Monday, July 7, 2014


As a society have we become too reliant on social media? Have we lost our ability to communicate on a personal basis in favor of hiding behind a screen? I'll be the first to admit that I am a Facebook junkie and probably spend too much time scrolling through the likes of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. I can't even remember the last time I picked up an actual telephone to call someone yet I feel connected with my friends all around the world. In fact, it is because of social media that so many of these friendships have been kept alive and vibrant despite the distances between us. As for my handful of friends who haven't jumped on the Facebook bandwagon? I know it is wrong but I still keep in touch, but much more sporadically, than I do with my Facebook friends. And through Facebook I have found online communities that offer support and advice for just about any situation that may arise. If I have a question about the opening hours of a business, what is going on in the community or the daily specials at a restaurant I am more apt to check out their Facebook page than I am to pick up a phone and call. It is faster, more convenient and can be done on my own schedule and on my own terms. So yes it is nice but at the same time I can't help but wonder if we have simply gone too far.

Here in our SHAPE community just about every group and organization has their own Facebook page. There are the official ones that are managed by actual departments and offices--the general SHAPE page, the library, and MWR all provide a wealth of timely information and are quick to rebut any rumors that may be circulating. And then there are the what feels like hundreds of unofficial pages. There are pages for pet owners and frequent travelers, numerous pages to help people buy and sell items, and then general pages where questions are asked and answered. As with all situations involving social media, these pages need to be approached with a grain of salt since for every piece of good information there seems to be twice as many negative or false stories being circulated. But I'm not criticizing any of these pages; after all this is where I get the majority of my information about what is happening in my own community. But it makes me wonder, what about all of those people who are not on Facebook?

Yes, as hard as it may be to believe, there really is a contingent of people who shun social media and do not maintain online accounts. My husband is one of those people. While he does have a Facebook account, it has been so long since he logged in that he no longer remembers his password. In all honesty, his account now serves the sole purpose of keeping his far flung friends updated on his whereabouts and even then, this only comes from my tagging him in photos. But that seems to work for him. But it also means that if it wasn't for my telling him, he would be unaware of all of the vast array of activities and events taking place right around him. Even though he works right on base and is theoretically in the center of all of the activities, he is essentially unaware of many of the events that are taking place. Some larger events are announced via official notices yet much takes place outside of the official channels and seems to be announced solely on Facebook. Bake sales, ball fundraisers and family social events all sponsored by the Navy element here (and we are a Navy family) only seem to be announced via Facebook. Other activities will be announced on Facebook days if not weeks before an official notice may or may not be issued. Maybe it is just me, but this seems a bit odd.

And it begs the question of whether everyone needs to be plugged into social media. Can a workplace require it? Or can they strongly discourage it or even flat out forbid it (I know there are some places that do). And what about work places that advise their employees to use discretion? Can this guidance also extend to family members? Whether we like it or not, social media has become a global trend. By Facebook's own statistics, there are 1, 250 million active accounts worldwide. The United States, United Kingdom and Indonesia top out the list of countries with the most users (with Walmart being one of the most popular pages in the United States but that is a story for another blog post). But what does it mean if you are one of those people who hasn't logged on and clicked the "like" button. Are you simply destined to be left behind or left out? And is this necessarily a bad thing? Some days I'm not so sure..........

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