Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love the Tweet

I bet you never thought I’d post a country song to this blog, right?  I mean, many readers have never met me and have no idea what musical tastes I might have, but it’s usually a safe bet that most rational people from towns of a population over 5,000 don’t listen to southern twang.  I don’t usually, rest assured, but to those who enjoy it please feel free to play the following clip while you read on.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYT89iItQgw?wmode=transparent]

Kinda fun, right?  When I first got the idea for this post I had heard the title of the song but not the song itself.  My intention was to tear up the concepts at play a little bit, and it still is, but upon hearing it I realized just how playful the tone is.  Social commentary is always so much easier to take when it’s done with humour.

So, uh… I just flew in and boy are my arms… never mind.

Funny or not, the song does highlight a backlash against social media and the concept of the ‘virtual self’, discussed at great length on this blog, as well as many other places.  Here’s a smattering of anti-social networking sentiments I’ve seen and heard personally.

“Not every thought that comes into your head needs to be shared on Facebook.”
“Twitter’s really just for celebrities.  People who tweet all the time think that’s what they are.”
“Why on earth would people think I’d want to know about the bullshit going on in their lives?”
“Facebook is boring! And creepy! And destroys marriages! Sometimes with a bloody meat cleaver!”
“White people like Facebook, so it must be bad.”
“Naw man.  That’s a good way to get yourself arrested.”
“If everybody’s “So Much Cooler Online”, why there are so many #$@^&% on Facebook?”
and finally
“I’d rather live in the real world, thank you very much.”
Now, first let me state my vested interest.  It’s my great hope that any backlash against social networking is doomed to fizzle away.  The reason why?  Well, Facebook, Twitter, and this here blog are all a lonely wanker such as myself really has.  I work from home with my wife and kids, so the only people I regularly see in the flesh either share my DNA, or are contractually required to live with me.

Not that I believe ‘internet friends’ can replace ‘real friends’, but I don’t see that as being a fair comparison.  Often I hear people claim that they don’t consider that many people real friends, so why would they add them to Facebook?  Yes, it is called your ‘friend list’, but it’s not actually a comprehensive and legally binding roster.  It’s not like each person on that list automatically qualifies to have you help them move.  Yes, friendships must be maintained in the ‘real world’ primarily.  But there’s nothing wrong with using social media as a tool to stay in touch with existing friends.  


Facebook is a great tool to not lose touch with people.  There once was a time, if you hadn’t made the direct effort to speak to someone in a while, you might begin to drift apart.  Unless you picked up the phone specifically to speak to them, you’d have no idea that they’d been promoted or lost their Mom, and over a few years you’d wonder if getting back in touch was really worth it.  Your best friends always stay around, Twitter or no Twitter; but social media helps keep the next tier of friends from drifting apart.  It’s also a great way to get back in touch with people.  Like that ex-girlfriend who was so pretty and so smart.  Why did you break up with her again?

Or maybe she’s not that smart.  I mean, the ‘No Twit-Book’ crowd do have some points.  People need to learn that certain sentiments are uninteresting.  Like the following satirical one for example, which I grabbed from the Anti Twitter website:

“I heard a sound outside my house. I looked up to see what it was but couldn’t see anything unusual. I continued with my activities.”

There’s many a post I encounter that makes me fear for the collective wit of the human species, and I’d love nothing more than if every status update was filled with charmingly intelligent hilarity.  Yet alas, wit is not the province of every man. (That sounded witty, right?)  We can’t hold everyone to our own standards, and if Uncle Carmine wants to update us with his bedtime every night, it’s no skin off my back.  Having read “Have to work early tomorrow… nite” as a Facebook status may not exactly stimulate the logic centers of my brain, but it also doesn’t ruin my day.

And of course, there are those that post too much, well phrased or not, to the point that everyone gets tired of seeing their crap in their news feeds all the time.  

Ahem…. awkward!

However, such criticisms are just part of the self-correcting process of culture, so I don’t take exception with them.  Social networks are relatively new, so the manner in which we behave within them is continually under revision and fine tuning.  Give mankind another decade and we’ll all know instinctively what belongs online, and what doesn’t.

(PS – You really want to click on this picture below to see full size… trust me)

So it comes down to this whole issue about the ‘real world’, and a certain elitism that those who claim to prefer it seem to be holding over the rest of us shut-ins.  It seems to me that the first to read books may have heard similar arguments from those who preferred outdoor activities like poop-flinging, but we’ll try not to get snippy.  It’s clear that they believe social networking is a type of fantasy.  However, if these folks are going to continue to espouse the wonders of the real world, I think it only fair that they define for us exactly what that is.

Is the argument that those who use social media go out less, or that those who don’t use it climb mountains more often?  Do Facebookers just sit at their computers, anxiously awaiting the next comment on their post, whilst ignoring their beautiful and attention hungry wives? (well, I do, but we’re not talking about me)  Is there evidence that people who avoid social media live richer, more connected lives?


There isn’t evidence for any of that stuff.  Nowhere.  Zilch.
Yet these are claims everybody has heard.  They are examples of conventional wisdom that arise from common misconceptions.  It just seems to make sense to people that staring at a computer all day somehow robs a person of life-force, that we are meant to be frolicking in the woods and peeing in bushes.  By ‘real world’, this is the image of themselves they wish to conjure, yet I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the Facebook avoiders use the time the rest of us spend online to cram in an extra episode of Jersey Shore.  Those not on Facebook are probably not doing more with their time, and they’re certainly not receiving the social capital of being connected to as many people.

While staring into that screen, we’re not passively watching some former celebrity try to get a job with Donald Trump.  We’re actually connecting to people and ideas that exist in the world around us.  The screen is just a lens.  With it, we and our peers build consensus on the ways we interpret the world.  Society now has the ability to collectively absorb and interpret information faster and more democratically than ever before.  Social networks provide the stage upon which the mutual voice of mankind has opportunity to sing.

Yes, a balanced lifestyle is important.  Yes, we misrepresent ourselves sometimes with our virtual selves.  In an attempt to correct for this, here’s the fattest looking picture I can find of myself.
But is that really what’s bothering people?  In the aforementioned self-correcting way, I think criticism is warranted.  Thoughts that refine and improve social networking can only help.  But for those that aim to impede social networking, or even to have away with it altogether, I invite some perspective.  Facebook, Twitter, these are only the predecessors to the unified electronic social networks in the days to come.  In a few short years the lion’s share of young people have jumped onboard wholeheartedly.  It’s a social landscape upon which society is both playing and working with great success, and absence from it only serves to exclude you from the modern dialogue.

Do you miss the old days when you understood the ways we interacted more easily?  Are you secretly hoping for an end to social networks?  

Get real.


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