This is the month where we gather at the dinner table and are asked why we are thankful. The list is easy and obvious, right? We nameour spouse, our kids and our country, among other things. But here’s one of my answers this year: I am so very thankful that I experienced life before the social media explosion and expectations generated from instant communication.
According to the Fiscal Times News, there are 750 millionFacebook users worldwide. There are 100 million Twitter users worldwide, who send 230 million tweets a day. Eighty-two percent of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives have Twitter accounts. In the United States, Pinterest is now the third most popular social network, behind Twitter and Facebook, and 60 percent of its users are female. Social media accounts for 22 percent of the time that Americans spend online, according to the report, compared with 7.6 percent for e-mail.
Is there a benefit to social media? Absolutely! On a personal level, there is nothing more heartwarming than to jump online andget back in touch with a long-lostfriend. As a public relations professional, social media is an exciting and inexpensive way to spread a key message and reach new audiences.
But life has changed since social media boomed. Isn’t it a little bit of a downer to attend a wedding and realize you’ve already seen everything on the Bride’s Pinterest board? There is no mystery to what her dress will look like, what the décor will be or what guests will eat that night.
Recalling life before Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and blogs makes me smile. I remember running around the house in shear panic begging my siblings to NOT tie up the phone line as I waited for what amounts to the highest priority to a 16-year-old girl – a call from a boy.
Now, that precious wall phone is nearly extinct, and communication can be unnecessarily complicated. Ever gotten that big-news call from a friend? “We’re moving!” or “a new job!” and your friend needs to add to the conversation: “Oh, and please don’t ‘Facebook’ it yet.” When did ‘Facebook’ become a verb? And what about anonymous online comments? It makes me cringe to think of how many people lack the courage to have tough conversations and instead resort to typing sentences they would never say in person as they hide behind a computer screen.
Today, it’s not uncommon for children in elementary school to communicate by smart phone. My No. 1 request to my parents in middle school? A beeper. That’s right. I remember my well thought-out argument: “But you can ‘beep’ me anytime! I promise I will always carry a quarterand will go the nearest pay phone and call you back!”
But instant access eliminates some important interactions.I remember long conversations with my friend’s parents before they put my friend on the phone line. I stood in line for an hour in college to send e-mail from 1 of the 3 computers available to our entire dorm. In order to catch up with what was new in a friend’s life, I had to callor personally interact with that person.
Living life before social media taught me valuable life lessons. I had to stick to my commitments. If I planned to meet friends at 7 p.m.for coffee I had to show upbecause I didn’t have a handheld device to make last minute changes.I learned to share. There was only one phone line (with no call waiting) for a family of seven and you better believe we learned to take turns.
I learned courage. I had to break up with someone in person. No hiding behind a computer for that!Hard conversations are not the time for a text message, instant message, Facebook message or whatever new type of “messaging” is created. I learned manners. There are just some things you should never say, and surely if you do not have the guts for a face-to-face discussion there should be no room for it on the blogosphere. I learned contentment. There was a lot less access to comparison. Comparison is the thief of joy.
There is no substitution for real relationships and friendships. There’s rarely a need for instant communication, although expectations have certainly changed. People wonder what you could be doing in the hour or two after the birth of a child when you haven’t updated your status yet. Why isn’t his or her name posted within 45 minutes of birth? Better Tweet about it, or someone else will.
This year, I’m adding this to my list of blessings for which I am thankful: I am thankful social media wasn’t around when I was first learning to live life.