I’m a bit unbalanced when it comes to my feelings about social media. I love it, yet at the same time I hate it. Lately, I hate it. And for good reason.
Yes – I realize the irony of posting about how I hate social media on a blog. And I know I use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn a lot. Thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious. Perhaps you’ll put down your stones and take off your robe long enough to actually read and learn something. Hold on – I’m on a ranty ride today…
I’ve been participating on social media sites since before a lot of people even gave them credit. W-a-a-a-a-y before it was considered cool. I started using social networks in the days of BBSes – my destination of choice was a site called TaBBS (which stood for Talk Bulletin Board System). I was fourteen when I joined and I was one of the more prolific participants. I even met one of my high school boyfriends through TaBBS. Yep – I “internet dated” before it was cool, too. And for the record, I still haven’t met anyone great from internet dating sites…
I moved on from there to participate in AOL chat rooms and, over the course of time, lots of different social networking sites including (but not limited to) FaceTheJury.com, Friendster, MySpace, and of course now Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. My ultimate quest: omnipresence and omniscience. I wanted to be everywhere and to know everything. I guess that’s part of why I became a sourcer.
I loved social networks. A lot. And once I became a grown-up, I started realizing that social media had much more use than how most of us actually use it. It could be used for business purposes as well as personal. We can meld our work, social, and personal lives into one huge digitally social mosaic of existence. We can market our products or services online to current and potential customers through emails, status updates, IMs, DMs, and PMs while at the same time keeping our family updated on the latest adorable things our kids are doing without having to pick up a phone or pay a visit.
And therein lies the problem.
In our quest to be hyper-connected to everything and everyone, we’ve forgotten how to be humans. We hide behind our technology to avoid actual interaction. We’ve forgotten that people with feelings and needs are on the other side of the technology. And this is why lately I’ve really started hating social media. Here is one of the main reasons why:
This term is loosely defined as the desire people have to do something good without getting out of their chair. Boy, have we perfected this lately. And social media has just made it worse, if you ask me.
Just last weekend, there was a Facebook campaign to change your profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood to “raise awareness about violence against children.” yes, I changed my profile picture. I loved having an excuse to be Jem for the weekend. But is this really doing anybody any good? My friend Jeff wrote this on Sunday: “Changing your profile pic to a cartoon character won’t do a thing to stop child abuse. If you want to make a difference with your life, get off the couch and do it. Serve someone, help someone, show love to someone who doesn’t love themselves. give your self away, not just your picture.” I wonder how many people who changed their photos also made donations to organizations that fight child abuse. (by the way, if you want a good one to donate to, check out my Pay It Foward tab and read up on Mercy Ministries…)
And then there was the recent Keep A Child Alive “Digital Death” campaign, where some celebrities “sacrificed” (yeah, right) their social network accounts until $1 million was raised for the organization. But most of them couldn’t even wait a few days for the money to be raised to start tweeting and updating again. One article stated that “critics said it proves nobody cares about their Twitter presence.” No kidding; some sacrifice they made.
Remember the bra color campaign earlier this year? You know, the one where women changed their Facebook status to indicate what color bra they were wearing, to “raise awareness for breast cancer”? Well, consider this: many of those who are breast cancer survivors can’t wear bras anymore – so that campaign alienated the very people whom it was supposed to be raising awareness in support of. Nice, huh? Also, there was no group affiliation and no funds were being raised. Just “awareness.” Seriously, if you aren’t “aware” by now that breast cancer is a real issue, you must be living under a rock somewhere. As one breast cancer survivor stated, “Okay, time for a little less ‘awareness’ and a whole lot of ‘action’. the time to act is now. no more awareness, fix it.”
I know there are those who will argue that awareness generates conversation and “look, we’re talking about it now, so see it works.” Whatever. I’m a firm believer that the world can be changed on person at a time, but in order for that to be accomplished, some action must be taken. People trust actions, not words.
Want to make an impact while still involving social media?
Do what my friend Jill has done for the last two years – she has participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, 60-Mile Walk for the Cure. She uses her Facebook page to share photos of her experience with her family and friends. She has raised nearly $6,000 over the past two years.
Do what one of my Fordyce Letter readers did this summer – he rode his bicycle 190 miles in memory of a friend he lost to kidney cancer, and helped raise $100,000 toward cancer research. He allowed us to post an article about it to help him celebrate this success.
Do what my friend Erica did – for her 29th birthday, she asked for donations to charity:water in lieu of gifts for herself. She offered photo shoots to people who donated at least $50 to her charity:water campaign this year. She raised over $11,000 for her cause.
Do what my friend John did – he grew out his facial hair for Movember this year and raised over $1,500. He posted updated photos of his ‘stache, and when everyone was done commenting on it, he implored, “Thanks for the comments. Now…everyone who commented, be sure to head over and donate one latte out of your budget for this week and support the fight against cancer (32K dads, brothers, sons, die each year).”
Do what I did a couple years ago when BlogCatalog.com ran Bloggers Against Abuse and asked people to dedicate their blogs for one day to a cause that helped abused individuals. A worker at Mercy Ministries commented on my post and thanked me for it, and I received an email from them shortly thereafter letting me know that they’d received donations as a direct result.
Keep in mind: all of the above required action by someone at some point.
Please don’t fool yourself. Hitting the “Like” button for a charitable organization’s Fan Page doesn’t mean you’re a supporter, because it doesn’t do anything to help that organization pay its bills so it can provide a service. If you really want to make a difference, get off your ass and go volunteer. Or donate some money or other resources. Charities can’t pay their bills with “likes” and “awareness.”