The excesses of social media
We really should weed out some our ‘friends’
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.