The other day (okay, last month) I read this piece on the fantabulous Arnebya’s blog (she of the Chipotle story, among others) and read what she had to say about all the various ways we have to “communicate” with each other. Think about it: we have endless iterations of social media “contact,” from tweeting and pinning to vine-ing; we can google+ (although I don’t know what that really is) and get linkedin; we can email and IM and DM and godknowswhatM. It’s stunning.
Letters, actual mail? Like with envelopes and stamps and stuff? That’s so twentieth century. I don’t write letters any more and no one writes to me, really (yes, I see the causal link there), but I remember how nice it was to open my post-office box at college and see letters. Do any of us get that same little bubbly feeling from an email inbox? Methinks not.
But I’m not going to wax nostalgic in this post. Reading Arnebya’s post made me think about why–despite annoying ads and strange video clips of cats and squirrels and the pesky and constant changes that facebook keeps imposing–I can’t quit facebook or twitter (I tried to quit last year. And it totally worked. For like an entire hour I was tweet-free).
Here’s the thing: my job demands a lot of computer time. I write, I answer student emails, I put together lecture notes. I’m old enough to remember doing these things without a computer — when I taught high school, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was still using a DITTO MACHINE. Brief pause here while those of you of a certain age remember the giddy inhaling of freshly dittoed worksheets.
Anyway. I spend a lot of time starting into the computer under the best of circumstances but since we’ve moved, my screen time has become something akin to an addiction. (And right there is why I don’t let my children read my blog. I spend too much time yapping at them about their own screen time to let them know about my own sickness.)
I have days where I look at the “likes” that other bloggers have on Facebook and wonder how they got so many thousands of people when I can’t even crack a second hundred; or why I too don’t have entire herds of twitter followers; or parsing the analytics on my blog like some kind of twenty-first century soothsayer, hoping that somehow overnight I’ve turned into The Bloggess. I wonder about “monetizing” and “branding” and syndication.
Yes. That would be a lesser-known use of social media: social media as self-flagellating device. How to make yourself feel bad in three easy clicks.
But then I realized the real reason I loves me some social media, and it goes even further back in time, earlier than the use of the ditto machine.
Yep, that’s right: “Romper, bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, have all my friends had fun at play?”
That mirror she’s gazing into? That’s social media for me, over here in this half of the world. I look through my little facebook mirror and wait to see what’s happening in the world. Sometimes it’s as if I’m seeing things like those time-lapse photographs from space of the sun moving across the surface of the earth: I see the East Coast talking about their morning routines while the West Coast talks about their after-dinner drinks; the news rumbles in from points in the Mideast while the US sleeps; my brother in LA is going to the gym before work while my sister in NJ picks up her daughter after school. And my magic tweeting mirror offers the paradox of feeling utterly involved in the immediacy of people’s lives, even though I’m nowhere nearby.
There you have it. Social media may not be doing much for me professionally but I am no more capable of putting down my magic mirror of facetwitter than I am of putting my hair in that magnificent, Marie Antoinette-esque beehive.
(Of course, if you’d like to like Mannahattamamma on facebook, I’d be delighted to have you. Romper, bomper, stomper boo…)