There’s a lot of commotion about how bad social media is for us, but there’s no denying that it’s a method for creating and sustaining important connections, as well as for sharing information. Starbucks red cup brouhaha not withstanding, social media actually has many virtues that you shouldn’t just dismiss. Here are five reasons why social media may be good for you.
It keeps us connected to people we care about.
How many people have you reconnected to on Facebook who you thought were gone forever from your life? Plenty, and maybe you discovered that some of them needed to stay in the past, but think about all of the folks who were and are good for you, and never stopped caring about you. You probably care about them, too.
The truth is that before social media, and particularly before mobile phone usage made long distance calling so incredibly inexpensive, it was virtually impossible to stay connected with large numbers of people. Now, except for the people who have passed or that cannot be found, we no longer have to lose someone else without saying “thanks for all those years of friendship,” because those years are continuing in the present. Even if all we’re doing is commenting on their kids’ back to school pictures or Halloween costumes, we still have them in our life. Our people, our posse. This brings me to my second item:
2) Social media pictures and stories from people’s lives can be very uplifting!
I LOVE people’s kids pics, pet pics, July 4 firework pics (which almost never turn out great, but still tell a story), vacation pics…I like seeing people happy, and I’m glad they share their joys with me. Yesterday was Veteran’s Day, and so many people posted wonderful pictures of themselves or their loves ones in their military colors. Try scrolling through these and not smiling at our friends’ pride at dad in his navy uniform or a daughter in the USAF. It’s impossible! In a sense, these people become our people and we get to stay involved in each other’s lives.
That’s not to say that social media is a tool for just living vicariously through other people, because:
3) Social media allows us to expand our social network.
In the past, we may have met someone fantastic at a dinner party. Maybe we had the wherewithal to exchange phone numbers, but unless you or the other person made the call within 2-3 days, it passed into an awkward period. If a week or more passed, it became anxiety-producing to pick up the phone and call because so much time had elapsed and it starts to feel weird (we humans are fragile about such things).
Now, if the person’s on Facebook, friend requests can be instant. Having moved to a new city last year, Facebook proved indispensable for making friends. A quick “Are you on Facebook?” was followed by a friending and follow-up message (sometimes a week, sometimes two months): “hey, we got into a great conversation at that dinner party. Wondering if you’d like to grab brunch this weekend?”
It works very well, and learn even more about things in common. Perhaps they share things that are particularly uplifting, or simply interesting. Funny I should mention “interesting,” because:
4) There is a lot of interesting information that we learn about quickly through topic trends:
Admittedly, this one’s a harder sell because there’s a lot of useless information that we have to sift through. But for every banal topic trend, there’s a new NASA discovery, an archaeological find, or something of great beauty like the Chilean desert after this year’s unseasonable rains. There is a lot of great information that we can learn about very quickly, and we deepen our appreciation of our planet when we are willing to seek news that tells the story we want to know. And what we want to know is exactly how we can organize our social media, for:
5) We get to shape it exactly as we want:
Want information, humor, fashion trends, music? Social media can give you all of these things in a digestible, shareable format. We can connect with the people and organizations we choose, and present our own professional brands or silly selves however we elect to do so. We can meet others who share a common feature of ours that’s otherwise difficult to connect to, as the vast numbers of support communities can attest. We can look for, post, recommend, and even apply for jobs around the globe or around the corner. It’s what we choose it be for our lives, personal and professional.
So don’t despair if social media takes a great deal of your time. Of course it does. You’re being social, after all, connecting with the people and communities that mean the most to you. So get out of your crisis and go try that roasted brussel sprout recipe with cinnamon-nutmeg walnuts that your friend posted.
And enjoy the presence of that friend in your life.