May 17, 2014

Social Media: Good or Evil?

There's quite a stir going on about the ill effects that social media is having on productivity, and relationships. Heck, I've complained about it myself from time to time when I'm the one on the "left out" side of the screens or distracted by it. It's become clear to me however, that social media, like so many other things in life, doesn't create problems. It just reveals them to us. 

Does it offer more opportunity for distraction. Absolutely. Do people trade their "real" moments for time spent in a virtual world that can seem to be more real at times than it really is? You bet. I'm alarmed when I go into a restaurant and see families sitting together and notice children looking at their parents who are looking at screens instead of engaging with them. That makes my heart hurt. I wonder what it might mean for future generations if this is the behavior that's being modeled.

Instances like that make it easy to label social media the bad guy as though someone swooped down and stripped us of our power to choose. As far as I've heard, that's not happened. It's not the media that has power over us. It's that we are choosing not to have power over it. We are accountable. We have a choice. We are choosing. Just because we're not consciously choosing to ignore more important things in favor of fantasy and distraction doesn't mean we're not choosing by default. Not choosing to engage is a choice to ignore.

So yes. Social media can be the bad guy - if we are content to believe that we're sheep. If we're willing to say: "Facebook, you have all power," or "Twitter, you own me" then we can certainly fault social media for strained relationships and stealing our dreams. If not, we need to wake up and realign our priorities.

Good and evil come wrapped in the same present. When we open the box, we choose which toy to play with. WE DECIDE.

This post could go on for ions extolling the waste of precious moments due to time being devoted in the wrong places. Social media is but one of those places. Instead I want to end with something good that can and has happened.

I've come to know two incredible people with whom I am forming friendships. One is from Nebraska and the other from Washington. Without social media, our paths would never have crossed. We have no common friends. We don't work or worship together and we're in different states.

What I've come to learn is that there is in social media a chance to really connect. I'm finding that we're all made of the same stuff. We have our different interests and ideas and our backgrounds can be as varied as snowflakes but we are still undeniably connected.

If we learn to master social media instead of being mastered by it, it offers a wonderful opportunity to explore - to know and be known. That doesn't happen accidentally or automatically. It happens when people are genuinely being genuine and are looking for those opportunities. It happens by listening and asking and sharing. 

Social media can help develop our narcissism or our nobility. It doesn't choose. We do.


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