Date archive: December 2016
Have we recently become a two-faced society or have we always been that way?
Is this my real face?
Or is this?
Years of online interaction has yielded discoveries about my world and shattered my illusions about what I used to think about myself, other people, and the accepted norms of what it means to be a member of society.
From the dawn of civilization until only a few years ago, we could (would?) only divulge those parts of ourselves we deemed worthy of sharing, mostly through our “in person” associations and to some extent our written correspondence. Fortunately for us, fading memories serve us well when we have unwittingly shared the worst. For the most part though, we were more guarded with our innermost thoughts and feelings, cared very much about how others viewed us, and took great measures to protect our reputations and relationships.
Not so much these days.
For better or worse, by willingly participating in social media, we have unintentionally revealed ourselves in unflattering ways and have shaped and changed the definition of “community” for future generations. These days, it’s far too easy to hide behind a computer. Like alcohol, our magic box gives us a sense of liberation from our inhibitions and unfortunately, many people use their devices unwisely, wielding keyboards like swords. With our screens shielding us from the outside world, we feel much freer to bully, create a pretend life, justify our actions and condemn others, brag incessantly, etc. But I call this, “hiding in plain sight.” Everything we post reveals a little something about our nature regardless of the content of what we post, but astute observers will see the “you” that you don’t even know you’re projecting.
For many of us, our online persona doesn’t align with the impression we present in person. You know what I’m talking about: The mousy girl who smiles politely and practically hides in a public setting, but then incessantly rants negatively on her Facebook page and calls shame on the “terrible” people she observes (and assumes she knows their intentions), or the crusty curmudgeon of a guy (get off my lawn!) with whom you’d go out of your way to avoid if you see, but who only posts pictures and links about saving puppies and kittens on his Facebook page because he’s really a big softy.
As it turns out, I don’t really know the people I’ve known in real life. Their pages, comments and messages show a side I was previously unaware of. Some online relationships have uncovered a kinder, more thoughtful person than I ever imagined existed and I’ve developed a stronger bond with them than I thought possible. And I’ve sadly had to let go of others due to their negativity and/or hostility in their online life. It’s rather crushing to find out that a schoolmate with whom we have shared many a playground laugh now has diametrically opposed values to our own.
Both sides of the revelation spectrum begs this question though: “Is it me or is it them?”
- Is it me who has been too self-absorbed in my own life that I’ve failed to elucidate their true nature or have they always been this way?
- Is it me who has dug in my heels in opposition to their values or have they resolutely refused to acknowledge my point of view?
- Have they, through their life experiences, evolved into the person I’m seeing now or has my perspective towards them changed based upon my own experiences?
If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is a combination of all of the above.
But there’s more to navigating this online world of social media than evaluating the true (and sometimes depressing) nature of our existing acquaintances. There’s a plethora of people we’ve never met and it’s only because of the interwoven web of friends of friends that we catch glimpses of who those people are and, if we’re adventurous enough, connect with.
Willing to see the best in people, I have been daring enough to seek out and accept total strangers into my online world and have uncovered a bevy of virtual (and literal) strangers with whom I share a great deal of commonality and have come to count among the closest of allies. We’ve found our way together via mutual friends or interests and would have never crossed paths if we were to rely solely on an in-person rendezvous (either accidental or intentional). Most of these online-only friends of mine are hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of miles away; some are in far off lands which I doubt I will ever visit in my lifetime. However, some are right in my own back yard and I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with them and getting to know both their online projection of themselves as well as the in-person self-portrait they’ve chosen to paint.
Ours is a great, big, marvelous world with continents of uncharted territory of man’s inner workings, and multitudes of dusty corners hiding untold fortunes of man’s immeasurable ability to find common ground with others regardless of culture, ethnicity, place of birth and current place of residence. I am continually intrigued, delighted, surprised and yes, even disappointed at times, by the people who co-inhabit this planet with me.
By observing how social media has changed my perspective of what I thought I knew, I’ve come to realize that I have bigger goals in mind when I choose to commune with my fellow man than simply abstractedly scrolling through online posts or putting in obligatory time at public gatherings.
With every interaction:
- I hope to continue learning about the world through all of my varied relationships,
- I hope to grow in knowledge about who I am and who I want to be,
- I hope to use my presence to emit a source of positive (or at least entertaining) energy in your life,
I hope to mend my own fractured portrait and present a united
(and honest) face to the world.