the posts that bind

by rantywoman

As the prior article I posted from Stephanie Wood illustrates, social media can make us feel lonely even as it purports to bring us together. It’s complicated, in other words.

Here’s another perspective I appreciate, although the emphasis on sharing photos of children is exactly the kind of thing that can make the childless feel isolated:

The point of this anecdote is not that he didn’t regard my Facebooking of him as an invasion, but that he wanted me to do for him exactly what I was doing for myself: share something funny (along with a tip to some cool tunes) with his community.

We need this. Modern society blows communities apart, splits family and friends across continents, isolates us in our cubes, and works us too hard to have as many physically embodied connections with each other as we would like. We’re always fighting alienation. Any new parent, I’m sure, recognizes the syndrome. The combined tasks of parenting and earning a living send a torpedo blasting through our real-life social networks.

One meaningful reason why we value social media, even though it is problematic in so many troubling ways, is precisely because it helps us stitch our exploded communities back together, and keeps us in closer touch with the people we love. We’re not taking and sharing more pictures right now (by several orders of magnitude!) than at any other time in the history of human civilization because we’re all irresponsible tramplers of each other’s privacy! We’re doing it because it fulfills deep-seated human needs for connection and intimacy. I cherish pictures of my brother’s new baby down south in San Diego because I am sadly too far away for regular physical check-ins. I know my sister, who was present at my daughter’s birth but now lives on the East Coast, loves as many updates on her niece’s activities as she can get. Friends of mine who’ve moved away, former work colleagues whom I hold dear but now rarely get to see — we all feel more in touch, more present in each other’s lives when we share anecdotes and pictures of our children with each other.