Just the other day on Facebook, a “friend” (and really great live person, too) linked up this article on Relevant magazine about social networking in light of Sony Pictures’ new film The Social Network opening in a week. The article “What’s Actually on Your Mind” addresses the dualistic conundrum of sites like Facebook, Twitter and the-not-so-relevant-anymore MySpace. Dualistic because while sites like Facebook are reintroducing us to friends from afar we haven’t seen in years, it may also be robbing us of time in real-life relationships in the here and now.
When I used to a call a classroom my workspace, I would teach the myth of Narcissus, the young man who sees a reflection of himself in a pool of water and finds it irresistible. In fact, he spends the rest of his days mesmerized (unknowingly) by his own reflection until he withers up and dies in fascination and reverence of himself. I used to joke that my students, and all teenagers, really, are a bit narcissistic in nature. They are feeling out the world in terms of what they can do and conquer. All questions lead back to self in context. I used to tease them about this (which they never did deny), but said that eventually they would out-grow this ego-centric view of life.
Was I wrong all along?
The Relevant article would say quite possibly “yes.” With the ability to post thoughts as they come, edit multitudes of pictures of ourselves, and “like” and “unlike” all people, places, and things, the world is asking for our approval constantly. That’s one addictive feeling. The feeling that our opinions and thoughts matter. That are photographs are worthy of comment.
But is it all so bad?
The other side of all this that I love is that I can stay even a tiny bit connected with someone like my sweet friend Jamelle whom I met back at the Governor’s School for the Arts in Pennsylvania back in the ’90s (How ’bout one degree of Kevin Bacon separation? Snap.) I get to see pictures of her gorgeous children and a glimpse into her life. I can even have small exchanges with her. None of that would be possible without something like Facebook.
Members of my community have sent out mini “flares” asking folks to pray for them in the midst of some great distress, and in return they received some encouragement. In this world, we don’t always have time for phone calls or even emails. Perhaps that’s worth some self-examination, but for the most part, it’s true for me as of today.
The real truth is the article makes its point: we need to be aware (unlike Narcissus) of what is taking up our time and what is stealing our gaze. I’ll just be transparent and say that one time, after my girls were born, the hubs and I snuck out for a dinner date thanks to my folks being in town. I can remember being so ashamed that we were both looking at Facebook on our iPhones instead of getting in some much-needed face time with each other.
That’s the dilemma: Facebook vs. face time.
By the by, I am completely aware of the fact that I make a living as a blogger, yet I’m still writing this. I suppose I’m just aiming for more balance in my own personal life. Social networking is no match for real, living breathing relationships, but I do not believe it’s the dregs either. More balance is the key, that, and the cognizance of what’s taking up my time and attention.
And with that, I leave you. Closing up my laptop in 3… 2… 1… Sayonara.