Social media is suddenly on everyone’s mind. From huge mega-corporations to grass roots charities, the concept of communicating via the Internet has become the obsession of both David and Goliath alike. Celebrities are tweeting and individuals can get a sense of a personal connection to their favorite idols. Facebook has become a given for anyone or any company who wants to reach out and communicate.
I, for one, was hesitant to join the world of social media. It felt impersonal and a bit one-sided, especially the twitter phenomenon. But, slowly and surely, I, too, have become a social media junkie, for better or for worse. As I gain followers on twitter and receive daily requests for friends on Facebook, I am becoming a total convert to the power of Internet communication.
My fear, though, is that like email, we can hide behind these new tools of communication to lash out in anger and to express things that we would never say given a face-to-face audience. I am guilty of posting very confrontational videos from PETA for example and feel that after posting them, although I do believe very much in their message, that it can be a cowardly mode of using the Internet to vent my frustrations. I also find that it is much easier to confront people’s views online through blogger comments and other means when I find someone who has different beliefs than I.
As I wade through the very confusing and complex world of social media opportunities I am committed more than ever to try to approach what I share and what I say with compassion for our differences. If I cannot say it to someone’s face, then I should not commit it to the World Wide Web. I have many times felt ashamed at something I posted or about something I commented on and realize that the new world of social media can turn into a dangerous realm for negative thoughts and cowardly attacks.
My own journey with the world of social media has been an interesting one. I have certainly developed a larger client base through Facebook and Twitter and am able to reach my target audience with regards to what I am working on or what is of interest to me. But in the end, it can feel empty and disconnected. I find myself obsessing about what someone has written about me on a blog and feel powerless about how to respond to negative comments that come with being in the public eye. It can be a very hurtful place. For example, I once was scrolling a blog about an event that I had attended and one person mentioned that I looked fat and that my clothes were too tight. Believe me, I lost about 20 pounds since! Ironically it took a faceless commentator to shame me into losing the extra pounds.
I know that this world of Internet communication is in its infancy and that like everything, it will develop, hopefully into a useful and affirming tool. It’s ironic that social media many times becomes anti-social and actually removes us from connecting with people in the here and now.