I’m going to break away just a bit from being literally literary, and write about something that has been itching at me lately. It’s less about books and writing, and more about communication and how we deal with each other, but it in the end, it still comes down to words, words, words.
A few days ago I was reading the newspaper, something that brings me great joy even as I often have to shake my head over what I read. I had gotten to the Editorial page, which can be fraught with peril, (less so, though, now that the national elections are over). However, I do usually enjoy what other readers have to say so I make it a habit to scan the “Readers Write” section. On this particular day the “Letter of the Day” caught my eye: it was a short, pithy note regarding Facebook, a topic which is often quite entertaining.
This letter, however, pushed a major button for me. The letter writer was bemoaning missing out on “events, invitations, opinions and general interactions” from friends and relatives because he had declined friending everyone. He defended himself by saying that he didn’t have the time for all the “minutiae” or for “sifting through all the dross” to find the one thing that interested him. Along with the typical accusation of Facebook being addictive, he likened himself on Facebook as a “troglodyte with big, round eyes and pale skin, staring at the screen”, termed content as “miasma of information”, and heralded his resistance to “paralysis and anemia”.
Now, I’m not a carte blanche fan of Facebook, even though I do use it and I do enjoy it. I don’t mind that Facebook has its detractors and I can appreciate anyone deciding to use it sparingly or not at all if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle or give them enjoyment. I can even put up with folks badmouthing Facebook, especially if they’ve had a negative experience with it. But Facebook is what it is. There are ways to control the content you see, filtering out pictures, videos, gaming posts, blocking sites, blocking apps, limiting the amount of posts you see. There are ways to control who sees your posts. But if the people that this letter writer did deign to “friend” filled his news feed with so much unwanted crud that he can’t take the time to sift through it in order to find what is valuable, (seeing that he can’t seem to understand the idea of “skimming”), then he has a bigger problem than Facebook. He probably doesn’t like it when kids run across his lawn, either.
Then there’s the anti-Twitter knee-jerk reaction. When someone inquires on whether they should join Twitter, it’s pretty much guaranteed that most of the feedback will be how worthless it is, how asinine, and how narcissistic Twitter users are. “What should I care what they have for breakfast?” I hear over and over again. “So what if his cat did something cute again?” Well, you know what? Twitter isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Being on Twitter doesn’t make you special, but not being on Twitter and being a snob about it doesn’t make you astute, it just makes you … a snob.
And now there’s Pinterest. I gotta admit, I’m enjoying being on Pinterest. Mainly, I find recipes there. Also, amazing pictures and tips for making housework easier, (gotta love it for that alone). But, of course, now that it’s gotten popular, it’s fair game to run it down. It’s called a time waster, a tribute to gathering useless or unused information. Then there are those people who claim it has made their lives more difficult. They tend to go something like this: “It’s impossible to throw a birthday party for my little Suzie now, because there’s no way I can compete with my neighbor who, thanks to Pinterest, can turn out the perfect pink party with tulle and lace and individualized pink glazed cupcakes and pretty polka dotted decorations!” Honey, if this is a problem for you, then your problem doesn’t lie with Pinterest, but in your misplaced sense of what makes a good birthday party for your child.
These are tools, people. They have their pluses and minuses, their uses and their detractions. They aren’t value judgments. You have power to tweak them, filter them, let them work for you. You have the power to walk away from them. They don’t control you – you control your use of them. But if you don’t use them properly, if you just turn them on and go, then you can’t fault them if you don’t get the results you want. It’s like using a chain saw to open a can of beans – it ain’t gonna be pretty, the beans are gonna be spoilt, and more than likely someone is going to get hurt – and it won’t be the chainsaw’s fault.
So what if someone doesn’t like Twitter or feels that Pinterest is a waste of time or that Facebook is helping to bring about the zombie apocalypse? Just because it doesn’t work for them doesn’t mean that folks for whom it does work are somehow inferior. I don’t use Reddit, myself, but my kids love it. I also don’t use Flicker or Instagram or Live Journal or Stitcher or any other types of social media. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t legitimately valuable to others. Let’s just live and let live, eh? Accept that some things work for some people and don’t for others, and that’s okay. In the end, it’s all about reaching out and communicating with a vast and rich and wonderful world. And however that happens, it’s just fine by me.
~ Sharon Browning