With so many channels for communication, it is incredible if anything stays private. News, no matter how big or small, travels quickly. Is it possible for the thinking brain to internalize, recall, or reflect on so much information? What about when the information is wrong or incomplete? Our society feeds on an amplified version of the news and we have come to expect more information, to receive greater and faster transmission of this information, even when it might be better to stay silent, to reflect, to think.
That’s how I’ve felt about my own use of social media in the last four weeks. I use Facebook, I tweet, I blog. Yet, I haven’t been able to tell the whole story of my everyday life. Rogue Cheerios is not an entirely personal blog–that’s what my Facebook profile is for–but I have felt speechless at the turn of events in my own life in these last few weeks. Instead of constantly updating or needlessly sharing bits of information, I have chosen strategically to say nothing and instead experience life as it is happening.
As a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower, if I’d never said anything about what’s really happening in my life. If you caught me in a good moment, you might never perceive any stress. I began to wonder how social media may be perverting the way we understand the social lives of others.
It’s a whole new way to think about Goffman’s idea of dramaturgy or the theater of life, the presentation of self. We think of our social media outlets as communicating real information about our friends, our tweeps, our followers. Favoriting and liking has supplanted real communication. However, there is a careful calculation of what or how we say something, how we share or withhold details, of how we “connect” using social media. These channels meant to eliminate the social (and physical) distance between people are actually driving a virtual wedge between us.
If you check my presentation of self in the last few weeks, you’d see the surface looks relatively calm. Underneath, though, there has been rough current. Besides the general rockiness of the start of the semester including the juggling of childcare during the observance of our Jewish holidays, we have the good fortune of finding a new house in our town. We have been looking for months and are thoroughly blessed. The same weekend that we found our new home, we also visited our dear uncle in the hospital. Just a week earlier, he had received a grave cancer diagnosis. Three weeks later, the house was ours, and our uncle was gone after a brief and fierce cancer battle. Our heads are understandably spinning.
These events are really our own to work through, our own to deal with. I’m not sharing this personal information to brag (about our future house) or to garner sympathy (about our uncle). I’m merely challenging myself (and hopefully my readers) to think about the ways we truly connect with others. How can I present an authentic version of my self or should I? Can social media facilitate this process or does it hamper it?
I don’t have the answer. I also don’t enjoy asking rhetorical questions. I do think I’ll continue to carefully manage the presentation of my social media self. I just wonder if that means I won’t be as vocal.