Social media allows you to get to know amazing people you might otherwise not have time to have a face to face conversation with.
Before facebook, work colleagues would pass in the office corridor. They would smile and nod a hello to one another. They might exchange a brief conversation about the potholes in the car park while waiting for their documents to emerge from the shared printer but might never have time to get to know one another properly. Similarly at the school gates, parents could pass one another every weekday for years and never get past a cheery, Hi, how’s it going? Fine thanks, you? School-mates would remain out of touch for decades, never to discover the intriguing path life had presented to each of them.
Now, thanks to social media, you can find out someone you barely know has a fascinating set of interests, an unusual job, a tragedy they are battling, an unexpected mutual friend. It brings people together who might never have had time to chat in the ‘real’ world. It’s awesome to make a new friend this way – or to reconnect with someone from your past.
But the deluge of personal information can have a negative side. In addition to the posts and comments that might make you warm to a new (or old) friend, you also now have instant access to their beliefs in a way that, in the past, would not come up in conversation until well into a relationship, or perhaps never. Someone could be a ‘liker’ of homophobic comments, a follower of an anti-vaccination page (or pro-diseasers as I’ve heard they are now known), a defender of American gun laws…
Can you continue a friendship based on the interests you do share, and ignore those you don’t … even if the views suggested by their social media ‘likes’ are abhorrent to you? De-friending them is one option, and that’s fine if you don’t see that person in the real world very often, but is fraught with difficulties if you bump into them on a daily basis. People notice these things.
So maybe we shouldn’t judge anyone, for good or for bad, based on their social media persona (or ever?). It’s like judging someone based on what they say when they’re drunk – it’s as easy to be reckless, overconfident or mistaken when online as it is when you’ve downed your fifth French martini.
If you liked this, please also ‘like’ my facebook page for blog and book updates – and some funny irrelevant stuff too: Fiona MacBain – Writer