Friends, here is an article from writer Cate Roberts on Catholic Exchange about the “us” we project on our social media sites. I think it’s really worth reading.
Folks have heard me….umm…observe… that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up the stream of interesting and uplifting social networking posts in spite of the challenges of family life and all the wonderful and sometimes not-so wonderful daily surprises that entails. Yet, I keep going on my social networks. Why? Because it’s part of my “image” as an author, columnist, and speaker. If I disappear from the social networking sites, I disappear from people’s minds, and consequently, book sales and visits to mine and the other sites for which I write drop. Others in my profession know this, too.
Perhaps it seems like I’m complaining, but I’m not. Okay, well, maybe a little. Actually, I’ve come to realize it’s just part of the package. That’s the way our world works now. You can tell I’ve been around for a while, eh? In fact, my very first article ever was written on a typewriter. Yep. For real. Typewriters are not a myth, as the younger generation might believe. They existed, and I used one. Anyway, in “the good old days” a writer gained popularity by writing for the print media as often as possible and finding ways to be a guest on radio shows whenever he/she could think of something worthy to talk about.
Those two tools are still vital to our trade, although “print” media now usually means “online publications,” and they’ve taken second fiddle to internet means for making ourselves known, social networks in particular. Now we talk about “reaching out” and developing “relationships” with our “followers.” Completely new lingo and an entirely new way of thinking for an old-fashioned journalist like me. In the past, the only time I thought about “followers” was when my family and me were in a crowded public place and I made my kids hold each other’s hands, with the youngest instructed to hang onto my sleeve or coat hem. In that case, they darn well better be “followers,” or else.
Now I sit at my work station each day and try to figure out ingenious and inspiring ways to get people to “follow” me whom I’ve never even met and probably never will, save for brief exchanges over cyber-space. And relationships? Well, just watch my face light up when I’m “Liked” by dozens, sometimes hundreds, of my “followers” for something I’ve written or commented upon. Sometimes, I even end up competing with myself (or others) in an effort to top my highest number of “Likes.” But…what does that really mean…”Like”…? Do they truly appreciate what I’ve said, or were they just caught in an agreeable moment, or was my article or input simply the least-stupid one out there at the moment? Does “Like” mean it’s worthy enough not to block or delete? Being “Liked,” “Shared,” or “Tweeted” definitely does give me important feedback, but I do have to bring myself to re-think what I do and why so I don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of cyber-popularity.
On the other hand, I have seen social media evoke amazing kindness and concern among users. If you want to see how that works, just watch what happens when someone puts up a prayer request on Facebook or Twitter. Offers of prayer and encouragement pile in in droves. I myself or my loved ones have been recipients of those prayers countless times. That’s a wonderful, beautiful, thing. It even can be a holy thing.
Through social media, I’ve also had the gift of re-connecting with old friends and keeping up with current ones. That’s exceptionally nice, since my way-too hectic lifestyle leaves me little time for phone calling, meeting, and socializing in person. Without that option, I’d probably loose track of those folks, at least for a good long while and maybe even forever. I’ve also had the chance to “meet” new people, to learn about them, and to a point experience life through their eyes. In fact, some of the folks who’ve turned out to be my truest colleagues, cheerleaders and prayer companions are ones I’ve met online. That’s a blessing.
If I had to weigh it out, I think I’d be cornered into admitting that the old typewriter days had their advantages, but the new online and social network days have opened up a whole array of options, experiences, and opportunities for me that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I just need to keep things in perspective, take care with the image I project, and remind myself daily of who I really am – a beloved child of God (just as every other human being), with her accomplishments, wit, and abilities, but also with her quirks, mistakes, and shortcomings.
So, go ahead. “Like” my stuff. “Friend” me on Facebook, or “Follow” me on Twitter. Just don’t forget to also remind me that “Likes” and “Follows” are just a tiny slice in the pie of life so that I never stop working harder and harder at being a better writer, networker, and, most of all, friend in the real sense of the word.