Does anyone really miss us when we don’t show up on twitter or facebook for a few days, a month or more?
I have been cutting down on my online presence in social media lately. And I don’t think I’m being missed much. I’m fading from the virtual social memory.
Who would miss you online? And how much do (or should) you care?
Who will truly miss you?
I’ve noticed that the only people who miss me are the ones I know in real life, my friends, mostly childhood friends who live far away. They check in every now and then. But honestly they can ask me straight by phone or email instead of facebook.
The rest of the people in my online circles are busy with their lives and that’s perfectly fine. I haven’t been paying much attention either.
The thing that I question is: how important is our online presence, and how far are we willing to go to maintain it? Or is it okay for part of our digital self to fade away?
Relationships vs. virtual connections
Relationships, like our existence, have a lifespan. How long they last depends on the nature and depth of the connection.
In real life the most lasting relationships are the ones that grow organically.
If we look back, the relationships that we formed when we were kids came from relatives, schoolmates and neighbors. Our relationships revolved around our community.
The same applies to adulthood as well. We develop relationships at college/university or at work. On occasion we might meet someone through a mutual friend or family member or at a gathering.
Our relationships continue to evolve as we move and grow. We gain more friends, and we forget about some and they forget about us—over the years.
Then came the internet.
With the internet, we started a new type of connections, the virtual kind. Sometimes my ego gets confused and perceives online interactions as deep as actual personal friendships.
We might develop a strong bond with someone online, but unless we’re willing to take it to a new level of meeting in person face to face and physically being part of each other’s life, we will forget about them and they’ll forget about us.
I met a group of wonderful people online. But we subsequently met in person and developed a strong friendship. I don’t think we would’ve maintained a meaningful relationship just being online.
Faster technology = shallower connections
The advancement in connectivity has been staggering. The emergence of social media created an illusion of a better human connection. How can we maintain a better connection when the trends keep changing faster and faster?
My Space used to be the thing and now facebook and twitter are all the rage. Then came Google +, Instagram and Pinterest. What’s next? Who knows!
And we try each one, build a social circle, then jump to the next new thing. How much depth and meaning do we have in such interactions? Not much.
Social media is not that social
Social media can be useful for some purposes but it is not a viable option for friendships and genuine connections—unless the relationship is moved to the real world.
I don’t really hundreds of fiends on twitter. I won’t have that many real friends over a life time, let alone a few years. With the exception of a few friends, these are followers who happen to read some of what I share but they will move on to the next thing when the time comes.
The true purpose of social media
In the beginning twitter and facebook used to be about people connecting with people, just like them. But as they grew and became popular the purpose shifted. Right now the way I see the role of social media is one or more of the following:
- A marketing mechanism—businesses promote their brands and engage their customers to develop products and services. This includes sharing one’s own writing and ideas.
- An entertainers’/celebrities’ platform—they (or their representatives) can interact with their fans and promote their work or causes.
- A source of entertainment—people share stuff they saw, read or heard, similar to digg, delicious and stumble upon.
- A way to pursue an interest—you might be able to find something that you want to learn or interact with people who share the same interest, similar to forums and groups.
- An accidental/fringe purpose— a group can rally countrymen and women to start a revolution or support a cause.
All of the above are perfectly fine. As long as we’re aware of the nature of the medium and its use, we won’t have unrealistic expectations of long lasting virtual friendships.
This leads me to conclude that I don’t need to be on social media much, other than to share my writing and answer relevant questions. So it’s more than okay to fade away and step out of the ever changing social media.
If you have similar feelings and experiences, I hope you give your precious time and energy to what matters to you. Use social media for your specific purpose and fade away when it comes to all the hype and noise.
We’re all much better off focusing on our real relationships.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Wolfe