In Defence of Social Media

I’ve been on Facebook for over ten years, and I am active on Twitter, Instagram, Library Thing, and GoodReads. I’ve dabbled with YouTube, checked out Tumblr, and even this blog is a form of social media. Time being limited, I have not explored other and newer options for being social online, and I am by no stretch an influencer, but I’m a regular user of some social media.

Now and then, friends, acquaintances, or some celebrity announce their departure from social media, citing concerns with the companies, loss of privacy, advertising, and disturbing material. Facebook is currently in the news for the prevalence of hate speech on the platform, and facing an ad boycott. The concerns about social media are valid, but social media is not without benefits, especially for more introverted persons such as myself.

My parents were immigrants, and our family moved several times. My second dad has roots in one province, but had already moved cross-country when he joined the family, and the family continued moving. Once on my own, I kept moving, for various reasons. I don’t have a home town, I’m not sure where I grew up (assuming I have), and the nine years I have now lived in Halifax (including Dartmouth) is the longest I have lived anywhere. Social media has allowed me to find and stay in touch with friends from previous cities, and helped me meet people in new cities.

Social media also helps me avoid the phone. I rarely feel comfortable phoning someone to ask how they are doing and find out what’s new. Social media lets me learn how they are doing without bothering them. This has been particularly appreciated during the pandemic.

And yes, the likes and other responses to things I post feel good. Maybe that indicates low self-esteem, but maybe that’s because I’m a writer, and I like to know that people are reading what I write. If your sense of purpose is to entertain and instruct with stories, being read confirms you are on track. It’s not just writers that seek validation – so do DJs, when they ask people to phone in, and actors and comics love getting responses from an audience. Positive responses are better than negative ones, but “any stroke is better than no stroke at all.”

Long before social media, I wrote a few stories for fanzines. (I’ve noticed my romance novel drafts play with the same themes I worked with decades ago.) I also contributed to an Amateur Press Association (APA). APAs are basically blogging in paper form, and date back to the 1840s. My “blog” back then (35 years ago, not the 1840s) was called “By Candlelight,” though I cannot remember why. Speaking of ancient history, in the 1980s I started communicating online using bulletin board systems, and joined CompuServe, which was essentially the same as Facebook. Over decades of moves and life events, sharing and communicating online has been important to me.

Social media interaction does not need to be profound. Some nights when I’ve been too stressed to sleep, I play word games with strangers for hours. That simple anonymous human connection can be intensely valuable.

Facebook may go the way of CompuServe, but if it does, I’m sure something else will take its place. People are social creatures, even if they are introverted, and social media, especially for the introverted, is a way to be social. Yes, large companies with questionable ethics profit from that, but small businesses and independent artists find audiences and make sales too, and yes, there is disturbing material shared, but there is positive and uplifting material shared too.

My self-esteem is strong enough that I probably won’t check the stats for this page, or worry about likes, but if you think I’ve said some interesting, or you agree, I’ll appreciate any likes or comments. Just don’t ask to phone me so we can chat about it.

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.

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