The Myth of Social Media: Accessibility

Accessability

Welcome to part One of my Three part series discussing the phenomenon of social media and its affect on how we interact with one another both on a personal and cultural scale.

In this section we will be talking about Accessibility.

I love starting sentences with “Back in MY day” because it makes me feel like a senile old woman, and because it happens to be the name of my favorite Improv game.

Back in my day, if you wanted to know what was going on in someones life you had to either pick up the phone and call them, or physically drive over to their home and talk to them.  I suppose you could also hope to run into them out in the real world as well. Point being, there was a certain amount of effort that had to be put into it.

So how did something like dating look Back in my day…

Let’s say you were at the grocery store, or church, or school, and you ran into someone who you felt an attraction for.  If you wanted to get to know that person you would probably have to pluck up the courage to ask for their phone number, and then you would have to call their house and hope that they answered and not their crazy mother or homicidal father, and then you would ask them out, and then physically meet them somewhere, and make real conversation without the use of GIF and Emojis, or dick pics, and try to glean as much information as possible in the few hours you had together, and then you would take them home and wait for another opportunity to see them again, or talk on the phone.

Let’s compare that to how dating looks now…

You sit in the comfort of your own home ordering your groceries online. You are swiping through the latest dating app and you make a selection based off of a few photographs (which could be 10 years old), and a profile limited to 250 characters (which tells you nothing).  This is where your Social Media Sleuthing Skills come into play.  You scroll down to see if you have any mutual friends.  Since you are only provided their first name, if you find a mutual Facebook friend you are then able to go into your friends account and pop that first name into their list of friends and see who comes up.  Once they have been located on Facebook (depending on how locked down they keep their profile) you are then able to stalk photographs, posts, and interests. Based off of what you observe via Facebook, this could be as far as your interest goes.  Maybe they posted something about Global Warming and you happen to think the whole thing is a hoax…game over.

Let’s pretend there are no mutual friends, and no way of doing any pregame Facebook stalking.  Now you have to actually make the effort of sending a cute, funny, and/or clever opening line and hope that they choose to reply, which often they do not, which in turn makes you wonder why the hell they are even on this stupid app in the first place…but you digress. They respond to your message with messages of their own and you remark to yourself how cute, funny, and/or clever they seem over text.  More often than not, this is as far as it ever goes.  They will chat for a little while and then frankly disappear. No warning, no reason, just no response.  Sometimes you are able to convince them to meet in person for coffee or a drink or something that doesn’t require more than an hour or so from their day.  You meet up, you pray to God that they look like their pictures, and you quickly learn that they are a lot more cute, funny, and/or clever through text than they are in real life.  Not always though.  Sometimes there is a real connection and you decide to level up.  Instead of talking through the app you exchange actual phone numbers and you agree to add one another on The Facebook so that you can both “like” everything that you each have posted for the last 3 months.  Of course you are also going to check of all of the photos so you can play “Am I more attractive than the ex”, and you are going to make sure that they haven’t posted anything that you deem unattractive, or offensive.

After this point you will continue to communicate mostly through text until you see each other again.  You will either jump quickly into some sort of physical or sexual relationship OR you will go out on maybe 1 or 2 more dates before you call it quits.  Now when I say “call it quits” that is actually a very misleading phrase.  For there will be no actual calling involved.  There will be no text, no GIF, no emoji, just…silence.  The kids call it “ghosting” isn’t that adorable? After the ghosting you may try and reach out to them, through text or Facebook, but to no avail. This is going to frustrate you because you know they know how to operate a cell phone and all other forms of communication. You know this because they had no problem doing it while they were still interested in you.  The funny thing is, most of the time they won’t “unfriend” you from Facebook or block you from Snapchat.  In fact, you may still get the occasional consolatory Snap or GIF, but it is never going to be like it was before.

The main difference between how it use to be then and how it is now, is that if someone took you on a couple of dates and then just stopped calling you, there wasn’t this physical and technological reminder of it in your face.  The original ghosting had a lot more finality to it.  And make no mistake, people ghosted before technology.  Waaaaaayyyy way back it probably meant they just stopped “calling on you”, or they stopped writing 10 page letters.  Humans being flaky is nothing new per say, but we can talk more about that later. The problem with technology now is that it’s just like salt in open wounds.  She isn’t calling you back, but she is posting about how hard it is to find a “good guy.”  He isn’t asking you out anymore, but there he is tagged in a photograph with another girl and now you are reaching crazy status because you are trying to look HER up on Facebook and see if she has posted anything about being in a new relationship.

It’s enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel.

Couple of things…First, I realize that I just focused on dating, and that there are many other kinds of relationships that are formed and maintained on social media.  I could have just as easily used the example of how posting on someones wall has replaced sending them a get well card or a condolence casserole.  I also realize that I focused primarily on Facebook and Snapchat, when there are many other social media platforms that people use to interact.  Instagram is also very popular in the dating world.  I have seen tons of guys post their Instagram accounts right in their introductions.  Which makes you wonder…are you here to meet people or gain Instagram followers? Again, these are just some of the complexities of social media that make the waters of human interaction murky.

Whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder, Bumble, Pintrest, and so on, we have all become incredibly accessible to one another.  On one hand, this is awesome because it is so freaking convenient and it means that we don’t have to try super hard to maintain superficial relationships with a lot of people.  On the other it is really really shitty because it is freaking convenient and it means that we don’t have to try super hard to maintain superficial relationships with a lot of people. We can stalk an ex’s while simultaneously search for a new ex.  All of this, by the way, leads directly into the next posts topic which is Disposability. Stay tuned for that.

Here is something else to consider.

Say you were dating someone and they broke up with you.  Maybe you got the courtesy of a phone call or text message, or maybe you got ghosted. Either way, I’m sure you have heard the expression, “I can’t miss you if you don’t leave”?  There is something to be said about allowing someone who has “passed” on you retain access to your life.  I know a lot of people think that maybe if their ex sees them posting all of this really fun and exciting stuff they are doing, and how totally unaffected they are by the rejection, and “can’t you see how happy I am in all of my Snapchats which totally means that I don’t miss you at all meanwhile I am pretty much dying a little  more inside every day”………….Yeah…that’s a real thing….They believe that if they can stay in sight then they will stay in mind, and if they stay in mind then someday the person who has rejected them will suddenly realize what they are missing out on and beg them for another chance.  I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen…I’m just saying that it’s probably pretty rare, AND even if that could work, there is also a strong possibility that all you are doing is giving that person what they really want which is to keep tacit tabs on your life .

I have tried to come up with a good analogy or metaphor for this, but all I can think of is some sort of harem situation where even though you ain’t been picked in a long while for the breeding you continue to stick around under the watchful eye of the Alpha as he screws every deer but you.  As hard as it is, and trust me, I suck at this just as much as anyone, I think that there is probably something beneficial about the finality and closure that comes from cutting off the accessibility of yourself from other people.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I do know though that we as humans are extremely voyeuristic when it comes to other peoples lives.  I also know that primates in general try to squeeze the most reward out of the least amount of effort. Enter social media.  All the access with none of the effort.  We don’t call anymore because we don’t HAVE to. We don’t show up anymore because we don’t HAVE to. We don’t try anymore because we don’t HAVE to. And really, I hope that above all, that is the take away from all of these posts.

I don’t believe most people are malicious. I don’t think most men are jerks, or most women are flakes.  I DO believe that we underestimate the primate inside of all of us and its need to be as lazy and yet self-serving as possible, but even then, I don’t attach any moral judgement to it.  It’s annoying as hell, particularly when you recognize it, try to do differently, and then realize you are still the only one who seems to be trying…but really…you know…humans.

My purpose in writing these have less to do with any notion that I am going to change human behavior, but rather to bring awareness to it.  If we understand human nature, and we see the affects that social media has on it, then perhaps we can begin to adapt or find some sort of middle ground. Or perhaps the entire population will lose their ability to interact in any sort of intimate way and this will have marked the beginning of the end of our species. Probably not. I mean…Tinder will make sure that the population continues to grow at least.

I want to know what you think. Are we too accessible? Is that a bad thing? What has been your experience? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

The Myth of Social Media

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.How many friends do you have? Well now that is a complicated question isn’t it? Are we talking Real Life Friends? Work Friends? School Friends? Facebook Friends?

In an interesting article from The New Yorker entitled The Limitations of Friendship , it discusses the actual number of people another human can logistically care about…in essence. A really smart dude by the name of Dunbar came up with algorithm that mathematically discovered how many people humans are actually capable of being “friends” with.  He takes into account the different kinds of friendship, but ultimately the number of people he claims a person can be a part of your true intimate emotional support group is 5. Yup…5… 5 whole people.

Social Media has changed the way we interact…and don’t. It has also changed the way we view the concepts of friendship and cultural acceptance.  In a way, we can be whomever we want to be on Facebook.  We can portray our lives through photographs and status updates in whatever fashion we’d like.

Now, I know many won’t agree with me, but I believe that Facebook in particular is doing a great disservice to the human race when it comes to the illusion of real connection.  In general, much of our technology and connectivity is actually pushing us away from one another, making us disposable, and training us how to disengage.  Over the next few posts I am going tackle each one of what I believe to be the three biggest culprits of intimacy destroying influences. In tandem, I have decided to conduct my own experiment..

I have uninstalled Facebook and Snapchat from my phone.  These are the two biggest time wasters for me.  I have an almost Pavlovian response to notification alerts, and I am ready to try unplugging for a while.  My Facebook account is still active so that I can post about my blog, but hopefully, if all goes well, I will be Facebook free by the end of the year. That all being said, I recognize that in a way, I am cutting off my own nose to spite my face…book.

The really shitty part of all of this is that I realize that even if I find a way to live without Facebook, the very act of me leaving Facebook is going to isolate me from society.  Let’s be honest, there might be a handful of individuals who throw up their laptops and cry “NO MORE!!” …but that still leaves the majority of the population who choose to conduct most of their social interactions online.  I realize that this means I will probably miss out on parties, events, job opportunities, and dating options, but I suppose I am fed up enough with all of it at the moment to not really care. I’m fed up with this passive culture.  I want to reconnect with people, to the world, to life.  It’s been 5 days since I began this experiment and I already feel less anxious.  There are moments where I feel like I am missing out, and that “life” is happening without me, but overall, I actually feel…better.

Just for the record. I fully acknowledge the hypocrisy of posting my blog updates on Facebook. Like I said…in a way Facebook is like a frozen accident.  It would take more effort to undo what we’ve done, than it would to just sorta deal with the negative aspects.  Be that as it may, it is what it is for now.

An Muse Meant: Never as Good as the First Bite

 

mac

 

I am a fan of Mac and/or Cheese.  I don’t get too fancy with it, I am typically satisfied with good ol’ Velveeta Shells and Cheese, but sometimes I will venture outside of my go-to and try something new.

Trying new things is hard for me, because trying new things leaves you open to being disappointed. There are a lot of people out there (and often I am THOSE PEOPLE) who would rather just stick to what is familiar, instead of venturing out into the unknown.

I recently decided to give The Cheesecake Factory the opportunity to WOW me with their version of Mac n’ Cheese, and I got to tell you, that first experience was AMAZING! That first bubbling cast iron skillet of noodles and melty dairy was pretty much everything I had ever hoped for.  I couldn’t get enough of it, I devoured it in minutes. I wanted more, but I told myself that there was always tomorrow, and now that I knew where to find the perfect Mac, I could always come back to partake in its’ glory.

Maybe a week or so later I was back. I needed my Mac fix.  I ordered, I waited patiently without filling up bread because I was saving myself fully for the main course.  The Mac n’ Cheese arrived, I dove headlong into it, and to my great shock and dismay…it just wasn’t the same.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it was different.  There were no obvious visual or textual imperfections, nevertheless it just wasn’t as good.  I was baffled, bewildered, utterly beside myself…and yet…I figured that everyone has an off day and perhaps whomever was in the kitchen just “forked” it up, and that certainly it would be better the next time.

In wasn’t.

In fact, every subsequent time I have ordered the Mac n’ Cheese it has utterly failed to even come close to the quality and the enjoyment of that first experience…And I still can’t tell you why.  I’m fairly certain that all of the components are the same, and that it was prepared the same, and presented the same, and yet…it’s just not the same.  The truly interesting thing to me however, is the fact that even though I continue to be consistently disappointed with the meal…I continue to order it every time I go there.

My best guess is that this is a combination of my often detrimental hopeful nature, and my desire to replicate that first experience.  Seriously, if every time could be like the first time, then I can’t see any reason why I would want to stray to another menu item EVER.  But as it stands currently, I go, I order Mac n’ Cheese, I’m disappointed, and I leave vowing to never order it again, until the next time I go and do… in fact… order it again.

I think human relationships are sometimes like terribly disappointing Mac n’ Cheese.  I think sometimes we meet someone, and that first initial experience with them (however long it lasts) is amazing…it’s incredible…it’s quite possibly the best we’ve ever had.  But then something changes.  Either it changes for us, or for them, but something, and then it isn’t the same, it isn’t like was it was before.  Maybe it wasn’t us.  Maybe we were just as excited and interested as we ever were, but something changed for them.  When that happens,  I think our natural response is to try and justify, rationalize, and to make excuses.  “They must just be having an off day…that has lasted 4 weeks”…..or…..”Maybe I’ve done something wrong and they are waiting for me to fix it, even though they aren’t telling me what I have done wrong or how I can fix it.”

We can drive ourselves mad trying to figure out the WHY behind why it isn’t like it was before.  Meanwhile, we continue to go back to that same person, and we continue to try and make things works, and we continue to be hurt and disappointed.  I don’t know why we do this, and I’m sure it is not as simple as I am making it out to be…But…I do think that a least a PART of why we do it is because we are trying to recapture how amazing it was at the beginning.  When we know how good something or someone CAN be, it makes it really hard to walk away from it or them.  In times like these, our hopeful natures can actually hinder us from positive upward progression .

If we weren’t spending all of our time trying to recreate something that doesn’t exist anymore, then it would leave us open to finding something equally as good, and possibly better.

There is a whole 20 page menu at Cheesecake Factory, packed with so many options you could probably order something different every time you go there and still be trying new things for years.  There are millions of people in the world.  There may not be millions of people we can date, or form meaningful relationships with, but there are still more than what we allow ourselves to believe.  If we are constantly disappointed by a person, or situation, or relationship, then why do we keep going back and believing that it is going to change?

Maybe that person is giving us false hope.  Maybe they are saying one thing and their actions are showing another.  If that is the case then there still comes a point where all of that becomes largely irrelevant, because at the end of the day, we are unhappy, we are unsatisfied, we are hungry.

I’m not married, so I wouldn’t feel right telling anyone what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their dating lives.  I’m not telling you what to do, I am merely going to say this…

Take a look at your current relationship.  It doesn’t have to be a romantic one, but it does need to be one where you feel constantly and chronically disappointed.  Even if you can’t walk away, even if you feel powerless to move on, or try something different, I just want you to just try and be aware of what you are doing.  That’s it, just be aware.  See it, own it, accept it for what it is.  When you are ready, you will let it go, you will move on, but not until you are truly ready.  And that’s the point really. No amount of analogies and metaphors on my end are going to finally convince you that your time is worth more, that YOU are worth more. But someday, some moment, you are going to have a very real moment of clarity, and that moment of clarity is going to be the catalyst for you to make a change in your life, but again…only when you are ready.  Take your time, this is your journey.

But if you are going to keep ordering sub par Mac n’ Cheese, I hope you at least order dessert as well, because you know…dessert.