What does it mean if I only had two people wish me happy birthday on social media?
In the overall scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much. I could have written a post to notify everyone that it was my birthday and received the traditional responses. But I didn’t. And therefore there was no stream of birthday wishes on Facebook or Twitter.
So, why am I writing about it if it didn’t matter?… Because it is a chance to explore social media’s connection with human relationships.
My family sang “Happy Birthday” to me as we shared birthday cookies from Eileen’s. I got cards from my parents and friends, and laughed with my best friend about getting “old” and the irony of our age getting closer to our golf scores for 9 holes on the phone. I also got to host a workshop I designed for creative apps in the classroom.
The two birthday wishes I got via social media made me feel good, especially as the day wore on and nobody else wrote anything to me. Of course, it got me thinking about what social media is and what we expect from it.
First, what did I expect from my social media connections? Some of my connections are with people I consider friends; others are people I know I would be good friends with if we worked together or lived in the same area. Even more connections are surface relationships made through social media because we are interested in the same things or working in the same field. Then there is connections, especially on Twitter, that are purely one sided. I follow bands, athletes, and/or other powerful people that do not even know I exist, even if I do reply to one of their tweets.
What do these connections mean for me, for anyone? It lets us be heard.
That is a powerful motivator (as expressed in the above movie clip from 12 Angry Men). We now can all be quoted. But that single aspect can lead us to believe that social media is more than it is. I see (or read) many people who use social media as the main facet of living. The worst example is reading as a marriage disintegrated into divorce through Facebook updates. Comments left on social media is not living. Yet we can find ourselves sitting in front of a screen waiting for something to happen, most of the time just a response to our post… a reinforcement of our existence.
At this time in our society we are working through these social issues. Finding that balance between our life in front of a screen and the life we have in front of our eyes. The hard part is both affect our hearts.
The only answer I have at the moment is that I believe that social media, even just technology should be approached with the idea of enhancing our lives. Allowing us to feel, share, or express our lives on deeper levels than we could not do without it. From sending pictures of the grand-kids to the grandparents as we play in the park, to sharing lesson plan ideas with a teacher in Georgia. Social media and technology allows us to experience and share life with close friends and family, but even more powerful is the ability to make connections that enrich our lives. But we need to remember that life happens away from the screen and that there is a person behind the avatar.