On being anti-social, in a social media world…

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yes, I’ll admit it, I like nothing more on any given work day than to close my office door, and tune out the outside world so that I can concentrate; other people be damned. I have my moments when I want to stand at the water cooler and chat about this or that, but 98% of the time, I’m alone in my space, doing what I love to do, design, draw and create interesting images. It isn’t that I hate people, no not at all, I just find myself not caring so much about whatever they have to say if it should stray from the particular project I’m working on, or have scheduled to begin in the not to distant future. Perhaps I sound cold, or callus. I assure you I am not. Blunt like a grey cinder block? yes, I’ll give you that. My wife likes to refer to me as a robot some times, purely in jest I believe.

But words are petty and actions speak louder than words. Probably why I like to write out letters rather than speak on the phone. I’m sure that having the time to carefully choose ones words, and craft a funny, nasty, churlish, or instructive letter makes me fell smarter than I really am. I can come up with a decent vocabulary when I have the leisure to do so, but when I speak in person, I sputter and swear, and generally repeat myself and am at loss for words that actually say what I mean. A charismatic orator I am not. I did a whole slew of on stage performances when I was in grade school, high school, college and university, but the desire to be front and centre has withered and wasted away. I can give a clear and concise speech, hell I’m too worrisome to just try to wing it, so I’d write it out and learn it, like a good little thespian would. But as any director of mine will tell you, I tend to mouth the words of the other actors as they say them, so I know when I am supposed to speak next. Ha. Talk about losing the suspension of dis-belief. But I’m slowly edging off topic.

The topic, being some what anti-social in a world that is now dominated by “social media”. I imagine on all outward facing fronts, I seem rather social. I have a Youtube account where I post videos, a Deviant Art account where I upload artwork, a NAPP account for my photoshop portfolio, a facebook account, and I tweet some times. But to me, these things aren’t social. It ends up being something I can broadcast what I’m doing without actually having to call or speak to individual’s about what I have done, or am not doing. Remember when, back before ICQ, if you had something really great happen, or you had a birthday, you actually had to call every one of your relatives one after the other, to thank them for cards or gifts or just to say hello. Forever repeating the same sentiments over, and over, and over again, until your ears hurt from pressing the phone to your head for what felt like days on end? Do you remember that? I do. But now, I just post it, and then if anyone cares to they can read it and know what’s going on over in my corner of the country. I’m sure the term “lazy” fits into that lack of desire to call or make an effort to reach each friend or family individually. But, I tell myself, I’m busy, I commute several hours a day, I have this to do or that to do. Isn’t it just easier to broadcast messaging tailored to no one in particular so that everyone who reads it doesn’t feel like they are coming up against an on-slaught of private jokes and inside quips?

So, I know you, odds are I even like you, I just don’t want to talk to you. I’m hard of hearing, and everything these days is just way too loud. I can’t discern your voice from the stereo, or the train, or the traffic noise. I nod my head and say uh-huh a lot, even though I didn’t hear a word you said. I’m a terrible lip reader, so watching your mouth the whole time only helps a little. So, no I don’t want to talk to you. Bastard!, you say, Jerk! who do you think you are!?! you say. I say, I am you, because you do it too. We all have some of these anti-social social media tendencies. Facebook wouldn’t be at how ever many billion users if we weren’t. (Although many of you aren’t hard of hearing, just pacing and waiting for your turn to talk). Is that what your communications feel like these days, not collaboration, not listening, but hearing noises, waiting for a pause, until you have the chance to jump in with your two cents.

This is slightly off topic, but some times near the end of my commute when the train is much, much quieter, and there are two people sitting and chatting on my good side, I listen. Some times, two people are talking and having two very different conversations. Each one is single sided, but they flow together like the people are actually communicating. I found this to be astonishing at first, but it is like those “give away” scenes at the end of “The Sixth Sense”. When you see it the first time you think all is as it should be, but when the twist is exposed, so too do you see the holes, and you think, How Did I Miss That? How did you, indeed.

So to sum up. Do I hate people, Nope. Do I prefer constructive written communication over verbal, yep (Expecting that such foibles as emotion, sarcasm or some such isn’t employed as it tends to go a miss, unless expressed in a very poignant way [side bar, has anyone figured out a proper sarcasm font or type treatment yet???]). Are you being social when broadcasting via social media, Nope. When was the last time you had a decent conversation with your television set, or radio? The internet is different as you can achieve instantaneous responses, but with trolls and what not, is that a fulfilling social connection or experience? Hardly. When we are face to face, do we listen and communicate, or wait for a gap in the noise and jump in with our own two cents, not always, but I see it an awful lot more now than I did prior to the internet boom.

If we can find a quiet place to chat, and I’m not at work, then lets do so. Just turn your phone off and I promise I will listen to you.

-M

Comments
  1. Interesting post! Since I released my book, Being Anti-Social, I’ve received a lot of emails from people who share these sentiments. I’m not sure if it’s something new arising from social media fatigue or if more people are simply ‘coming out’ and acknowledging it. You shouldn’t need to apologize though for preferring your own company or being alone – that’s perfectly OK! 🙂

  2. Angela says:

    Interesting post! “Social media” certainly has drastically changed the way we interact… although I love some parts of it, some of it can be annoying. It’s like learning a whole new language and a whole new etiquette. Very confusing and often frustrating. It’s also too easy to slip through the cracks in life, when someone just “goes offline” for a while… They become invisible and you are never sure whether they just want to be left alone or you just haven’t contacted them in the proper manner… also, everyone has their perfect soapbox!

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