Is #SocialMEDIA Your Social #LIFE

Category: Weekly Columns

Let’s begin by doing a short history lesson and questionnaire. Please understand that I am bringing my own family history to this discussion, which means we are covering nearly a century of societal mores. My parents were born in 1915 and 1918, married in the 30’s, and had me in the 50’s. My boys were born in 1993 and 1996. I had my first-born four days after my 40th birthday. A lot has happened during all these decades.

To bolster my claim that SocialMedia is our life these days, answer the following questions:

1. When is the last time you had a dinner party at your home?
2. Do you have more virtual or real-life friends?
3. How often to you speak with or see your real-life friends?
4. Have you hand-written a letter since the turn of the century?
5. Did you ever have a pen pal? Do you even know what a pen pal is?
6. How did you meet your current partner or spouse?
7. Do you know anyone that met his or her partner or spouse on a blind date?
8. Do you have a best friend? If the answer is yes, how often do you see or speak with him or her?
9. Do your kids write thank-you notes? Do you?
10. Name the last invitation you received that was done by calligraphy?
11. Name the last big event in which you sent out formal invitations with self-addressed stamped return envelopes enclosed?
12. If you married in the last decade, did you register at a department store, the Apple Store, or online? Did you register at all? Do you know what registering is?
13. How do you communicate with your partner/spouse and kids? By cell-phone, text, or email?
14. Do you still have a landline at home?

These questions begin to give the rationale behind the claim of this column’s title. My parents had dinner parties. My mom took great care preparing for them. If our family finances were okay, she would hire a cook, though my mom did much of the prep work herself as far as decorating the house, taking out her best china and silver, and bringing out serving platters and other party goods she meticulously kept covered and stored.

My mom had regular luncheons with her girlfriends, spent what seemed to me countless hours gossiping on the phone, and wrote letters to her relatives that lived out-of-state.

Moving forward to my youth, I had many pen pals. I also spent countless hours on the phone with my best friends from junior and high school. It was called Junior High rather than Middle School when I grew up. We played outside. I rode my bike to school. I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday.

Do you know ANY kid that plays outside? Do you know any kid that got their driver’s license anywhere near his or her 16th birthday?

Fast-forward: I married, had children, divorced, joined the Social Media explosion, and married again. I met my first-wife on a blind date. I met my second wife online. I no longer have a best friend, though I did throughout my youth and young adult years. I have more virtual friends than real-life friends and I rarely talk at length with any of my friends or family on a landline or cell-phone, except when I’m on a long road trip. When I’m home and the landline rings, I don’t answer it. I don’t want to answer it because most of the calls are my boy’s schools doing some automated announcement or someone soliciting something.

My friends call me, if at all, on my cell though most of our communication is via email or text. Same with my wife and especially with my boys. I don’t remember the last dinner party we attended or the last we had ourselves. We used to have friends over for Shabat dinners many Friday nights, but our busy schedules plus having two teenagers seems to have caused those dinners to fade to memories.

What does your social life look like today? What do your kid’s social lives look like? Do you like the evolution of our social lives? Do you believe all these technological advances have enhanced YOUR life? I’m not sure…

  • Vanessa

    This is so true! My parents have a far richer social life than anyone of my generation. They actually go out to dances on Saturdays. They go to see friends and spend an evening playing cards. They have friends over and play cards or dominoes. My mother goes to the trouble of preparing snacks and guests bring wine or goodies. Us on the other hand? Well I spend my day on the computer, and my evening answering texts. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Go to dances! See friends! Play cards (what’s that?)! Dominoes! AMAZING! Thx, Vanessa…

  • Brian Vickery

    Nice humor, and insight, throughout. Funny because I try to drag @kfvickery:twitter  into Twitter discussions, and she doesn’t get the hang of it. She does like to compete against me on Foursquare, though!

    I will admit to feeling like I can’t take any time/day off because I gotta keep all the social plates spinning. Still in tribe building and trust mode. I think I’ve got a wonderful and engaging tribe, and the trust is built. That is fulfilling but I also hope that it leads to some business, also – got a lot of marketing folks in my tribe, and I have that little social media monitoring tool, you know what I’m saying.

    Of course discussions like this, and the rare #DadChat I can attend, are also fulfilling because it gets into the relationship/sociology/parenting aspects of life. And I’m getting plenty of coffee/wine time with my wife, lots of tennis and working out, and still have dinners with the one daughter in the house…so life fairly balanced, I guess.

    • Bruce Sallan

      What’s Foursquare? Is that that game we played in Elementary School with a ball in four squares?

  • Melissa Barham

    Great post — My boys are too young to tweet or have Facebook accounts right now… and I hope I never have to explain to them that foursquare is actually a game! I will have to remember to take the ball next time we’re somewhere with dirt… ah, city living. *sighs* Perhaps I’ll just add sidewalk chalk to the grocery list. 🙂

    I check in across social media and am online constantly while I’m at home — However, I don’t have a ‘smartphone’ — I could be the last person who is still content with a cell that isn’t capable with anything but calling and texting. It’s bad enough that I’ll send pictures to twitter while I’m out of the house. 

    My grandparents used to have game nights with their friends every Friday night, I have fond memories of tagging along to that when my sister and I spent summers with them. I’m sure most people these days haven’t a clue how to play Rummi, Speed or Spoons. My parents used to have dinners and invite friends over frequently. My husband and I don’t do much in the way of guests or parties more so because our apartment is small and we just don’t have the space. I’d love to have the room at our place to host a game night.

    I think ‘social media’ has definitely taken a toll on some people’s ability to communicate like a normal human being. It’s sad really, we can be so connected that we forget to turn it all off and have actual conversations and human interactions!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Yes, our social lives are changing much from previous generations – maybe our grandparents had it better, Melissa?

  • Morgan Barnhart

    I love these comics! I’m a social media specialists by trade and while my weekdays consist of social media for about 10 hours or more a day Mon-Fri, when it comes to the weekends and my evenings, I do realize there’s a life outside of social media. Do I like to tweet about what I’m doing on the weekends? Definitely! Do I spend my weekends with my face buried in my phone? No way! 

    You do make some really good points, though. We have evolved to the point where very few people take the time to pick up the phone, instead they’d rather text. I, actually prefer to text over talking on the phone because when I text I can do other things. It is a multitasking world! 
    You also make some great points about parents – my parents weren’t rich or anything, but it always seemed like we were outside doing stuff. We had a computer where we would play educational games, but that was about it. I LOVED to be outside and going out and doing stuff – still do. But that’s a problem with today’s youth, the parents just let them stay inside and watch TV or play video games all day which is unfortunate. 

    I think there could definitely be balance with technology and enjoying life, we just each need to find our own unique ways of doing it, without sacrificing anything, especially when it comes to getting outside and enjoying the world. 🙂

    Very thought-provoking! 🙂 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks so much for weighing in, Morgan. YOU represent exactly the future and how you balance your work and social lives will – IMHO – determine your ultimate happiness and maybe how your own family life evolves! Keep me posted, please!

  • Kyle Bradford

    I have always made the prediction that social media will eventually leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Unfortunately for all of Social Media’s good it fails in one basic fundamental human need…connection.. and not the DSL or 3G type. 

    Truly there can be some significant connections made through social media that can have long lasting affects. 

    But lets be completely honest..until you’ve met me you don’t know me. As of right now I could be anybody I choose to be and only I would know the truth. That’s not real connection and I’m convinced that in the end we will grow tired of it and once again long for fewer ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ and more relationships. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      I agree but with a caveat Kyle. Most everyone that I’ve ultimately met in person has been exactly who they portray online. I suppose in online dating or very casual SoMe interactions, it would be easier to pull off a bait-and-switch, but given the way I interact with SoMe, I think it would be very hard to sustain a different persona than you really are. In your case, I’ve read enough of your writing to have a GOOD sense of who you are – I KNOW you’re a fine writer. And, I would bet we’d have great conversation over coffee or drinks! 

  • Alyse

    I love this, so much truth to it. I must say though I’ve met some very interesting, and nice people in cyberspace, yourself included. I think really getting to know someone requires conversation, which doesn’t always happen in a crowded room. I do have things going on outside of my online world, but I would really miss the people I’ve met. But I get your points. Thanks for posting this.

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  • David Weber

    Some good stuff here.

  • David Weber

    Ooops, that posted too soon!

    I was addicted to chat for about a year or so in the late 1990s.  My primary social circle WAS virtual.  In those days, I logged on via a phone modem (the only way it could be done then) and was chatting on line for hours and hours a day.  No one could get through to me by phone.  I literally had four friends come to my apartment to do an intervention…that is really what it was!…to get me back on track with the F2F world.

    Ever after that, I have understood the potential the virtual world has for seducing us and stealing time away from other pursuits.  The technology has changed now…social media in its various forms is not chat circa 1998 … yet the fundamentally seductive quality of being able to shape your identity and self-presentation in a way that is much more difficult in an embodied environment (i.e., F2F) is still what it was when it hit its first plateau in the late 1990s.

    There is of course good news about the virtual world and social media, I would never pretend that were not so.  A good example is the effectiveness of marketing applications of various social media platforms, and situations such as one I read about the other day, in which nurses in a remote clinic in Africa used a social media outlet to acquire coaching from experts in how to treat a unique emergency condition.  But I cannot think of any human communication system that does not have its “good news” as well as “bad news.”  Darn few human endeavors of any kind are solely “good” or solely “bad,” for that matter.  

    But as far as social media is concerned, I would personally just as soon hold it all at arm’s length, or at least simply feel as though I am in control of it — that I can access its “good news” as necessary, and have to weather its “bad news” as seldom as possible.  I will give up the “good news” in order to be able to read, take a nap, watch a DVD, have skin contact with friends and acquaintances, give a speech to a full room of people and do so many other things that I would like to do instead of interacting through social media.  I have had some nice things happen thanks to social media — an example would be getting in touch via Facebook with an elementary school classmate I was long ago friends with.  But I still don’t want to structure my life in such a way that one more application, one more platform, one more technology must be navigated in order for me to move through my days.

    But that’s just me.  I am not wanting to offer up an anti-social-media manifesto…my reactions here are solely pertinent to my own life.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I so wish that your bad experience would NOT hold you back from being a part of the SoMe world now…I know you’d enjoy it and you already have the experience of knowing its abuse PLUS you have a whole new career/life now that is VERY REAL!

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