Monday, May 29, 2017

A Little Social Emotion News, Perhaps?

        It just, so happens that this coming week marks an anniversary of sorts, and this one is kind of a big deal for me, so I'm going to share something special and hope that it matters to someone else, too.  I mean the thing I share here, mattering, not the anniversary.  Well, you're welcome to appreciate the anniversary, too.  One does not ride around the sun, on the earth, a significant number of times without learning some of them feel more significant than others, after all.  But that isn't the point of this post, so take it as you like.

        Recently in a personal, social media post, I said:

I go down my Feed a few minutes, and I'm seeing a lot of emotion. Joy; bitterness; love; emptiness; hope; despair; fascination; boredom...
Do you realize what we're sharing with each other? What we're offering one another? Do we care? Does it matter?
Just a thought...

        And I was thinking about all the reasons we do share things of emotional significance on social media.  Why is it that we have gone from using in-person conversations; to phone calls, letters and emails; to semi-public announcements; to share those big, little, and often, relatively-insignificant moments of our lives with our loved ones?

        Perhaps one reason is the very nature of the term we use to link all these websites together: social media.  Media. When we think of "the media", most of us think of newspapers and TV News.  We might think of books, magazines, and/or whatever else.  And why is that?  What do these terms actually mean?

        According to

1. relating to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
3. of, relating to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
5. of or relating to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank.
6. involved in many social activities: We're so busy working, we have to be a little less social now.
7. of or relating to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community: social problems.
(usually used with a plural verb) the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, that reach or influence people widely: The media are covering the speech tonight.

        I couldn't leave any of those definitions out, because they all apply.  To link these two groups of ideas into one is incredibly powerful, in my eyes.  We humans who are communal creatures are now seeking our connection with each other through media, which at this point we've learned is how we get to know people, right?  By now, most of us grew up with newspapers, televisions, movie theaters, and/or other means of receiving media influence.  We watch rich and famous people portray fictional characters for money, and then follow their lives through whichever media outlet shares the best details.  We watch things happening at a distance, across the world via the news, in just as distant and surreal way.

        These days, this kind of thing can happen as fast as one can run an internet search!  We can each literally have the world's shared information in the palm of our hand, and that includes the news we can get from friends and family who share it across social media.  We can make friends and influence people; sometimes make or break careers; share common issues with people all over the world.  Connection can be instant, for what it's worth.  What it's worth, I suppose, is whatever we think it is.

        Which brings me back to my original thoughts.

        First of all, think about what kinds of posts you share.  What is it you're trying to do by sharing?  Are you trying to educate?  Spread awareness?  Rally others to your cause (even just emotionally over something relatively simple)?  Share something that excites you in some way?  Reach out and see if anyone even cares?

        But what happens if the response to your "shout out" is negative?  What if you are mocked or fought, or in some way it causes issues you can't take back, or causes people to stop being connected to you, there?  Even worse, in some ways: what if there is no response, at all?  What if you have a long line of posts to which not one person has responded with so much as a mouse click saying they noticed and cared enough to basically do the digital equivalent of wave as they went by?

        It's hard to get to adulthood without having felt that feeling, even if it wasn't via social media.  It can feel like rejection, but it can also simply be loneliness.  "Does anyone even care that I'm here?"  What a painful thing to experience!  And what's more, with social media being run by algorithms and financial motivations, sometimes the connections made by sharing this or that post by an individual at any, given time is more about the media's goals than it is about the connections we share.  I often don't see the posts from people I actually care to follow, and then see the same post from the same person three times in two days!  I have people who are always true to my posts, at least dropping one of those "waves" as they go by, but otherwise, who knows who sees what I post?

        So what does that mean when I share something that is deeply, emotionally meaningful, and nobody cares to demonstrate they've noticed?  Just as an example as a Page owner on Facebook, I'm shown how many people view each post, and for instance on Facebook, there are approximately 4500 people who have Liked the Page (don't even get me started on that numbers issue), and yet last week's blog post, which I've had pinned to the top of the Page so those who visit will see it first thing, has only been shown to 96 people.  I could screenshot that for you but I won't get this finished if I do all of that.  Just know, that the odds of anyone seeing what you do, be it personal or as a Page, is fairly low, and we never know to whom it will be shown, because we don't know the overlying statistics the algorithms are serving.

Okay, now, before you start making judgments based on what I've said...
What I've said is not really my point, yet.

I go down my Feed a few minutes, and I'm seeing a lot of emotion. Joy; bitterness; love; emptiness; hope; despair; fascination; boredom...
Do you realize what we're sharing with each other? What we're offering one another? Do we care? Does it matter?

        That is really where this started, and where I meant to be.  Having said all I did, what does this quoted stuff mean to you?  How would you answer it?  If you were sitting next to me, and I was expressing whatever it is I've posted, and it was clearly emotional, how would you respond?  And if I'm posting it on social media, are you able to connect with the underlying motive and emotional state through which I posted it, at all?  It isn't really easy to read emotion in text, and even the best of us botch up the job, now and again; and trying to read minds is nearly always impossible to most of us, so underlying intent may not be clear!

        My real point, is that when we post on social media, there is pretty much a given:

I'm reaching out because I need connection,
and this is the way I know best to get it.
Are you there?  Do you care?
Does it matter that I am here, and need you to know I am?
Please, I just need to know I'm not alone.

        Hmm.... when we look honestly at it that way, it might change the way we think and respond.  It might make what we say and do in response more meaningful to us, in the social aspect.

I'm here, and you matter to me.
I care enough to let you know that.
It's okay if I don't understand,
and it's okay if I don't agree.
You matter more than whatever it is you're sharing.
But I care about that, at least on some level, because I care about you.

        I've personally been deeply grateful for the support of people who barely have any interest in what I share, but show that support because even though they aren't connected to the topic, they want to be connected to me.  And that's a pretty big deal to us social creatures.  If we must be connected primarily by social media, at least make that connection count!

        Better days ahead, my friends!

©The Phoenix and The Butterfly
©The Phoenix and The Butterfly

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