 7:00 PM meal just to turn around and spend the rest of my night in the CAD lab 'til 2-3 in the morning before going home again to catch a few zZz's to wake up and do it all over again that didn't jibe well with the neediness this burgeoning networking platform was creating.  The nail in the pixelated coffin looked a little something like this:

Stormy, why haven't you answered me back, yet?  I saw that you opened the message I sent you, I know you read it.
First of all, I didn't know a "Hi, how are ya?" type of email I opened in the morning was a document of crucial, time-sensitive importance that couldn't wait until the evening to be answered.  Secondly, when did catching up with friends become such pushy business?  Remember receiving letters (snail mail) from people who care about you, and slowly sifting through the pages, digesting every last syllable laughing, crying, or longingly sighing, as you swoon over the beautiful words, or imagine yourself or the people they describe in the situations illustrated for you?  You could pounce, and answer right away, or you could savor it for a little while, go back and re-read if you wanted (numerous times even!), before putting pen to paper and replying.  Nowhere in this process was I ever the recipient of ANOTHER letter stating that the sender knows I've received, and read the first letter, demanding an answer as to why my response was not immediate.  At what point did it become acceptable to interrogate another person over the amount of time (virtual, or otherwise) they spend on us?

Some things in life are outside of our control, and others are none of our business.

And just like that, I was finished with social media for a handful of years, that is, until I was tempted back in order to have a business presence on a variety of platforms, and discovered you had to have a personal account (on Facebook, at least) linked to your business account.  C'est la (technologique) vie.  I had decided, this time around, to keep things personally on the modest side, well, that was the idea at least until I logged into the dusty, old email account I'd used to activate Stormy-Peterson-Facebook-2.0 and found everyone I had ever known in my entire life (very slight exaggeration) requesting to add me as a friend ... So much for inconspicuous.

Much like a cheap suit, I folded.  My approach to social media, and having an online presence, however, would differ from my last attempt.  You see, I believe as Dr. Maya Angelou told us:
Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.
Perhaps they're not "things" to you, perhaps they're not "things" at all.  If nothing else, we at least know when spoken aloud, they become vibrations, as is all life, and that is powerful.  With power, we know that responsibility should follow, but ofttimes it is replaced by corruption.  I'm not talking large-scale, corporate, or government levels here, we can see this on the small side of things in everyday life.  Someone gets a little taste of "popularity" and decides to use their voice for shallow means, turning their words into weapons.  Who hasn't witnessed, dished out, or been on the receiving end of that?  It's so commonplace, that we've convinced ourselves to accept it as normal, that this is the "real world," and when people don't subscribe to it, it's cause for offense, and requires immediate redress.  If lining up before the firing squad, and enjoying it, or worse yet, being the firing squad is considered the "real world," no wonder my life looks like Fantasy Land to those stuck in that form of misery, and dysfunction.  I'm not interested in the axe someone has to grind, or being anyone's audience for their rage-filled rants, or having my actions scrutinized by people lacking control in their own desperately white-knuckled lives.  Social media is a much more casual affair for me, but one where I am responsible for what I see, and participate in.  I get it, all the world's a stage ... Never more so than now, but when you figure out you're the leading lady in your own life you're a lot less likely to "perform" in faux amphitheaters for attention, and a lot less likely to buy tickets to watch anyone else. 

I am the architect of my online experience.  This may or may not include you.  This is not meant to hurt, or provoke.  This is real talk.  If you write to me, I'll reply as promptly as I am able to do so.  If you present yourself as something, or someone online that I don't want to see, I'm going to make myself unavailable to see it.  If you're doing things that I don't support, I'm not going to follow, friend, like it, ♥ it, or respond to you.  

It really is that simple.