13 November 2013

the paradox of social media.

When I was just a youngster, I spent 12 days deep in the woods of Canada with a bunch of  buddies and canoes. When we finally surfaced from the wilderness we were told that the war had ended. A year later, after two weeks in the mountains we surfaced to hear of our President resigning. Both were huge events. And, we had missed both of them, or had we? Those news epiphanies almost overshadowed the fun we had had on our adventures. Years later, I remember recalling the freedom I felt as a teenager during those trips. I often wonder if the missing weight and tediousness of worldly events weren’t at least a small part of that freedom.

I’ve read at length Saul Wurman’s writings on the anxiety of information and overload. But I wonder if we’ve wandered into something else. Something more burdensome.

I was in grad school when the facebook thing took hold. This allowed me an inclusion that my working peers were not privy to. An early adopter one might say. In the following years facebook served me well as a conduit to my friends and family while moving about the country for corporate jobs. Just recently, I stopped all of that and have not looked at facebook in a few weeks. 

We now have a shared ubiquity and awareness of our friends and family that is unprecedented. Frankly, I’m not sure you can really have 300 friends, though my friend Juli (and oddly a friend of her’s named Matt) have a remarkable and unique capacity for names and faces that is well… both wonderful and a bit intimidating. They both literally know and recall hundreds of people… but I’m well off track. 

Do I really need to know that someone I once worked with for three months just had a great time at Pitchfork (an indy music fest in Chicago)? Probably not. Is there an effective way to filter them? No, not with offending them (de-friending). It’s just too much… and that’s not even considering the bombardment of ads and political agendas. And it’s not that I don’t care… I just don’t think I have the capacity. I’m (and should be) much more concerned with issues inside my household and with the people I see and hear from every day and week. I feel relieved and not only less distracted… much less stressed. I’m pretty confident that those who care, know who to find me… and we’ll have much more fun catching up face-to-face.