Social Media – Humanizing or Lack of Deep Accountability

With social media in blogs, twitter tweets and facebook sharing, we can be closer with one another than ever dreamt before.

Or are all these streams of emails, twitter feeds, blogging or facebook sharing just distracts us from real face-to-face relationships in our lives?  Sherry Turkle an academic and psychologist pleads her case in a 2012 TED talk, Connected, But Alone? that social media can create a barrier for some folks as means to avoid the messiness of human face to face communication.

Instead emails and social media, allows us to craft and edit our personae for the world.  We can mull over and edit our virtual response.  I urge you to watch her talk…it’s a compelling case  of overdose on social media if one neglects face to face communication and indeed, nurturing our deepest relationships with family and loved ones.  If nothing else, we have all experienced work meetings or classroom instruction, where some people are paying attention to their iPhone email but not the speaker for a full hour.

Social Media on Steroids Can Change Us

Children's expressions can reveal or mislead since they don't necessarily understand everything. Vancouver, BC 2014. Photo by J.Chong.
Children’s expressions can reveal or mislead since they don’t necessarily understand everything. Vancouver, BC 2014. Photo by J.Chong.

She cautions us relying on social media as your  primary personal human communication.  It can dullen your human capacity to develop patience and emotional intelligence in real conversations at the table, with people who may not always agree with you.

When confronted with a person sitting across the table (without any iPhone to distract  you), you learn how to respond to the person fully without editing or having the luxury of time to craft a measured response. After all, reaching an agreement can take awhile, sometimes years.

Revealing Internet Vulnerability- Helps Whom?
A few months ago, wordpress.com offered a post to blogosphere that asked bloggers what their scariest blog post that they published that made them feel vulnerable. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/scariest-post-ever-published/

Vulnerable as this live starfish? Saltspring Island, British Columbia 2014. Photo by J. Chong.
Vulnerable as this live-half dead starfish? Saltspring Island, British Columbia 2014. Photo by J. Chong.

Uplifting, Mockery or Harrassment
I have mixed feelings about the whole business of revealing all sorts of personal stuff to the anonymous Internet. It’s like throwing a bucket of mixed up paint and pain out to the wide dark universe over the cliff.   I adamantly support that writing is an empowering step towards  greater self-truth and understanding, by first articulating the messiness of emotion, observation and

Social media in our control -- to use responsibly or with less desired consequences. Ice sculpture. Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong
Social media in our control — to use responsibly or with less desired consequences. Ice sculpture. Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

events.  However the truth that I value so strong and true, could be someone else’s needle  and mockery. So on the Internet and in social media, you must be prepared for that.

My harmless blog post on how a cycling lifestyle is a feminist expression for women cyclists, garnered several hundred views and virtual shares.

Negative responses were from  some guy readers who seemed to make snarky remarks in English or foreign language. The latter I inferred this from their exclamation remarks. Their gravater or blog, were strange dark  clouds of negative vibes.

Unpleasant cyber-bullying, harassment and mass crowd-shaming, spiral  in a murky tsunami, because the virtual herd who’s taunting away, has no relationship accountability to their target victim.  Absolutely none.  Sometimes resulting in tragic consequences.

Can all this social media communication be humanizing?  Sure it can be.  A tweet has caught a criminal on camera (which helped the victim for a hit-run car driver),  the photo smile of faraway favourite grandchild or a bouquet of gratitude for a backstage player in a production.

Happy Flights of Blogger-Bumblebees
I’m happy with light, pleasant interactions with other fellow bloggers and readers. Those who visit and comment here often on Cycle Write Blog, are genuine folks.   They flit in and out of my blog, my life –like bumblebees in a garden.

Bee visiting a flower 2015. Photo by J. Becker
Bee visiting a flower 2015. Photo by J. Becker

I too, buzz over and hover briefly in their blog-garden.   But how is that deeply meaningful vs. my partner, closest face-to-face friends and family?   It’s one-sided and I’m in control.  I’ve chosen to write on those blog topics and show photos, not what my family nor closest friends chose  (not that I’ve shown any inappropriate stuff). That’s the rub.

So the choice of topics, I’ve cherry-picked to blog-write, gives a small glimpse of me without too much personal messiness.  I’m afraid I have to write a whole book for you to understand my life story. At this time, it’s good enough for me that my family and closest friends know the fuller story.

No doubt, some people who live in isolated areas, are very shy or have very difficult or constrained personal situations, draw some positive human sustenance from blog visitors.  I appreciate that.  But they too, yearn for in-person humanity of a real, trusted friend or two, by their side to listen them, cry, laugh and grow with them.

Red moon at night over Vancouver, BC 2015. Photo by J. Chong.
Red moon at night over Vancouver, BC 2015. Photo by J. Chong. Can dimly see faint shadow of Mount Baker south in Washington state.

Some Reading- Both Limitations and Benefits of Social Media
Mollman, Steve.  A Photographer Edits Out Our Smartphones to Show Our Strange and Lonely New World. In The Quartz. Oct. 14, 2015.

Todd, Douglas. When Public Shaming Turns Dangerous. In Vancouver Sun, Aug. 3, 2015.

This deaf writer and blogger mentions the importance of online written participation via Facebook, Internet forums with other writers since attending regular writers’ conferences for hearing attendees posed some barriers for her to participate in discussion, etc.

Social media can be used effectively to mobilize many people for positive, non-violent protest as shown in the protest movement for Black Lives Matter, after Traynor Martin, an American black young man was shot to death.

Advertisements

37 Comments Add yours

  1. Pit says:

    I really like that ice-sculpture. 🙂
    Have a great day,
    Pit

    Like

  2. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean this is definitely a timely and thought provoking post. I agree that one must be cautious in not being too heavily invested in social media so as to dull the interactions with people in our lives. On the other hand I know that these virtual interactions have resulted in me meeting,in person, people from around the world and that continues. Like most things I think finding one’s one comfort level is important and it won’t be the same for everyone.
    An excellent and well written post. Best wishes!

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Even comfort level varies with people face to face. But I’m only talking about comfort level with people who we know face-to-face and value their opinion/trust.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am with you about the pros and cons of social media. The one and only reason for my participation in online communities is to work as a writer. It helps me learn how to write in a way that reaches more people, to find potential future readers, and to share and support writing lives of others. It’s something that I have to remind myself of, frequently. Not here to click on videos, or to get caught up in political or social gossip. Social media, used lightly, is usefully humbling. There are so many of us! Saying the same things! Nice post. Here’s to no more trolls making dumb comments on “Write, Cycle, Blog.” Cheers —

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Social media, used lightly, is usefully humbling

      Absolutely. If we took the social media/twitter papparazi too seriously, we might end up with a skewed/limited sense of our own self-perception. Identity is driven how we define self in relation to other people, our different roles in life and how we interact with different social groups in life. I use social groups in the sense of how a sociologist would use it. Not a party group. 🙂 I didn’t know that you wrote ..short stories, novel off-line?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Working on a novel. For forever it seems.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          My niece is a romance writer. Her stuff is here. She was an engineer.

          Her specialty for certain novels is interracial love..she herself is biracial. From what I can deduce in the romance novel world in English language there’s not enough non-white protagonists.

          Like

  4. livelytwist says:

    I think technology amplifies the attitudes we already possess and makes it easier to express them…
    We need to apply common sense to interactions online just as we do with strangers we meet on the train.

    “However the truth that I value so strong and true, could be someone else’s needle and mockery. So on the Internet and in social media, you must be prepared for that.”

    How true. Vulnerability on any platform is risky.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      It doesn’t take much with words, the power of words on the ‘Net to “amplify” (sound like a bullhorn) our attitudes. Or at least, interpreted rightly or wrongly by a reader or spectator (a videoclip snippet, photo). I didn’t want to be entirely negative which is why I included positive stuff in the endnote. I’m glad to have “met” you via your blog, livelytwist. That’s good enough for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The internet, especially social media created masses of bullies. It is just terrible how people, under the cover of their anonymity, behave towards others!
    I had hard time to work with these things when I was a social media content manager at one of my former work places. Many people in the internet are just unpredictable

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Very interesting and apt, CCF. What type of action did you have take to deal with trolls and bullying for your organization? Warn perpetutrators offline, remove/block them (somehow?) or remove their comment..maybe there was an escalation process, if perpetutrator kept being an online troll/bully.

      On the flip side, what were the positive things that benefitted participants in social media for your employer/their business?
      I realize some corporate blogs/websites now require participant registration via Facebook, Disqus for some form of additional “tracking” or? The downside is that there are people who would like to make a helpful/complimentary comment on a site they rarely visit but find useful on need but they don’t want to go through social media user online registration.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was always easy to deal with these trolls. Many comments were just deleted however if there was something to work with we tried to talk to them. This usually happened when they made some good criticism but just used bad tone/ were angry.
        The benefits for my company back then was to reach more customers (it really did work) and promoting new bands (it was an online music platform). It all went through Facebook, Twitter and blogger who we reached out to in order to promote us. Thankfully there were not to many trolls around when it came to the music platforms but at least once a week we had our work with them

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Your life was abit different in that role! That type of work though, one could only last for so long before feeling abit bored/burnt out.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, this kind of work is not suitable for everyone and truth to be told I wouldn’t know how many years I would have lasted. Towards the end I didn’t really care any longer for most comments and went straight to delete them rather to carefully analyze them

            Like

  6. Kally says:

    This is very interesting read and I just want to drop you a note to tell you I enjoyed it very much! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Do you have a specific opinion on social media, Kally? Your comment is too general and originally ended up in my spam folder. So I’m giving you a 2nd chance to be more meaningful. Just letting you know, this is what happens to recipients like myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kally says:

        My actual opinion is in a post in my website. But well, thanks for rescuing me from your spam folder. My angle to social media is that usage should be moderated and definitely could be a potential career wrecker. I have seen too many jobs lost due to carelessness and overposting in social media.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Really, you personally know people who lost jobs due to oversharing on social media?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Kally says:

            Yes, I do. Either its the people I have worked with, my friends personally or people who are under me. People doesn’t know how to draw the line when comes to social media and the sudden urge to ‘friend’ everyone they met including the CEO and the toilet cleaning lady.

            Like

            1. Jean says:

              Wow. I probably belong to different social circles where my friends don’t use or limit their FB and twitter use. Meaning they don’t post through those tools.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Kally says:

              In Asia, we generally stick to our mobiles very closely and take selfie whatever opportunities arises.

              Like

            3. Jean says:

              Taking selfies all the time, would drive me nuts. Asians do have a tendency to do a ton of formal group photos, etc. more often than North Americans. It’s highly noticeable to someone like myself, born and raised in Canada.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Kally says:

              Well, the Asian did invent the selfie stick.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Mabel Kwong says:

    This is such an interesting and insightful post, Jean. I think a lot of us, in particular the younger generation spend more time on social media than we think. Perhaps some of us who share a lot of themselves on social media are after attention, or perhaps they are simply bored. There are certain things that I will not share on my blog or anywhere else on social media, simply because the whole world does not need to know and there is also the issue of personal safety.

    There are days where I spend a lot of time offline – weekends. Feels so nice to be unplugged and take in my surroundings, and on these occasions I usually go online for a quick while in the morning and about a couple of hours at night.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      While it’s true I’m in front of computer a lot after supper at home, my online life is pretty tame compared to many since I don’t even have an iPhone. I don’t need to amuse myself while on the train, bus or waiting around for someone. But many people do. When we travel, I like to check my email and this blog 🙂 for about an hr. once per day. That’s all. Cycling and also doing art, keeps my imagination and attention somewhere else. My partner and I are mystified by other cyclists who have this urgent need to read their email ..while cycling? We figure that one wouldn’t be able to even hear the phone above the noise of traffic, etc.

      Like

      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        That is hilarious to hear cyclists feeling the need to check their email while pedaling. Like you, I don’t like to entertain myself with my phone while outside. People watching is something that fascinates me and so I rather do that than check my phone – unless someone is texting me on my phone telling me that they are running late to meet me…

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          The over-fascination with iPhones can cause missing out on stuff literally pass by you. My niece and nephews were very absorbed on their iPhones when we were driving through a scenic mountain region here in Alberta. Where they live..several thousand kms away, there aren’t any mountains in their area of Canada. Honest, the occasional cyclists trying to read their iPhone while cycling, are showing off abit….that’s what it appears to me.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. diahannreyes says:

    I have mixed feelings about social media- if I could I would stay offline all day long. I know there are benefits and I’ve been trying to get more involved by framing how I choose to engage. I have definitely been wary about putting myself out there more because of the negativity one can encounter the wider the audience- my decision to get past that for myself, since writing is my livelihood- has been to ignore comments when my work appears outside of my blog. I’m fortunate on my blog that for the most part the haters have stayed away. I have no problem publishing comments that disagree with what I’ve written or from people with different view points but I draw the line at feedback that harasses me or my community.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      If I have little choice, such as travelling, then being online for half an hr. at least to check email and this blog each day, is good enough for me. I don’t use Facebook nor Twitter so already I don’t have other tools that I might feel compelled to feed into. Maybe there will always be spirited but well-intentioned social chats in your world online. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lani says:

    Social media is a reflection of humanity and we’ve been able to advance technologically on such a great scale. However, we have not advanced socially, as quickly or as fast as our technology. Some of this, I’m sure is from being unable to predict what problems social media will cause as I don’t think the founders or creaters of Twitter or Facebook had any malecious intent.

    Regardless, it will be fascinating to see how social media effects younger generations raised on the internet and smart phones. Only time will tell, as they say. Although I must say as a teacher I find it disheartening to see so many students constantly checking their phones in the classroom. Clearly it’s an addiction.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      As someone else said earlier (livelytwist), social media tends to amplify attitudes, the best and worst of humanity. Like what you said that the creators of FB and Twitter probably felt they were doing a service to society.

      I guess you’ve given up trying to ask your students to put their phones away? Or are there certain lessons where they cannot peek at their phones ? ie. tests?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        For tests we ask them to put their phones and bags at the front or the back of the classroom. And of course, I’ve wrestled with my Ss re: their phones. I’ve even taken them from their hands and have had a collection on my desk. It’s a never-ending battle and sometimes you have to pick your battles.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          What a test witch… 😀 The children will be thanking you 20 yrs. later.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Social media, as any gift, begs responsibility. Enjoyed the writing, J.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      It’s easier to think of responsibility if we think about our loved ones first. Then, lots of other things in life fall into place more easily.

      Like

  11. Alex Hurst says:

    I wasn’t able to get the TED video to work, but I saw a different one recently about cyber bullying, and the sudden, harsh reality of social media lynchings (not a word I use lightly, but in some cases, this sort of bullying leads to death).

    I used to live in a very closed off environment. The internet was my only source of outside perspective, where I could build and understand the levels of my suffering/happiness/growth in comparison with two points, which are essential to pull the wool away. But you are right, the ability to edit, change, even omit what makes us uncomfortable about ourselves, or that which we perceive will not be taken well, is a huge minus to the internet side of relationships.

    I personally find myself going through phases. I imagine once I’m in Canada and around people who speak English and have Western-style conversations again, my reliance on friendships online will diminish.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Maybe you can search for the TED video on youtube site to get a link that works for you. I agree that cyberbullying can lead to suicide. There have been 1-2 well-publicized recent deaths in Canada of young people.

      Certainly where you have been, reliance on Internet with groups that speak /read same language and have similar cultural backgrounds, is helpful. I’m reading a book by a Korean American who just spent several years teaching ESL in North Korea. It’s awful and reminds me of what China was like during the height of Mao’s dictatorship –censorship, punishment for anything suggesting being anti-govn’t/proletarian. She does write of being monitored via email, North Korean students on the intranet, not the open Internet. Of course the problem with the Internet, is trying to sift through the untruths vs. facts for people who don’t even understand which information source that is reliable as a starting point.

      Agree that in Canada, you might plunge into easier conversations. (Vancouver was lovely last few days. I was there. In between some heavy drizzle.)

      Like

Chime in with your thoughts here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s