The ex­cesses of so­cial me­dia

We re­ally should weed out some our ‘friends’

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - Laura Furster is a fine artist, lit­er­ary writer, and jour­nal­ist liv­ing in down­town Hamil­ton. She can be found on Face­book/Twit­ter/In­sta­gram, and at Con­tact: laura.furster@out­ LAURA FURSTER

Way back when, be­fore the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia, if you were a city-dweller and broke off ei­ther a ro­man­tic or pla­tonic re­la­tion­ship with some­one, you likely never saw that per­son again, and if you did, it was a rare and epic event. Maybe you spot­ted an old flame in a book­store, or a child­hood friend at a restau­rant. You were thrilled, ner­vous, and prob­a­bly felt like you were in a movie, since Hol­ly­wood of­ten cap­i­tal­izes on the ex­cite­ment of such an un­likely run-in.

To­day, many peo­ple’s “friends lists” read like a who’s who of …“who’s that again?” Whether it be a for­mer co-worker or a past hookup, many so­cial me­dia users keep ir­rel­e­vant con­nec­tions, de­spite the ease of click­ing “un­friend” or “un­fol­low.”

I think many would agree that so­cial me­dia is a great tool for both pro­fes­sional net­work­ing and shar­ing life’s mo­ments with friends and f am­ily — but it also cre­ates an un­nat­u­ral level of con­nec­tiv­ity with those with whom we have de­lib­er­ately parted ways or pro­gres­sively lost touch. With those we prob­a­bly shouldn’t know any­thing about any­more.

It’s not al­ways harm­ful, but it can take the spark out of catch­ing up with, for in­stance, for­mer class­mates. My tan­gi­ble so­cial world does not in­clude a sin­gle per­son I went to high school or univer­sity with, but some of those peo­ple re­main on my Face­book friends list. Over the years, I have whit­tled that group down to the peo­ple I ac­tu­ally con­sid­ered friends at some point, and that I would say hello to were I to pass them on the street.

But, re­al­is­ti­cally, I’ll prob­a­bly never run into them, and what’s more, I doubt we will ever see each other at a re­union. Peo­ple who should have nat­u­rally fallen out of each other’s lives have ac­cess to each other’s suc­cesses and fail­ures, re­la­tion­ships and break­fast foods, via Face­book, Twit­ter, and In­sta­gram, which I sus­pect is ren­der­ing re­unions ob­so­lete for mil­len­ni­als.

As our tech­no­log­i­cal meth­ods of con­nec­tiv­ity progress, old-fash­ioned so­cial events that seemed like a given in the past have been pushed out of prac­tice. This is prob­a­bly a small price to pay for the ben­e­fits of so­cial me­dia, but the byprod­ucts of hyper-con­nec­tiv­ity are not all as in­no­cent as the lament­ing of by­gone so­cial tra­di­tions.

Even if you have “deleted” them from your so­cial me­dia uni­verse, you can still of­ten ac­cess the life of some­one from your past, even with­out try­ing. You might see their ac­tiv­ity through mu­tual friends, or they might show up as sug­ges­tions for you to con­nect with.

The kicker: even if you can see them, you can­not force some­one to in­ter­act with you on so­cial me­dia. The in­ces­sant pres­ence of an emo­tion­ally trig­ger­ing per­son cou­pled with the com­plete im­po­tence of one-sided com­mu­ni­ca­tion is, I be­lieve, one of the most emo­tion­ally dan­ger­ous as­pects of our tech­based so­cial lives.

Thank­fully, so­cial me­dia is not just an emo­tional tor­ture cham­ber, though it can seem that way at times. It also fa­cil­i­tates pos­i­tive re­unions that likely wouldn’t have oc­curred with­out it.

Some re­la­tion­ships end for good rea­son, and some end through un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances such as mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and poor tim­ing.

I had the op­por­tu­nity to re­con­nect with an im­por­tant friend af­ter a year-long fall­ing out. Know­ing that it had been the prod­uct of a dif­fi­cult time for both of us, and not a re­flec­tion of the value of our friend­ship, I reached out to her through Face­book, and found that she shared my re­grets. We now have our re­la­tion­ship back, rather than spend­ing a life­time won­der­ing what might have hap­pened if we’d had the for­tune of cross­ing paths like f ated lovers in a movie scene.

As Pe­ter Parker’s Un­cle Ben says: “With great power comes great re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

At the end of the day, don’t for­get that “block” but­ton.

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