Before I dive in to my thoughts on social media, let me tell you a little about myself in social situations. This event is not family or close friends. It is the kind that requires mingling and small talk. I try to stay close to my husband. He circulates through the room like he owns it. He almost always knows someone. On the rare occasion he doesn’t, he quickly finds someone with a common interest and my role begins. I stand quietly and wait for inspiration to strike, for an opportunity to say something insightful. Instead, I become a bobble-head listener with no idea how to add to the conversation. This is probably one of the reasons I love social media. There is no pressure, and I get to add to the conversation.
Facebook, for example, is easy. I can share a heartwarming story, or like the picture of a friends graduating senior. I can offer support to a hurting friend, or wish my brother a happy birthday. Twitter, however, is different. It is much more controversial and faster paced.
At first, I thought I would learn about differing views concerning the important topics being discussed. I quickly discovered that most of it is what I call, Hit and Run Comments. You know; the one liners you’d love to say to that annoying person at work, but you would never dare say it to his face. Still more frequently, it seems that people dig into their memory banks and pull out a whole host of crass, body-part-laden, immature comments from their middle school years. Another popular method is to jump to an overgeneralized conclusion based on fear not fact. Most make one or two jabs and then disappear into cyber anonymity.
Why do people do that? Maybe, if they can shut someone up with a one liner, they feel in control for a moment. Perhaps they are responding to an attack made on them. Or maybe it’s just easier to make a Hit and Run Comment than try to make a substantive comment.
After all, substantive comments require thought, and a little skill to get it to make sense in 140 characters or less. (I’ve seen strings of tweets, but they get a little confusing, especially if you start commenting on segments in the middle of the string.) This also requires knowledge of the subject. This is one of the reasons I like Twitter. If I see a topic of interest, I can take my time and formulate a coherent comment. I do have to be careful. If anyone engages me, I may have to do research to support my opinion. But again, I have time to do that.
Why do I like to comment? Am I trying to feel a sense of control where I really have none? Am I trying to change someone’s mind? Do I want to feel important because someone liked a comment I made? I’d be okay with any of these, but really, I make a comment for a different reason. I want to have the courage to speak up when I have an opinion. I want to broaden my knowledge with facts to support those views. In time, I’m hoping to get good enough at it to put away the bobble-head and join in the conversation that begins with small talk and ends with understanding.