I was sitting talking to my Stepdad in front of the telly (the Blyth Spartans v Hartlepool football match) tonight and we got onto the topic of social media.
Gary (my Stepdad) has a Facebook profile but he very rarely uses it and he doesn’t entertain the idea of other social media. But he does livein a house with 4 other adults who do use social media regularly, including my Mam. I think this gives him an interesting persepective on the whole phenomenon and some of the things he had to say got me thinking.
Of course living in a house with his wife, son and two daughters who all use social media, Gary’s heard his fair share of “eeeh look at that, I wonder who she/he’s talking about?” In response to the classic “some people” ranting statuses that crop up all too often, particularly on Facebook. This in particular is something that he can’t understand about the whole culture and I have to say I really can’t either. What satisfaction do we get from describing what we dislike or what has annoyed us about someone to all of our Facebook friends, with no intention of telling anyone what has actually happened or who is involved? Is it simply enjoyment from knowing how the person concerned will feel when they read it and know that it is about them? After all, it can’t help to resolve the problem or get to the bottom of why the person has acted the way that they appear to have, because it doesn’t initiate a conversation, only more tension.
When I hear people saying that Facebook causes more problems than it’s worth or that it makes friendships and relationships more difficult, I find it hard to agree. Mainly because there are real people behind everything that goes on there – and we can treat each other with respect online, if we really want to. What I think it does do though, is allow us to broadcast very widely our frustrations and bad feeling towards people instantly and (importantly) before we have had time to think things through, to calm down or to try to see things from someone else’s perspective. After unpleasant events happen it can keep people in a weird, distant contact who, without social media, would probably have just gotten on with their lives and not thought about what each other were doing. It also gives us the confidence to say things that we sometimes wouldn’t dream of saying in a face-to-face situation.
In a similar veign but on the other side of the coin, social media means that we can see tiny snippets of people’s lives, events and conversations, often taken out of context. And we react to these (as people naturally do). What’s missing is face-to-face, two-sided conversation in which two or more people are able to discuss and try to understand each other’s perspectives.
So whilst I don’t believe that Facebook can cause problems between people, it has definitely changed dramatically the way we interact and it throws up lots of new considerations in the ways that we treat each other.