I hate social media. Actually, truth be told, I used to love social media, and that is exactly why I hate it.
Social media and I go way back.
I remember when we first met. It made a memorable, yet distinctly distasteful first impression. I sat in a friend of a friend’s bedroom, watching the two girls talk about this “guy” one was talking to on her dad’s ICQ. She gave him her address, her home phone number (we didn’t have cell phones yet), and started making plans to meet. I thought she was stupid. I made a point of telling her that in not so many words.
“How do you know they are who they say they are? That’s dangerous!”
Of course, she shrugged it off. I never heard if they actually met up or not.
Still, the thought of being able to type back and forth with people from all over the country or even the world piqued my curiosity. Not long after, I found myself in my first college workplace—a technology center—searching for “chat rooms.” That’s when I fell in love with “social media.”
Immediately, I was sucked in. I couldn’t wait to jump into a chat room as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I could talk to whomever I wanted, wherever, virtually whenever; and I could be whomever. Despite my love of the online world, I couldn’t shake that aspect of it. How could I truly know? The truth is I couldn’t. As such, I swore that I would never “become” someone else online. One less person someone had to worry about being fooled by, I thought.
I immersed myself in social media. I chatted my fingers to the bone. I watched AOL become the King of the Mountain. I loved hearing “You’ve got mail!” when I logged in. The grinding and squealing of the 56k modem carried me into a whole other world, where I never quite knew who I would meet and I could talk to my friends in near real time in little windows on my screen. Then MySpace became the rage, as did in increase in soundboards/rings, and multimedia streaming. Suddenly you could share nearly anything—even a few things we shouldn’t have, thanks to Napster.
The problem came in where I became too comfortable in the online.
In reality, I did become someone else.
I’m rather introverted by nature. Once I warm to someone, I can joke and play with the best of them. I can talk for hours with people. If I don’t know you, though? Then we have issues. There will be uncomfortable silences if I am left to initiate the next line of conversation.
Online, I am different. I don’t have to worry about holding eye contact with you while my nerves begin to wrack. I do not have to see your face—your reaction when I take a joke too far or when one crashes and burns. I see your avatar, not you for what you truly are. I can be an unabashed extrovert on Twitter. I will never meet you. Therefore, “it” doesn’t matter, whatever “it” is.
Unfortunately, as comforting as all of that safety is, I now struggle with the “in real life” encounters. My introversion has gotten worse over the years. The ability to text makes me not want to speak on the phone. I love the potential of sharing videos and Skyping with people who have become my “friends,” but I have to talk to you—see you. Crowds make me jumpy and nervous.
There is no end in sight to this love-hate relationship. At least not yet.
As this community grows and the closer we all become—interconnected through our online endeavors—I know I will one day meet you at a conference or local meet-up for parents or as members of this community. I know I will one day stand in front of a brand representative or be sitting in a conference room pitching an idea. Yes, outwardly, I will appear to be calm, collected, jovial, and quick-witted, but inside I will be squirming and writhing in nervous fear—and I hate it.
Damn social media for the comfortable solitude and safety it has offered over the last couple of decades. There are days when I wish for a simpler time when I only knew my neighbors and local acquaintances. I miss times when I knew nothing of the latest social media trend.
I’m sure I could withdraw from all things social media related without too much effort. I certainly wouldn’t mind the refreshing, tangy scent of a lake in my nose. I can easily picture myself casting my cares and concerns into the rippling water with my bait as opposed to going blind in the glow of a computer screen. I could live without the constant dings and whistles, alerts and reminders. For now, though, I think I’ll hold off on those things. After all, even though I hate social media, I still kind of like it.