Social media - such an innocuous sounding phrase. One that arrived on the scene quietly to describe a phenomenon that somewhat defies description. My life has been oriented around technology. I arrived on the college scene just as personal computing sprang to life. The computer science nerds were big men (and a few women) on campus because we had email. Our friends marveled that we could talk to other students at other colleges around the country. My generation started work with a computer on every desktop and feels lost without them. And I've watched my children come of age in the era of portable technology. They cannot imagine a life without a cell phone to keep them tied like an umbilical cord to parental safety. I lived for a friend to call me on the phone, stretching the long cord into the hall or bedroom to try to achieve some measure of privacy. They text and email silently, making it harder to eavesdrop on their much more active social lives. We've turned friending into a verb and added scores of abbreviations and acronyms to our vocabulary and we've learned to tweet and twitter like a flock of birds. My husband still makes our living on technology and we are usually privy to the latest gadget and goodie, sometimes to my chagrin. But the positive aspect of his acumen is that we will never be the parents whose children have outpaced them in technology - he's on top of things!
In some ways I love the onslaught of technology. In other ways I protest. My parents never had to think about instituting a technology sabbath or monitoring the hours we spent plugged into an electronic device. They never had to consider how to instill the appropriate respect for privacy and modesty or wonder whether we were able to interpret written conversation for tone and context. I'm glad my children are tech savvy, but I worry sometimes about what they've lost.
But with all of the added concerns, my feelings around social media are largely positive. Social media has enabled me to connect with like minded friends around the world. Friends I wouldn't have met without blogs or facebook or email. I've formed some incredibly meaningful and deep friendships from ongoing electronic contact - relationships that have changed the course of my life. And I've come into contact with a tribe for the first time in my life.
There are dangers inherent in the format, certainly. But I think there is more power than we can begin to imagine in the connectivity we can find. The sharing of ideas. The supporting of dreams. The encouragement and friendship. Face to face is great and something I don't want to lose.... but my circle of friends is bigger than it ever has been by virtue of a group I've never met in person - although I hope to change that over time. But our primary source of connection will be electronic. Social media.... a word I'm glad has been added to my vocabulary.