Thursday, January 31, 2013

Maybe Facebook Should be Rated “Mature Only”

I read an article today about a woman who quit Facebook. The reasons she cited for deactivating her account had much to do with practicalities (greater privacy, avoiding the time-suck that is Facebook, etc). But the bulk of the article talked about the unexpected benefit she received after quitting; this “gift” was better self-esteem. 
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard people say that social media is responsible for making them feel bad about themselves. Pinterest is getting hit hard for the same reason. (As a side note, people who regard Pinterest this way don’t really understand the purpose of the site, in my humble opinion.) 

I’m starting to believe that social media should be considered a “controlled substance.” You can’t get a driver’s license until you’re deemed old enough to handle the lethal weapon that is a vehicle and reason through all the rules and regulations required to keep yourself and other drivers safe. You can’t vote or drink alcoholic beverages until you’re 18 or 21 for similar reasons. One has to be old enough, wise enough, mature enough to handle the privilege.  

The way I see it, it’s similar to the argument: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Social media is a tool; it doesn’t cause poor self-esteem. A person constantly comparing himself to other people causes low self-esteem. 

Let’s face it, the advent of social media is really the most in-your-face, unmitigated form of “keeping up with the Joneses” that we’ve had to deal with so far in history. This is an age-old problem. What’s new is that it’s a way to steep yourself in it that’s never existed before. 

Do people need to be reminded that when people are discussing things publically, most of the time, people will do what they can to make themselves look a little better than they do in real life? I don’t just mean their physical appearance. Their home, their social life... any of it. I’m sure many people will tell you (and I believe them) that they try to be honest as often as possible. Some people may be completely honest at all times. But I know I try not to post unflattering pictures of me or my stuff. 

That being said, some of your virtual friends are bound to make more money/have better material belongings and perhaps even have better lives, overall, than you. It is up to you to be mature enough to see through and get it when someone might be exaggerating and to be self-confident enough to handle it when they’re not.  

So remember all this. Though it’s not easy, the same, timeworn advice applies: be happy with yourself and your life. Be self-confident. Be satisfied. Know yourself. Unfortunately, I believe that the younger you are, the more difficult this is. That whole ‘experience and wisdom that comes with age’ thing is true, as it turns out. 

Which is why I said perhaps there should be some kind of age requirement for participation.  If kids don’t have the mental capacity to deal with the sex, language and violence in a rated “R” movie before 17, then perhaps, people who are under... I don’t know... say, 30, aren’t capable of handling certain social media sites. 

I’m kidding, of course. I just hate to see another thing – that in and of itself is harmless – get vilified. I know Facebook has its flaws. However, as with most technology, the biggest problems come from user error.  

If you choose not to participate on Facebook or other social media, great. But I think that if you let other people’s unblemished pictures, virtual bragging, and hyperbolically perfected paradises that they portray as their lives make you feel inferior, then that’s your problem. By all means, deactivate your account. Discovering an improvement in your self-esteem as a result, however, shouldn’t be an epiphany.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cawfee Tawk

Similar to many houses in suburban America, our house has a living room and a family room. We’ve never been particularly into a formal living room, so we actually use both of these rooms regularly. Used to be that we had the TV and computer all in the family room; the living room we saved for our books and my husband’s small collection of medieval weapons. A “wannabe” library, if you will. It was our quiet room – no electronics. A place to sit and chat or sit and read. 

Mike Meyers as Linda Richman
"Tawk amongst ya-selves!"
For a long time, after the dinner hubbub, my hubby and I would brew ourselves each a cuppa joe and retire to the living room for “cawfee tawk” while the boys went into the family room for their TV or video game time. Sometimes, it was only a quick steep in the calm before I headed off to work in the ER for the evening. But more often, it was a good long while of easy, but quality conversation. Once in a while, one or both of the boys would wander in and snuggle up to one of us and it turned into some family time. It became a daily (almost) ritual that we both really looked forward to. 

Then, for reasons I won’t get into, we rearranged the rooms. The computer remained in the family room and the TV (and DVD player and video game systems) was moved into the living room. We also bought a new love seat and two recliners to fill the space where the TV had resided and to replace the well-used love seat that was there. It looks lovely. It’s very comfortable. The recliner is my favorite place to sink into a good book. 

However, with the change came the loss of our cawfee tawk. I can’t figure out why. We still sit together most nights after dinner. Before we sat on opposite ends of our sofa next to the picture window over-looking our front yard; now we sit in the recliners in the middle of the long, skinny (10x20’) family room. Is it the separate seating arrangement? The lack of window? Is it that the new “family room” is now more of an office/computer room? Too-easy access to iPhones, Kindle and laptop? Is it simply that the living room is my husband’s favorite room in the house with his books and weapons? 

We’ve talked about it. We’ve both expressed our disappointment that our post-repast discourse has dwindled. But neither of us had been able to discover a reason for the demise.  

I wish we could figure it out and revive it. I mean, we still talk, as I said. And it’s perfectly nice. But there was just something very comfortable... very nice... about that time. I hate to employ an over-used word that is losing its meaning, but: it was special. I miss it.