Other than several ongoing Words with Friends games, I’m not an online game type person. And, other than an Instagram account that I infrequently post on, I use no other forms of social media except this blog and a LinkedIn account that has long grown stagnant, I rarely log onto and am about ready to delete for the reasons below.
I find the more I’m on social media, the more I dislike it. Someone very much knew what he or she was doing long ago when they created these platforms and also knew that people’s innate and natural desires for various forms of information would be wildly financially beneficial. Not only that, they realized that people love knowing about each other’s personal lives. This was the hook. Whether its checking in on some well-known Hollywood celebrity and what they’re wearing that particular day, glancing at a new workout routine, or googling that interesting girl or guy living nearby, these people knew they had something.
When I started writing this blog piece, it was going to be about the online word game called “Wordle”. For those of us who like the written word and all it encompasses (often called wordsmiths), Wordle is a fun, short and addicting game. You can only play it once a day, and then you have to wait until the next day to play it again. But, more on that later…
Social media is what our lives have become all about. We divulge our personal lives on Facebook and Instagram (and, sometimes our secrets), our work history and professional backgrounds to LinkedIn and we scream at each other on that fetid cesspool called Twitter. We have allowed the world to see who and what we are as we reveal the minutia of our lives on websites and private messaging services with people whom we most often know absolutely nothing about. Thirty years ago, would we have picked up our phones, called some random number and told the unknown person answering on the other end that we’re having homemade chicken parm for dinner or that we’re getting ready to vacation at the Jersey shore? Sounds funny, but that’s exactly what we’re doing when we post online. We haven’t the slightest idea who may be reading our posts and the dangers it poses, not only to us, but also to our young people. These are horror stories we read about almost every day.
While there is some inane fun looking at other folk’s comical photos, videos and musings, exercise videos or reading the sad stories of those who have lost a loved one or pet, a few minutes on social media can turn into hours and it can suck our lives away from us moment by moment. Do people really need to know where we’ve vacationed, or visited, where we went for a walk or a hike or the photos we took, what we had for dinner or how and where we bathed in some romantic backwoods cabin? In the world of social media, it’s the absolute norm. See a post, click “like” and scroll on…in seconds. And, oftentimes, this online view into others lives seems very voyeuristic, but it’s been fomenting and cultivated since the beginnings of the Internet well over 35 years ago.
I recently googled myself (yeah, we’ve all done it…interesting to say the least, isn’t it?) and found more online information about myself that I’d actually forgotten or hadn’t thought of in years. It was quite sobering and at first shocking to see my life’s history written plastered on some random Internet website that I’d never heard of or even visited before. When I saw my formal work resume, posted online for everyone to see, it floored me. Here was information that only very few people have or should have access to being broadcast worldwide. Almost all my worldly personal information was right there to be seen and had. All my former addresses listed neatly in chronological order (along with former neighbors names) including prior phone numbers long since abandoned. And, if you cough up a few bucks, you’re promised access to much more “intimate” personal information. I’ve seen these sites before, but the one I happened onto the other day had personal and professional information contained in it about me that I had no idea was public information. I really struggle trying to understand how they get it. There is nothing I have to hide about my life, but it’s just very weird (to say the least) seeing your life’s personal and professional history plastered all over some random website.
With regards to social media, I also struggle with the desire to “keep in touch” with people in the online world and often ask myself, “is this a person with whom I’d share a meal or a drink with or am I just satisfied being online friends?” In the end, does it really matter? Most would never attend your funeral and would think about your passing away as just that…a passing thought. That said, I’ve recently hit the “unfollow” button quite a few times and to be honest, it feels very freeing. And, I plan to continue.
Please don’t get me wrong, social media has its place. People with upstart or even thriving businesses can find a whole new arena of prospective clients on the ‘net and I certainly wish them all the best. Their personal income and business models can be based solely on social media and I’ve seen some incredible people, websites, services and products that are pretty awesome. Done correctly, it can be a goldmine and social media can be an interesting place, but it can also be a bit sinister.
I was recently reminded that less is more, and any websites I’ve found that has my personal information contained on them, I’ve contacted to have it removed. The less I say, talk about (maybe other than here), have an opinion about or post on social media, the better I’ve found I like it. The older I get, the more I’ve realized that I value and appreciate my privacy. No one needs to know that I just went to the gym, picked up my dry cleaning or the way I arrange my underwear and socks drawer.
Anyway, back to Wordle…it’s a cool game, give it a try! And, you don’t have to divulge any personal information to play it.