I love a good chicken/egg scenario. To me, these are the questions that computers can’t answer- yet- so it’s score one for humankind. We get to debate these seemingly unanswerable questions.

When I wrote yesterday about how social media has taken over our lives, my perception was that the internet broke us. But after conversing with the blog community, I began to wonder, did they create this mess, or were the internet powers trying to fix something that was broken?

My friends like to wax poetic about the old days: jumping on your bike at 8 in the morning and not coming home till the streetlights came on. You had the kids in the neighborhood and there was always a pick up game somewhere, and the  tinkle of the Good Humor truck was ping sound that you listened for. Your Mom didn’t set up playdates- you hung out on the block. There was an inherent community. People sat on the front porch, and your neighbor would tell on you if you did something wrong.

But we all know, Norman Rockwell is no longer grazing the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. We barely have magazines anymore. Kids barely listen to their own parents, much less care what the woman down the street thinks…

When I was very little, we used to have family dinners at my Grandmothers on Sundays. There was no such thing as being too busy- we sat there and had baked ziti, or manicotti or some other red sauce doused product. My Mother wanted to try this ritual a few years ago…..it’s not that I don’t like the idea of family getting together, but realistically, it just didn’t fit our lifestyle. And if she wasn’t making my sister come in form Seattle, there was no way I was going…

And I know some people still do the weekly family thing, but realistically….

So somewhere along the line, long before Al Gore invented the internet, we had already begun to lose our sense of community. Divorce mitosis begat blended family meiosis. How often can you reasonably see step family, half sibling, third cousins thrice removed…. Logically, we can change a lot of things, but there’s still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week (though I’m sure Apple or Google are trying to change that….) Schedules just don’t mesh. Ever try to plan an evening out with eight friends? It’s D-Day style planning…

So as the saying goes, weddings and funerals become the times when groups gather.

But…

Were we meant to be like this?

Were we meant to be single cells bouncing around aimlessly?

Or are humans supposed to be in packs?

Hmmmmm. We no longer have the neighborhood and an automatic social circle. Family is an evolving concept. What is a human supposed to do?

Enter the internet. Enter social media. Enter myspace. Enter Facebook.

If you think about it, the internet and social media have filled a void that humankind had created. Humans need social interaction and community. Somewhere along the line we threw that away, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t need it….we were lost but then we were found in 144 characters. Virtual communities were formed. We found friends and acceptance and a sense of belonging. We created our own online neighborhoods and families. We found what we were missing.

We like to blame social media for a variety of woes, but in its purest form, social media can have much value. How many people have met their partners via apps or algorithms? How many bonds were strengthened because of emails and Instagram? How many were saved by this virtual world?

But then we got greedy. And greed is not good…. Greed destroys everything. We abused the good fortune that was the world wide web….we took what was perhaps a modern day cure for loneliness and lack of family community, and turned it into an ugly, dark place.

As humans, we try to find solutions to fix our problems. Enter social media. But now we are overexposed. Can we retreat, or is it too late?

62 thoughts on “What Came First

  1. I don’t know. I think it is the strength of human beings to – check everything out? Something arrives – it seems weird sitting on the bus and so many people hooked up to their phones. But it can’t be all bad or people wouldn’t do it. Try to keep an open mind. Try to keep moralities (at least to a certain extent) at the side. There has been such an influx of other cultures where I live. The culture I was used to seems to be on the decline. But there has always been influx and change. I just hope someone figures out space stations for us all before this world gets damaged beyond repair.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do use the internet, but only go on WordPress.com, or to do some research for blogs I am working on.
    I love the blogging community here.
    I used to use e-mail, but found that I function just fine without it !
    My favourite bloggers show up automatically on my WordPress Reader.
    😁

    Liked by 4 people

  3. We can choose to an extent to take part or not, but I don’t see retreat as an option in the sense that social media goes away. It evolves and one day, when you and I are mere dust new humans (however they are defined at that point) will no longer have mouths to speak but do all their communication telepathically and in some weird AI way be connected to the masses by simple thought transference.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just like with cars – there are always going to be some irresponsible morons out there. I think those who overdone screen time will someday figure out that there’s a real life to be lived. I no longer do FB, though I haven’t closed my account. Blogging is my social media. I text and email local friends to make dates and email distant friends and relatives to stay in touch. It’s brought me closer to everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m the same with FB. I go on there to keep a loose eye on the dog walking business opportunities, the rest of it bores me to tears. I prefer the words in the blogs shared by all of us. 🙂 And email to get a little more personal.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. As the seniors in our community get older and less mobile in some cases, there is that inadvertent threat of loneliness and despair brought on by lack of community they used to have in churches or community centers. Too cold to head out in the snow and ice at 86…they don’t want to.

    Now, there are seniors tweeting, facebooking and blogging all over the internet. I am astonished at how many of them are doing this! Have you noticed?

    The neighbourhood community still exists, it’s just different. Same with my kids…although one of them still has the traditional relationships reminiscent to my own childhood, the other is more of a loner. But he is not lonely – his friends live in neighbourhoods too far away to manage to get together physically so they hang out in the apps.

    It took time to get used to this. I had to learn, too.

    And then there’s me. I have more connections across the wifi than I do in real life, not because I don’t have real life friends, but like me, they have jobs and kids and youth sports and volunteering and all the rest of us…and the ones that live down the street navigating the same sort of lifestyle as me, they send me a text or an email to plan a get together… 🙂 (Which in actual fact I prefer over the phone calls of yesteryear.)

    It’s just different.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As you point out, some of the outcomes are good, while other effects are bad. Social media communication will just continue to evolve like everything else…hopefully more towards the positive than the negative. That’s largely up to us, as users (and voters!).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The trouble with this way of thinking is that each person’s awareness is based on their own point of view. We can help to make sure ‘enlightenment’ is available, but we can’t make everyone accept a certain opinion or resolution.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve made some very interesting points that are worth discussing LA! It seems that everytime “mankind” invents something to benefit folks, there is an ample supply of people who will use and abuse it, to their own benefit, to the point of killing everything that is good. In summary there is always Evil ready and willing to destroy Good. But I like how one Christian author summarizes the end of history as we know it … “Love Wins”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I suspect that addictive personalities, especially extroverts, will find a way to overuse anything, while more reserved personalities, especially introverts [such as moi], will find a way to not overuse anything. It might be human nature more than the actual social media that is revealed by our use of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh so true, LA. I fondly remember those neighborhoods and playing outside all day. Oddly enough, with the way that kidnappings and crimes started happening, I didn’t want my kids to play outside by themselves all day. I didn’t always let them have the latest electronic device but I certainly was more careful about where they were going and what they were doing when they went outside than my parents were. Facebook in the beginning was a great way to connect with friends and family and that is about all I use it for now because the rest is all too tension filled. It is helpful, though, in times of neighborhood crisis such as an earthquake or the PG&E explosion we had. It was easy to get info on what was happening and where people could go for help. That’s using it responsibly, I think, and that is key. Responsibly.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I do think there are a number of benefits, but social media platforms are now being exploited for data-mining and social manipulation. They have also led to less courteous dialogs – mildly stated. And, I just read about a study correlating social media to mental illness in teenagers. I will probably write something on that topic 🙂 But I don’t see us going back. I see us eventually being wired directly in – you won’t need a hand-held device in the future 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The things people write on social media that they think are acceptable…..I can’t comprehend! Social media has grown from a pretty flower to a soul crushing weed…..it’s crazy…..and totally agree….soon, chips in what used to be our brains

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “Long before Al Gore invented the internet” has to be my favorite quote. What a mensch!

    We always need real life friends. Our imaginary or paper friends on the internet may not be there to physically pick us up when we fall.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. But long ago before the internet, were people as busy? If not, what happened to cause everyone to be so busy all of a sudden? I feel lost a lot of times because I actually have a lot of free time, and honestly so do a few good friends and family members. But everyone else I meet just seem too busy nowadays

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My daughter just left for college a few months ago, so for the past 18 years we were really busy. As a freshman, my daughter has a pretty full schedule. I’m a little less busy, but my schedule is also variable by time of year.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There have been times when I’ve found better community and family via internet connections than anything I’ve ever had IRL. I met my Hubby online. MC, my senior, has a girlfriend he met online 3 years ago playing Minecraft and they are still together. She now texts me and my daughter. It is a little unconventional, but it is what works for MC and his girl.

    I absolutely love having a house full of people for an event or get together, but the reality of that just not longer exists. My kids are so close to not being in the house any more and the options for them are wide open. It may be that they end up anywhere but here, making even our smaller family get togethers and dinners nearly impossible. I will take what I can get from them via whatever communication they are willing to give me when that happens.

    A lot of stuff online can be really ugly and toxic, but when it is done well, it can be amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had to step away from a lot of things several years ago because there was so much drama and BS. It really hurt because I walked away from some great people. Some I managed to stay in contact with, so that made it easier. I’ve been really cautious dipping into more this time around and have no qualms blocking or ignoring those that try and create that kind of stuff now.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. The timing of your article is ironic. I’m a Gen X’er and just this morning, in fact, was reading an article about the hallmarks of the generation. What you wrote describes it well… “My friends like to wax poetic about the old days: jumping on your bike at 8 in the morning and not coming home till the streetlights came on. You had the kids in the neighborhood and there was always a pick up game somewhere, and the tinkle of the Good Humor truck was ping sound that you listened for. Your Mom didn’t set up playdates- you hung out on the block. There was an inherent community. People sat on the front porch, and your neighbor would tell on you if you did something wrong.”

    Obviously no generation is innocent, but in some sense, it feels like it was a “purer” time and in many ways was more authentic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. There weren’t as many outside influences as there are today. It was simpler and less complicated. Though nothing has ever been simple or uncomplicated….so the new age has just brought us more things to be scared of, and insecure about

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I say we need both! Your impassioned post reminded me of how much better my confidence and social anxiety are since writing on WordPress, but I know that my body/psyche/spirit also needs in-person interaction, support, and love.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t doubt that if you were fortunate in being brought up in a community, knowing everyone and everyone knowing you, the age of virtual communities must be incomprehensible. But I didn’t have that experience. My family moved every 2-3 years with my father’s job. And not just a bit, but across continents and to different countries, so I didn’t have that community experience growing up. As an adult in a new country, apart from my family my potential communities came from work and any other clubs I joined. I didn’t join many as – to be honest – they were full of people who already knew one another and I was the perpetual outsider. Then came the internet …

    When I split up from my long-term partner at age 50, I not only left him behind but our joint friends. His neurosis meant I’d largely lost contact with my old friends, so it was time for me to build new friendships. I did that in both real life and the virtual world. Oddly, the friends I met via the virtual world are the ones who remain in my life now. Those in the real world slipped away over time. The “where” you met friends isn’t what’s important, it’s the quality of the people you meet and how well you connect. For me, the internet has been a boon – its provided the best of friendships, my now partner, as well as friendship & support when I was diagnosed with cancer. My family in particular found that a struggle too far, so I’d have been pretty lost without those virtual friends.

    Like all things, there’s good & bad online. It’s important that we teach our children how to use it wisely, as a tool rather than as a source for self-esteem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly right. We have to make sure we all choose our online friends as carefully as out in real life ones. We should be careful of the people we open up to, because some people are toxic.

      Like

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