You’re not trying to have a real life, now, are you?

by justcallmeraegen

Almost as often as we receive articles about either the latest and greatest in the trade I write for or unadulterated self-promotional pieces, we’re receiving articles about social media — how to engage in it, how to make it work for your business, how to get to Pg. 1 of Google, etc. Most of them give the same kind of advice — useful, though somewhat canned. This week, however, brought to my desk a fresh perspective on the subject.

Well, let me back up. The subject was initially TV, actually. The author of this particular piece (who I’m not at liberty to reveal, since we haven’t published the article yet) was discussing the death of cable TV in favor of social media or some sort of social experience. A coworker about five years younger than me and of that generation that for the most part grew up in front of a screen started talking about Hulu, where you can comment on programs as you’re watching them, and how this brings a whole new dimension to the experience. “Imagine interacting with other people who are watching what you’re watching at the same time but are somewhere far away,” was the gist of what she said… which kind of made me wonder what was wrong with interacting with the people you have sitting next to you on the couch — presuming you have any — while you’re watching something on the tube. (Oh, man! I can’t even use the term “tube” anymore for TVs; they’re all flat-screens instead of CRTs!)

Help! I've become so obsolete, people leave me in the mountains!

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m very fond of a world in which I could be closer emotionally to someone I’ve never even met (but who sure does enjoy the show I like!) than I am to my family or my lover, a world in which anyone can be made a star regardless of hard work or talent (and yes, I am referring to “Jersey Shore”). The weirdest part from my point of view is, OK, you want to be social, but you don’t really want the “burden” of having to actually meet people in real life, do the hard work of building a genuine relationship, or take the chance of getting rejected and subsequently take a hard look at yourself and improve thusly. Of course, some people are so deluded that they probably wouldn’t have any friends at that rate — or perhaps I just wouldn’t be able to tolerate very many people who’ve crossed my path in life long-term. I will say, though, that the friends I do have, I feel a genuine kinship with and have typically had for years, if not decades. But we had to build those relationships through actual face-to-face interaction, even if time and life eventually took us to different places in the States and abroad.

OK, maybe what’s even weirder to me is that I can see how easily this online behavior could lead to groupthink. I’m terrified of the brainwashing of the masses… though, of course, it’s happening anyway — as evidenced in one simple way that stands out big-time in Vegas: girls who have to wear the trendiest clothes even though their body types do not by any stretch of the imagination or fabric allow for it; yes, I’m talking to you, skinny-jean wearers! There’s nothing wrong with your curves, but in case you haven’t noticed, skinny jeans are not their friend!

Epic fail.

But I digress. Honestly, do we really need to know a total stranger’s stream of thought while we’re trying to watch a show? Once again, that zero-attention-span, instant-gratification mentality seems to dictate that a TV show could never be enough to entertain us. That means there’s something wrong with entertainment today, in my estimation — not that we need yet another distraction from our distraction. Maybe if they’d actually get some writers up in there instead of train wrecks they find on the street, we wouldn’t be having this problem. And PS – I know some great screenwriters and playwrights. They are out there.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that many a friend not walking storage spaces for movie quotes have been annoyed by my sister’s and my ability to hold entire conversations with each other that make no sense to the outsider — the outsider being someone who hasn’t watched the particular movie we’re quoting or doesn’t remember it well. Two things, though: 1) being sisters, we obviously already have a relationship established with each other that didn’t start online behind a screen, and 2) we do this after we see a movie, not during. I do do this with a few friends as well — you know who you are — but I made these friends IRL, as the kids would say, not online.

Fish make good friends because they don't talk back. Hey, come out from behind that rock and listen to me when I'm talking to you!

I have to say, I really am torn on social media, and I’m sure the evidence — I mean, “timeline” — I’ve left in my wake with respect to it in recent years proves that. Granted, I’m a private and paranoid person, I was pretty sick last year, and during the few years before that — well, my real friends know what was going on in my life at that time. And they know it not because I put posts up all over Facebook — as one of my friends called it, “the passive-aggressive way of keeping in touch” — but because we had face-to-face conversations, phone calls, or even — gasp! — letter exchanges via snail mail, during which time, I was able to find out what was really going on in their lives: who was struggling to get over a former lover, who was looking for a new lover, who had loved ones pass on, who had loved ones enter the world, etc.

It’s sad, really, because I think so many people out there feel incredibly lonely. They turn to social media to fill the void, but it generally only serves to isolate them even more in the long run from genuine relationships that will truly satisfy them. Please correct me if I’m wrong in my assessment. That’s just the way I see it.

On that note, I’ve got to go plan my shopping list for the guests I’m having for dinner. Fava beans — check. Chianti…