As much as it pains me to admit it, I have a Facebook account. To be honest, I debated a long time before I finally broke down and made myself a citizen of that world.
My primary motivation was a desire to keep abreast of the comings and goings of my daughter, who has lived a considerable distance away since she graduated from college. She is a serious outdoors person, world traveler, and adventurer, so keeping up with her can be a challenge, often exhausting, and always exciting. In the end, my desire to keep up with the activities in which my beloved girl was engaged trumped my significant dislike of social media.
It isn't that I have a problem with socializing as a concept, I am not at all a crowd person, but I thoroughly enjoy the company of small groups of people whose company I find stimulating and amusing. The problem is, I am rather old fashioned – I like to do my socializing face to face and in real time. I prefer not to do it in single, broken, and grammatically dubious sentences.
In my view, one of the biggest problems with the abbreviated nature of social media is the rather insidious margin for misunderstanding and error. Communication, by nature, is predicated on the concept of the exchange of information, ideas, and feelings in a manner that conveys meaning that can be accurately interpreted. Social media often appears to be the antithesis of that.
As human beings, we have historically struggled to make this happen under the best of circumstances and with the best and most noble of intentions. We can be face to face, relaxed, have unlimited time and access to information, all the advantages of vocal and physical expression, including body language, even visual aids, and still manage to unfailingly misunderstand each other. How much easier is it to fall into the failed communication trap is it if we are at considerable distance, unable to gauge the subtleties of tone or rhythm of speech, speaking in sentences rife with pop-culture code, and fraught with misspellings and missing punctuation? It boggles the mind.
To me, language is a beautiful and meaningful thing. Words, when put together well, have the ability to create something very much like music, with all the same evocative qualities and power. Words, when used coherently and with artistry, are as amazing and lyrical as a symphony, with all the same ability to impassion, terrify, motivate, empower, amuse, and inspire. Words can lift you into the laps of the gods or cast you into darkness and despair. If information is power, then words are the lifeblood of information.
Back in the day we seemed to understand this better than we do today. A good classical education required the study of rhetoric, the art of writing and speaking well and conveying information and meaning in a manner that has significance and can be understood. No one seems to care much about this anymore, which I find infinitely sad and is painfully evident in how we function as a culture. I know that the Internet is supposed to be all about the sharing of information, and it is, in many ways, extremely useful and helpful. I've googled everything from how to rewire a lamp to how to make vegan cookies, often with great success. But social media is something entirely different, and not necessarily in a way that is healthy or useful. From what I can see, it seems to be a magnet for the angry, resentful, judgmental, and even hateful vitriol that numbers among the worst of human traits. Social media seems to me to be a strange sort of lightning rod that draws in and creates too many villains and victims for my taste.
I have tried to control this problem by having so few friends on Facebook that I can count them on the fingers of my hands. Even then, I am always seeing things that they have not even posted that have to do with other people that I don't know and in whom I have no interested who have changed their profile picture or something else that has nothing to do with me. There might be a way to avoid this happening, but I am not social media savvy enough to know what it is. I'll have to find some avid Facebook user and ask about it. I rarely post anything on my account so my experience is pretty limited in how to use the tools of the media. Mostly I just scroll down to see what my daughter has posted or is up to and occasionally send her a message that says, “So, are you going to call me sometime, or what?”