Most people are agreed, social media is a pretty good thing. Let's face it, without it we wouldn't be chatting here now, would we?! It enables us to keep in touch with those we might otherwise lose contact with - those people who can't form a part of our everyday lives either due to distance or circumstances, but who we wouldn't want to lose contact with entirely, either. In some cases it also lets us rekindle old friendships that have drifted away for whatever reason - last year my best friend from Primary school and I found one another again due to the wonders of the internet - I knew she had become a quite successful actress (which was precisely what she always wanted to do, so yay for her!) but had been unable to track down any form of contact for her until she popped up on Twitter. SO lovely to be back in touch with the person who features in so many of my childhood photos! iMessage lets me stay in touch with a very good pal who spends too much of her life back in the USA, and better than that, it lets a whole group of us who are a close unit hang out and chat together. Sometimes social media even lets us make new friends - My aviation-photographing Partner-In-Crime Claire and I met after I saw her stuff on Twitter, then spotted her standing at the fence at Scampton. Within a few minutes we'd sussed we were kindred spirits with an identical mad streak and that was that! Similarly my pal Ross first made contact by messaging me on there after seeing some of my photos - that then lead to my Very Exciting Project last year too which would never have taken off (pun intended) without Twitter either! One of my very very bestest chums in the whole world (yes, we're secretly five year olds!) & I met through an internet forum in the first place - not having her in my life now is unthinkable, but without the WWW we'd probably never had crossed paths.
Sometimes though, Social Media is very much NOT a good thing. It can be abused by those who have "ulterior motives" - take as an example the very public trolling suffered by celebrities including Tom Daley and more recently Sue Perkins - how on earth can ANYONE consider it reasonable to suggest that they would like to see someone burn to death? Forums have for years provided outlets for those spineless bullies who would not in real life have the courage to say boo to a goose to pick on those they perceive as weaker than them and this now seems to be moving on to other forms of social media too. Sometimes this can take the form of outright unpleasantness, at others it's more of a quiet picking away at a person, designed to make them feel progressively worn down. Sometimes it is, I think, as simple as the bully needing to feel better about their own life by denigrating the lives and choices of others. A very close friend of mine has been completely put off one social media outlet where she used to post regularly due to just this latter sort of behaviour - the problem is that the perpetrator is so sly and clever about it there is little that those of us who have seen it can do without them being able to come back and just say "Oh but I only meant..... I'm upset that you've taken it that way" thus deploying the attention and sympathy back to themselves. Don't get me wrong, a number of us know she's doing it, but actually pinning down anything black and white enough to say "that's out of order" about is tricky. The world of the "Keyboard Commando" is a strange one - and in a lot of cases the phrase "you need to get out more" can seemingly be applied very literally to them - so often these seem to be people who have very little "real life" interaction, and some form of balance is required, I think.
Other "questionable" uses for Social Media to me include those who seem to "friend collect" on FB. OK, so you've got 567 "friends" on there - really? I mean, honestly? Firstly I bet only a fraction of those would know you if they passed you in the street, and secondly, no, that doesn't make you better than anyone else. (I overheard someone recently asking someone else "Oh, so a real friend, or a facebook friend? and I kind of knew what they meant - there seems to be two definitions now). Then there are those who are mostly on FB for self-promotion - and no, I'm not talking about promoting a business or similar, but those who's every second post is essentially telling you how wonderful they are and how fabulous their lives are. Well sorry, I have news for you - if you WERE that wonderful you'd crack on and DO all this stuff without feeling the need to be constantly searching for pats on the back! I have a friend (real, not just FB!) who does an INCREDIBLE amount for her charity of choice - and yet she just quietly gets on with it - she has separate feeds on Social Media for her charity stuff and occasionally posts stuff from there into her personal feeds yes, but you never see a "look at me" post from her. Another friend volunteers on a regular basis for a charity that helps those affected by alcohol abuse in others - and again, she just gets on and does it. Special mention in this category goes to those who use Social Media for Social Climbing...crawling all over people while they are "useful" to them and dropping them like hot-cakes as and when someone more "useful" comes along. Just stop it - go and get a life of your own and stop trying to steal everyone elses.
The other potential problem with the "instant gratification" provided by social media is the anxiety it can cause. WHY has so-and-so not "liked" that Instagram Photo or Facebook Post? What does that person mean by that comment about how badly they've been treated - are they talking about me? I know X read that iMessage I sent them so does the fact that they've not replied mean I've upset them? Does the fact that I've not replied mean they think they've upset ME? Don't even get me started on those wretched ticks on WhatsApp! Another anxiety causer can simply be that tendency to be connected to EVERYONE in our lives ALL the time, meaning that on the entirely inevitable occasion that friend Y* has upset you you have nowhere to vent that frustration where friend Y won't see it - thus risking starting the whole "is that about me" cycle all over again! In extreme cases you can see this being played out in a game of social media Tennis - FaceBook is especially good for this - as one person posts something, then another posts something that is quite clearly in reply, and so on. (A few folk *might* have been acquaintanced on my FB as a result of this.) That's one reason why I do occasionally do a rant like this on the blog - it's just the most marvellous place to say "Waahhhhhh!" without all and sundry immediately replying with "You ok?" - it's lovely that people care, don't get me wrong, but sometimes it is as simple as yes, I was pissed off, but I've now had a nice cathartic rant and felt better...well, until I felt under pressure to explain myself as a result of 47 people all asking if I'm OK, that is!
Come on then - what are your pro's and con's of Social media? Have you shared any of these experiences? And please, I know this goes without saying but please DON'T identify anyone on here!
* I don't have a "Friend Y" so far as I know, so if you're reading this, no, it's NOT about you. Of course, some of the earlier stuff might be....there, that's given you food for thought, hasn't it... ;-)