I love a good chicken/egg scenario. To me, these are the questions that computers can’t answer- yet- so it’s score one for humankind. We get to debate these seemingly unanswerable questions.
When I wrote yesterday about how social media has taken over our lives, my perception was that the internet broke us. But after conversing with the blog community, I began to wonder, did they create this mess, or were the internet powers trying to fix something that was broken?
My friends like to wax poetic about the old days: jumping on your bike at 8 in the morning and not coming home till the streetlights came on. You had the kids in the neighborhood and there was always a pick up game somewhere, and the tinkle of the Good Humor truck was ping sound that you listened for. Your Mom didn’t set up playdates- you hung out on the block. There was an inherent community. People sat on the front porch, and your neighbor would tell on you if you did something wrong.
But we all know, Norman Rockwell is no longer grazing the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. We barely have magazines anymore. Kids barely listen to their own parents, much less care what the woman down the street thinks…
When I was very little, we used to have family dinners at my Grandmothers on Sundays. There was no such thing as being too busy- we sat there and had baked ziti, or manicotti or some other red sauce doused product. My Mother wanted to try this ritual a few years ago…..it’s not that I don’t like the idea of family getting together, but realistically, it just didn’t fit our lifestyle. And if she wasn’t making my sister come in form Seattle, there was no way I was going…
And I know some people still do the weekly family thing, but realistically….
So somewhere along the line, long before Al Gore invented the internet, we had already begun to lose our sense of community. Divorce mitosis begat blended family meiosis. How often can you reasonably see step family, half sibling, third cousins thrice removed…. Logically, we can change a lot of things, but there’s still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week (though I’m sure Apple or Google are trying to change that….) Schedules just don’t mesh. Ever try to plan an evening out with eight friends? It’s D-Day style planning…
So as the saying goes, weddings and funerals become the times when groups gather.
Were we meant to be like this?
Were we meant to be single cells bouncing around aimlessly?
Or are humans supposed to be in packs?
Hmmmmm. We no longer have the neighborhood and an automatic social circle. Family is an evolving concept. What is a human supposed to do?
Enter the internet. Enter social media. Enter myspace. Enter Facebook.
If you think about it, the internet and social media have filled a void that humankind had created. Humans need social interaction and community. Somewhere along the line we threw that away, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need it….we were lost but then we were found in 144 characters. Virtual communities were formed. We found friends and acceptance and a sense of belonging. We created our own online neighborhoods and families. We found what we were missing.
We like to blame social media for a variety of woes, but in its purest form, social media can have much value. How many people have met their partners via apps or algorithms? How many bonds were strengthened because of emails and Instagram? How many were saved by this virtual world?
But then we got greedy. And greed is not good…. Greed destroys everything. We abused the good fortune that was the world wide web….we took what was perhaps a modern day cure for loneliness and lack of family community, and turned it into an ugly, dark place.
As humans, we try to find solutions to fix our problems. Enter social media. But now we are overexposed. Can we retreat, or is it too late?