Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Diagramming the Social Media Sentence

Why hello!

Image result for like buttonIn my blogging absence I've written another book. And another short story.

In the in between moments I do what most people do in this internet age. Which is to say I waste time on social media and try to convince myself that clicking on 'like' buttons is a valid form of human connection.

By now, we've all heard social media is less about connection than competition. However, the more time I spend scrolling through feeds, the more I realize our lives all follow similar patterns that break down sorta like this:

Image result for stick figure family smilesPeople celebrate things. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations and holidays. Pictures are posted of children who have grown to resemble their parents in high school.

Everyone is smiling.

It's tempting to think those smiles and cheerful moments are the defining characteristic of a family. Don't give in to this temptation. All the moments that define us in the internet age are happening off stage.

People grow ill. They have surgery and request prayers. People they love die or they die themselves and the people they love post notices on their Facebook pages. Everyone comments they don't want to hit like, but then they do anyway because there's no other option provided.

Image result for babiesChildren are born. There are lots of baby photos that morph to weekend activity photos as children grow older.

People read things they agree with or are entertained by and post them for other people to read.

Vacations happen. Pictures of foreign places, sunburns and food are posted.

Lately, I find myself more interested by the sameness of the social media feed than its individualized content.

Image result for social mediaInstead of being one of the tools we use to obsessively track each other's status ranking, social media feels more like reassurance that we all progress down the same paths. There are divergences of scale, of course, but the similarities outweighs the differences.

We are born. We celebrate. We vacation. We eat. We like lots of things. We dislike other things. We have a forum for discourse about those things. We grow ill and occasionally we feel the need to rant.

The novelist in me is glad for the similarities that bind us together in our human condition. The human in me is reassured by the pattern displayed through the aggregate of these snapshots.

What about you? What's your take on social media from a consumption standpoint? Reassuring, boring, waste of time (for sure) or bringing about the end of civilization as we know it? Oh, and by the way, of course I missed writing here! But my hope is readers and friends alike will soon get to see the fruit of all that time spent elsewhere.


Joanne Noragon said...

You wakened an old memory of a very spinsterish English lit professor telling us of Byron's sonnets, "All the incest takes place off stage." I never made the connection to our lives on social media. Drama re-en-actors excluded, we do keep our trash in the wings, reducing social media to something like a funeral or a summer party, where we exchange all the births and deaths and graduations and new jobs.

I skim facebook, and that's the extent of my involvement in social media.

Unknown said...

I have such a love/hate relationship with social media...

On the one hand, I love that I can connect with people that I probably would have lost contact with years ago. It's nice to have that security blanket... to pee-a-boo into their lives every now and again to make sure everything is okay, and smile when it is!

On the other hand, it kind of creeps me out how much someone could learn about me JUST by looking at my fb page. Of course, I could delete things or try to up my security settings even further, but it's hard! Because I want people to know things about me too... just not EVERYthing.


I have found no balance yet. Have you?

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey Johanna!
I think that's the one thing that does bring the world together. Seeing how at our core, no matter the culture or country, we are similar. We feel and need the same things in life.

Hart Johnson said...

Well at the very least, I've observed that you understand Google+ so Good for YOU!!! (I think I am still stuck in the Facebook realm--but see... I love Facebook. I like that I've developed a reputation for certain things so people are constantly sharing things with me about nakedness, pantslessness, llamas, and word nerd stuff. If the world could be just those things, it would be lovely. I can join or ignore the politics as my intestinal fortitude allows (I AM a girl from Idaho, so there are days I just don't want to engage). I DO feel a bit embarrassed for the people who use it to rant about the people dumping on them. I try to keep any complaining humorous (and far enough from important that people admire my humor rather than pitying my... I couldn't take pity) and I am always a little annoyed with people for whom ONLY GOOD THINGS EVER HAPPEN (right--like we're buying your perfect spouse, perfect kids, crafty lifestyle and booming career. Faker.) What I LOVE is shared triumph... hard time, overcome. I love community (people from all phases of my life are there--not everyone, but many I really missed before I had this avenue). I love discovering common ground with people I never knew very well before we sort of all started putting ourselves out there. I love MAKING common ground with people I like, but don't agree with on much. So yeah... overusing the hell out of Facebook. I like it way too much to delve into much more.

Hart Johnson said...

AHA! And my purpose for stopping by, in addition to reciprocating and before I got tangled in my Facebook adoration--I'd LOVE a reader--thank you so much for the offer! the OTHER one (Also Appearing) is much much closer to ready for eyes, so if you are interested in one about a teenage girl trying to find her identity and have some time this summer, THAT would be super awesome. If you'd rather wait for Summer of Bones, that is cool, too, but probably 9 months out... I won't revise until maybe December and I never share a first draft.

Johanna Garth said...

Joanne, I might have to appropriate that quote!

Julie, my balance is all or nothing which is really no balance at all.

Hart, will PM you! And I'm all about shared triumph!!

Alex, sometimes it's hard to see to the core through all the fluff, but glad you see it too.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I like your idea that we are comforted by the patterns we see on social media. I don't think it's the end of civilization as we know it, but I do like the increased means of communication it allows. As someone who just retired from teaching, I like that I can still keep up with the lives of my former co-workers.

And my MIL uses FB to track the comings and goings of my husband when he travels for work, since she doesn't trust me to do it. I suspects she thinks I wouldn't notice if he failed to come home ... If he doesn't post something about his status/location every day or so, I get a phone call from her demanding to know if I know where he is!

Beylit said...

Glad you have been able to be productive in your time away. You have been very missed.

I can never decide if social media is worth it. The vast majority of it I find to be a bit of a time suck and a dumbing of society. At the same time though I love the ability to share information and stay connected even in the smallest of ways with the people at the furthest points of my world. I love that I can watch my niece in Wyoming go through her girl scout bridging ceremony, and see my friend in upstate New York painting her kitchen the same shade of yellow as mine is after she saw pictures of mine, or just see the pointless meme's my mom posts so I know she is still doing things. I love it and I hate it and for better or worse I can't live without it to some extent.

Johanna Garth said...

Dianne and Beylit, in some ways social media is way more useful at keeping in contact with those that would otherwise fade out of our lives. I love the sense of connectedness and lifespan perspective it provides.