“I can never imagine myself opening up a Twitter account. In fact, I think all of these social media apps you see popping up are a sign of the beginning of the end of our civilization.” I said nonchalantly to Gizelle. “Come on Maribel, it’s really not as bad as you think it is,” replies Gizelle. I shake my head vehemently in disagreement. Then I said, “There’s no real interaction with social media. People are awkward and socially inept as it is, and you think talking to people constantly online is going to make that any better? Especially when it’s all just people spouting nonsense about what they’re doing that minute, every minute of every day? No, I will never create a twitter account. Never.”
That was me about two years ago. I would engage in these debates with my close friends about the horrors of our society and how Facebook was ruining our generation. People didn’t interact anymore. They relied on the web to get them through the day and at that point in my life, I hated feeling like I had to rely on something as ambiguous as social media to dictate what was cool. I stopped posting. I basically shut off my Facebook and minimized my chats. I was not going to be a tool of social media anymore. If you wanted to reach me, you knew where to find me, and that was that.
Then things changed. Life took over. My two best friends moved away to Ecuador and Cambodia to begin exploring their careers and I was left at home. A couple of days couldn’t go by without one of us contacting the other in some form. How were we going to stay in touch? What was I going to do?
The realities of our situation forced me to open some doors that I had previously shut with a forceful bang. We planned joint calls with skype, sent emails, and used Google voice to call each other by phone. At one point we started a private blog to share our experiences since we were on separate journeys and wanted the support and shoulder to lean on that we couldn’t get in person. It was all pretty awesome now that I think about it. All of that was only possible because of the programs and apps that I had been so quick to sneer at months before.
But what made the process incredible is that it allowed us to explore different avenues in our friendships. As we tried to keep track of time differences and schedules, we each made a major effort to be there for each other as much as possible. Our conversations reached greater depths (which I didn’t even think was possible since I’ve known and lived with these ladies for years) and my affection and love for these relationships deepened.
I was reminded of this, earlier this morning when I had an impromptu chat with one of these friends who’s currently based in Cambodia. I had the good fortune of being able to visit her around this time last year and we’re both counting down the weeks until she’s home early next year. She’s on the other side of the planet but we can pick up and talk like there is no distance because of social media. We’re in each other’s worlds constantly and that’s been a crucial element in maintaining my friendships. This kind of contact just would not have been possible only a couple of years ago. I’m appreciative because it only enhances a connection that’s already viable. It’s there always. Only now we share stories and jokes in real time and remain interactive. It’s incredible and something I couldn’t really embrace until I was separated from my close friends.
As I get older my appreciation for that sort of relationship has increased greatly. I think when I was younger I didn’t get that, and it was more about the desire to be accepted and popular. This was my problem with Facebook and Twitter. Who are these phantom friends? Why are you following me? It didn’t make sense to me because I was projecting my personal expectations of relationships where it didn’t belong. The number count on my Facebook page has nothing to do with the people that matter most to me. I don’t care about being “unfriended” and I’m not interested in accepting a request from an unknown to appear more popular to the masses. But I appreciate the usefulness of these apps to make other things easier, like keeping in touch with my loved ones. And now this has launched itself into something else altogether.
When I sit back and think about where I was coming from a couple of years ago, I realized that what I was really rejecting was the possibility that I would have to step into a spotlight that I was completely terrified of. I didn’t want people to look any closer and pass judgement. It goes right back to that fear that I spoke about last week. I hated going online and seeing what others were doing because then I’d compare myself and it was always less cool or impressive than what my peers were up to. But again, those were my issues and I couldn’t blame Mark Zuckerberg for providing the platform. I had to deal, and that’s what I did. I dealt. I’m still dealing. It’s not an overnight thing, but I needed to realize that if I could take one step forward by putting myself on the digital stage, at least in a modest way, then it could have a profound impact.
Once I let go of my prejudices and started to see the advantage of opening myself up to this trend which wasn’t going anywhere no matter what I said about this being a sign of the apocalypse (yea, I argued that point too), I changed. I started a Twitter account. I began to pin on Pinterest like crazy. I now have my personal Facebook account AND a page. I’m exploring other apps. And then there’s this blog. I went from a social media fast to a binge, and I have to admit that there’s nothing about this that I regret. It’s had a bigger impact than I anticipated on the outset, and I can’t be more grateful. I found a voice that I’m developing which each new post and through my interactions with some of the incredible bloggers I’ve met. I feel more confident than I’ve ever felt before. I’m connected which may seem kind of inconsequential, but not for me. After feeling stuck and like I was floating numbly in a bubble for years, this is the first time where I’ve been grounded and in control of my choices, and that’s huge.
So really I should send Mark Zuckerberg a thank you letter. Heck, one can go to the creators of Twitter and WordPress as well. They are not the evil characters I cast them to be years ago, but pioneers in what has become an empowering tool for everyday people like me to make new friends, deepen my current relationships, express my opinions, and share myself with others. There’s a tremendous upside to creating and building this network digitally because it’s not mutually exclusive to the emotional connections you make in person. We’re just getting a bit more creative about how it’s done. No man or woman is an island and I was stupid to think so.
So there you have it. My love letter to social media. It took about two years for me to get here, but I’m here. I think I owe my friend Gizelle something huge for starting a Twitter account. Never say never folks! 😉
Share you own Saturday Upsides by reflecting on something small or huge that provided a silver lining. There’s ALWAYS a positive out there. You can post your stories on Bonnie’s site Recipes Happen and make sure to read hers and others out there. Keep paying it forward. 🙂