On Social Media

Come Dine With Me, the TV show, is a good example of everything that we’re doing wrong with social media. I watched a few episodes when it first aired and found myself just sitting there feeling what little grey matter I’ve got dribble and ooze down my ear lobes. Let me explain my thinking.

The show is based around that classic minefield of social faux pas, the dinner party. The dinner party has certain etiquette I’m sure you mother or father has mentioned to you at some point in your coming of age journey. I’m talking of course about those subjects that should be avoided in polite company. Politics and religion seem to be top of most people’s lists of these ticking time bombs. Other social antagonists include too much talk on your successful career, your mundanely average children, or general gossip.

All of these things, it seems to me, will bring out the worst in people. They become argumentative, and misunderstood. It feeds a climate of confrontation and annoyance. This is exactly why it makes the show great TV. Everyone, whether the admit it or not, enjoys on some level watching someone else crash and burn. Social media is a parallel of this dinner party situation. We invite people to give their opinions, and then pick holes in them, often on exactly the topics we should be avoiding. How someone votes, or what (if any) deity they believe in, is a personal thing and shouldn’t be aired like dirty laundry on the internet for the world to see. I was always taught that you should never ask someone how they voted. It’s a social calamity on the scale of asking an overweight woman when the due date is!

What I’m trying to get at is that social media itself isn’t a bad thing. I just feel like the emphasis the majority of users put on it is completely out of whack with what they should be focusing on. On the other end of the scale, we have the pointless drivel that is the viral post about cats, whatever TV show is popular at the time. It just screams out to me that people are lusting after some sense of belonging. They have friends that aren’t friends, and the only thing they talk about or bond over is the fact they both know who dies in Game of Thrones, or know about that video where a cat attacks a dog. This is the sum of our online relationships.

I recently saw a range of posts on popular, or unpopular, social media site Facebook by a friend I grew up with, but had not spoken to for years. He had grown up, found a job he was happy in, met a wonderful woman, emptied his wallet by having two beautiful children. We played a lot of football together as kids and had drifted apart as our lives went in different directions as these things so often do. My resounding memories of this guy was the sporting connection. It got me thinking how I am completely ambivalent to any form of sports now unless it comes under what I call blood sports, boxing, MMA, basically anything where there’s a chance of getting knocked out.

However, he made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. He was still heavily involved in football. I don’t mean the adult Sunday leagues where people play with guys down the pub and the people at work who are still under 35. His involvement surprised me. He was now the manager of the under 11’s side that we both played for a children. The photos of him and the next generation of young players getting awards, trophies and inspiration from someone I used to be close with. Not only had they all looked like they had enjoyed themselves but they had actually won the league. To me it was weird seeing him as one of the kids in the photo but now being the adult. It reminded me that we’re not little kids anymore. There was still more surprises to come.

I always had a soft spot for this person, he lost his brother when we were still young. He was a kind and generous older guy. I can’t remember exactly what had killed him but he had some sort of dodgy heart condition, and eventually it got the best of him. It felt to me that my friend was so involved with sport as if putting the effort of two people into the game as if playing for his brother. Shortly after his brother died, his father passed away. This was the last thing I really heard about him until his posts started to appear in my feed.

So upon being drawn into this other life, I noticed something unusual in the team photo of this league winning team he had coached and nurtured. There was a girl on the team. This was great! Not only had he kept true to himself but he had also been able to take someone not usually allowed to play with ‘boys’ and let her flourish. The pride on this girl’s face brought a smile to mine. I was surprised to find out that this little girl is his daughter.

This is the sort of thing that social media should be used for. Updating people on the real things that are going on in your lives not the next viral video where someone auto tunes someone on the other side of the world to a backing track, sparking a new meme or something equally unimportant. It’s about the relationships. It’s about connecting with your fellow human beings and gaining shared experience beyond the keyboard, not a platform for you to rage and enforce your views on private topics best kept to yourself. Treat social media like a dinner party and the whole experience will be so much more enjoyable for all involved.

I’m going to get back in contact with this guy and let him know that what he’s doing, is getting it right. He’s winning at life, like a boss. He’s killing it.

There was one shocker that I can’t endorse, he is still a Manchester United fan! Not everyone is perfect.

P.S A quick thank you to those who are following this blog. I appreciate it. Let me know if there are things you would like to hear me talk about, otherwise I’ll continue to tell my little anecdotes. Thank you.

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