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Be in charge of social media

As I write my final edition of this column, there are a couple of points that I’d be remiss if I didn’t make. For those of you who stuck through with this column until the end, I give you my undying appreciation and thanks.

While I may spend much of my day hopping back and forth between Facebook, Twitter, news outlets, Mashable and a couple of blogs, I want to make it clear that it is a dangerous slope to be that “wired in” to social media.

I use the word dangerous because being that connected and addicted to social media may make you (and me) feel a sort of interconnectedness to the rest of the human internet population, but in reality it’s foolish and unwise to let those online services take over our lives and replace our in-person relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written several articles about how awesome social media can be in breaking down physical barriers and connecting us with people we wouldn’t connect with otherwise. Different companies or brands have tweeted at me and made me feel like a valued customer. Rich Sommer (former Cobber and current Mad Men star) tweeted me a couple months ago, and it was one of the highlights of my year!

But where social media stops becoming social and turns into a life-sucking, time-sucking, villain (much like Spiderman’s look-alike/bad guy Venom) is when we let our real life, in-person relationships suffer because of it. It’s when we ignore our friends at dinner because a Tweet comes up. It’s when we choose not to make eye contact with anyone walking in the hall and check Facebook instead. It’s definitely when we are Facebook messaging someone and then we see them on campus later and don’t say hello.

It’s detrimental to human relationships and connections when we forget that social media is meant to complement our interactions with one another, not replace them. If we all replace our in-person interactions with social media and texting, what does that say about who we are and what we care about?

I know that I’ve been there before. I’ve made some pretty stupid decisions where I intentionally have a conversation through texting or Facebook chat instead of in person because it’s easier. I bet you have too.

But just because something is easier does that mean we should do it? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to engage with one another? More than just online?

A lot of bad habits are formed when we use social media as a crutch and those bad habits are only strengthened when you intentionally choose the easier path. Sure, today it might be something minor like sending Grandma Florence a text to say happy birthday instead of that phone call that she’d like, but tomorrow you might turn into a cotton-headed ninny muggins like me and decide to break up with someone in a text. Don’t be that Cobber, Concordia.

As always, tweet your thoughts @jtleeman.

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