Social Media Blackout

At a recent social gathering of neighbors, as the children found their rhythm of play and the adults could finally open a beer and talk amongst ourselves, it dawned on me that we didn’t have much new to say to each other. It isn’t that we aren’t interested in one another’s’ lives, in fact, quite the opposite. We are so well connected over Facebook that we already know how the other person’s work and personal life is going, what they did last weekend, and who’s coming for Thanksgiving. Which leads me to question: Does the world of social media need its own blackout rules?

I’m a social media junkie, and if you are reading this, chances are you are too. I’m on Twitter and Google+ for work topics and general newsgathering and then on Facebook for keeping up with friends and family, where I am as guilty as anyone for sharing pictures of my kids and pets. This is truly a wonderful way of staying connected to our distant friends and family and allows everyone to be “in the loop.” But this a communication medium is also being used by those of us who are separated from each other by only a backyard, a driveway or a short bike ride. Our electronic messages in “public” are taking the place of conversations in the neighborhood. .

We have all read about the perils of over-sharing on social media fromThe Huffington PostCNNThe WSJ and countless other news outlets, and I’m not trying to cure that malady. I’m proposing that like a professional sports league, experiencing all the drama and joy of your life is something better experienced by your friends in the company of others, live. Perhaps we should think of social media as a non-real-time communications method; one used for sharing compelling articles and more batched or periodic updates. None of your friends probably needs to see an instantaneous picture of the snow falling outside your window, especially if they can see the same snowflakes falling outside their windows!

To be clear, I’m not suggesting an actual break from your online interactions any more than I would suggest the NFL stop playing. But perhaps if we did a little less sharing online in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, our conversations over pie could be more engaging and humorous instead of simply recounting what we saw on someone’s Facebook page.