I think this is how society and communication evolves. Our lives change and the way we communicate adapts accordingly. With social media I think that the reverse also applies – our ways of communicating have changed and our lives have adapted to accomodate. It's amazing and wonderful in so many ways. Like everything though, there are caveats. I've tried to teach my children social media skills and etiquette. I think they need to be supervised and guided until they are proficient and understand the dangers and pitfalls of the electronic world. It's just like driving a car. I wouldn't throw my kids the keys the day they turn seventeen and wave them out the drive. And I wouldn't pass my kid an ipad and expect that all will be fine. There are plenty of adults that behave like dicks on social media – I'd prefer if my kids didn't join those ranks, so I offer suggestions and provide some guidelines. You know, things like – never share material or make a comment that is sexist, racist or bigoted. Proof read your posts, don't be a bully and remember that, like tattoos, electronic material is permament.
1) Social media is not subject to peer review or reality checks. You can post any kind of crap that you like on social media with little fear of reprisal because unlike the material in scientific journals (which is subject to close scrutiny by a panel of scientists) and the information in main stream media (which is subject to the scrutiny of editors) there are no background fact checks. So, if you believe that bananas cure cancer because your next door neighbour's aunty said so or that the country is going to go to hell because... immigration, you will be able to find someone on Facebook to support your views. And if your social media friends are from largely the same socio economic demographic, you might find lots of people who believe in that crap too. But here's the thing, it doesn't make them right.
2) Social media is a construct. Very few people post pics of themselves the minute they wake up, or if they're vomiting or on the toilet. And for this we should be thankful. This is because we are all curators of our own social media profiles. It's not necessarily a form of dishonesty to portray only the positive aspects of your life on social media but it's not the full picture either. Sometimes all we see of other people is them having fun. Instead of asking why, if they're having so much fun, are they bothering to stop and make facebook posts, we can just feel a little bit miffed because we're at work or stuck at our desks writing blog posts when we'd rather be drinking a beer and watching the sunset. They say that comparison is the thief of joy and nowhere is that more true than on social media.
Very, very few people post photos of themselves failing at the things that matter to them. Writers don't post rejection slips, chefs don't post charred failures and travellers post pictures of beaches and not airports and the queues at customs. And the fact that no-one ever seems to fail anymore (at least in public) can make it hard when failure happens to us. And that's a problem because, in my experience, the very best way to be succesful is to fail – a lot. In fact, failure is such an integral part of success that we should embrace it and even seek it out. Despite what social media might suggest, the trajectory of success is rarely exponential, there are just as many troughs as there are peaks.
Understanding that social media has a significant fictional component is a big step towards putting it into a manageable context. And acknowledging that if comparison is the thief of joy, then failure must be its closest companion helps us to understand that the important things in life are rarely easy – despite the Facebook posts that appear to suggest otherwise.