Monday, January 19, 2015

IRL>URL....oh, yes! Nev's Book is Must Read!

This wonderful image is courtesy of Nev's Instagram feed!
A few years ago, I was out with a wonderful man whose company I simply adored. He was bright, one of the smartest men I've ever known, and funny in that arrogant, obnoxious way I find so irresistibly appealing. The restaurant was wonderful and the meal delicious. When I returned from the restroom, I noticed him putting his phone away, but thought nothing of it. Later, I heard it buzz a few times and he'd take it out and give it a moment of attention. I chose to think perhaps he was checking in with the sitter, as we both had children, and didn't make an issue of it.

The next day, however, I noticed he'd made a mindless post on Facebook during the time I was in the restroom. The subsequent attention he gave to his phone was to respond to comments made on his post. I was hurt, and couldn't understand why he would have needed meaningless interaction with Facebook friends (think: liking a smiley-face comment) while we were out enjoying an evening on the town. I certainly had not cared beans about looking at Facebook or Twitter while we were together. My friends summed it up later with the catch phrase of the day, 'he's just not that into you,' which made sense, but when he wanted to take me out again, and again, that didn't seem to be the case.

It took a few more dates to realize that while he might have been into me, he was into social media, or rather, his social media persona, much  more. Most of the time we spent together, I shared him virtually with former co-workers, college friends, and worst of all, high-school classmates (how long ago was graduation?) that commented near continuously on his many status updates. The tell-tale sign of his social media addiction, however, came in the form of a photo he was tagged in, taken at a cook-out one sunny summer day. Everyone was toasting the photographer, smiling, happy, in the moment...except my friend, who had his phone out, scrolling.

I'm not going to pretend I haven't been him at some point in time, either. I think we've all been him. Social media has been proven to be addictive. I won't go into detail about the hows and whys; if you are curious, google the words 'social media addiction' and you'll find article after article from respected institutions covering this subject. I highly recommend, however, picking up a copy of Nev Schulman's book, In Real Life instead.

And I'm not just saying this because I totally crush on Nev, no. It's a phenomenal book that I believe everyone who engages, even if only to a small extent, on social media needs to read. But if you engage more than a little with social media, if it consumes more than thirty minutes of your day, then you especially should spend time with this book to find out why. It certainly has me reflecting on my social media usage and the reasons behind it. Am I truly sharing viable information that is interesting and engaging to other people...or simply needing little tweaks of affirmation and/or attention throughout the day?

Hmmmmm...something to think about.

The first thing I did after finishing this book (which I read in less than two days, thank you ADHD hyperfocus for the physical inability to put down a good book once I'm hooked) was decide to clean up my Facebook friends list. I'm in the process of that now, and I'm not going to say how many friends I have on FB; it's embarrassing. People I've never met; ex-boyfriends I un-followed, but for some reason didn't un-friend, seconds after break-ups; people I went to high school or college or used to work with but do not currently interact with online or in person...all of them granted privileged insights into my personal life via pictures and status updates. It's weird when you look at it this way, isn't it? Perspective - my parents, who live in a neighboring town but do not use social media, know less about my life than acquaintances I am friends with on Facebook.

I have no explanation for why so many of us have chosen to engage with social media so much...but Nev does. It's in the book and trust me, it will have you thinking, and maybe blushing a little, as I did. And I'm making changes. People who are interested in my writing and professional news can follow my facebook fan page, but my personal page will be reserved for my real, actual friends. Which is a wonderful, meaningful way to use social media - to stay connected to people we truly care about, and also promote wonderful, interesting things that are taking place out in the world. In this way, social media sites help us enhance real life...but they should never, ever be a substitute for it.

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