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Social Media: The Game Changed

I’m going to admit it – I am often overwhelmed lately by how much there is to do online and how much you feel like you’re missing out if you log off. Before smartphones, it was never a given that someone could reach you via email. Now, with my blackberry, I can literally check email 24/7 no matter where I am if I choose, and the pressure is silently there to do so or miss out.

When it was just blogging and there were a handful of blogs out there, it was easy and enjoyable to keep up. But now it’s not just blogging and commenting — it’s Twitter and Facebook and every other fleeting social media site. Many of them move in real time, and if you log off, you miss the conversation.

And then it feels like you’re back in middle school, left out.

It literally feels like the cliques form not by just what people are writing or what they like to read (or, as it was in the past, when you started your blog — people who started writing around the same time tended to read one another): the break down sometimes feels like those who spend a lot of time online and those who don’t.  Those who can hang out on Twitter, and those who can’t.  It’s not that the ones who pop on for a moment don’t say something equally important, but they’re certainly not equally heard as those who are ensconced in numerous conversations at once.  Those who can read every post, and those who can’t.  Those who can always comment, and those who can’t.  The list is endless.

There are suddenly 1000 ways to feel on the outside of things.

The pressure is 100% self-imposed and wholly dependent on the person’s perspective.  You may consider someone a well-connected, popular person online.  They may consider themselves on the fringe (and I’m sure it also occurs vice versa, though I would hazard a guess that more people feel left out of things than think they’re part of the whole).

What does it even mean to feel as if you have the social part of social media under control?  I can say that if I look back on 8th grade, there were moments when I felt like I totally “got it” socially (like the times I was dating someone) and times when I didn’t, but it also sort of became a jumbled mess.  Who cares if I could get it right for that one evening if I didn’t feel “right” or “in” 100% of the time?  No one wants to be included for five minutes.  You want to be socially savvy 100% of the time.

No one wants to have one good conversation on Twitter.  They want to feel like they are part of the stream of words, hanging out on the banks as they flow by, fully seen as part of the picture.  Daily.  Or semi-daily.

I know the answer, so you really don’t have to say it.  Walk away.  Unplug.  Don’t care.  Limit your time online.  Don’t return that email, and don’t spend any time thinking about how you didn’t return that email.  Declare Google Reader bankruptcy.  Don’t comment.  Don’t take it so fucking seriously.

But the thing is, the pressure was 100% self-imposed back in middle school too, and I think we can all agree that it wasn’t necessarily helpful to receive the advice “just don’t care” as the solution to the problem.  I mean, did it work for you, when you went home and told your parents how left out you felt and they told you not to care?  It certainly didn’t work for me: I still cared.

I do take the social part of social media seriously.  Because I care about people; I care that people are heard, I want to hear what they have to say.  I want to spend my time online feeling social, feeling like I’m getting out of those interactions the same sorts of good feelings I get from friends in the face-to-face world.  I don’t distinguish between the two: they are simply two spaces from which I draw social time.

But at some point, when all of these additional sites were added on top of blogging, the game changed.  It became way too fast, spinning those who can’t keep up to the edges.  And it’s sort of strange to stand over here, by the wall, and watch social media keep spinning like a crazy carousel that is traveling at speeds that feel unsafe to jump on.  Or to jump off.

Am I the only one who feels like the game has changed?


1 Bionic Baby Mama { 11.07.11 at 9:35 am }

the smart phone thing does, i admit, sometimes make me smart. there’s no way we can afford them, and frankly, we don’t need them. but it does sometimes feel lonely, especially in the foursquare era. i had a group of local friends on dodgeball, and i would get texts asking if i wanted to go to dim sum. now, since i don’t have email with me unless i am working at a computer, i only hear about group outings when i am stuck at my (metaphorical) desk; when i’m out and about, i am out of contact. this isn’t quite what you’re talking about, i realize, but it is how i most sharply experience it.

as to feeling popular, i think it really is mostly a feeling. the thought that you of all people might feel out of the social media loop is proof enough of that. you will always seem in the loop to me.

2 Lollipopgoldstein { 11.07.11 at 9:38 am }

That is EXACTLY it. If you have a smartphone, if you can get email and such on the go, you can be included. But if you can’t, no one seems to be picking up the phone and planning things out anymore. They just post it on Facebook and then when you say something later, they admonish, “but didn’t you see it on Facebook?” Er… no, I didn’t.

It starts coming down to those online always and those online sometimes.

3 Bea { 11.07.11 at 9:43 am }

The game has changed.

I look at it this way. Before, it was like a medium-sized party. You spoke to everyone, you knew all the names. Now it is like this crazy-big party. Crazy-big parties are intimate in ways medium-sized parties cannot be. You can connect more deeply with people in a crazy-big party because you have to accept, up front, that there is just absolutely no way you are ever getting around to everyone. Not even close.

Then again, that might just be my Myers-Briggs type talking (guess what type of book I’m reading at the moment?)

The truth behind the above is that I do get it. I definitely feel out of it these days, and it’s not just self-imposed expectations, it’s actually being more out of it than before. I don’t get to post as much, but also those who read me don’t get to post as much, so it’s happening in two directions for the most part. And you have to put so, so much more in than just posting in order to really be connected online – that’s always been true. And I guess I never really wanted to be an online personality, I just wanted a place to put some thoughts, so branching out and connecting everything up through all the different social media is just not going to work for me.

I don’t know. I’ve been having these thoughts lately. But then I get busy and nothing really changes.


4 Bea { 11.07.11 at 9:45 am }

Nothing about me changes, that is. Only the game.


5 Chickenpig { 11.07.11 at 10:03 am }

I absolutely didn’t care in middle school or High School. I didn’t fit in from when I was 6 years old, and I figured as long as I was in school w the same bunch of kids that that was never going to change. I am not on Twitter, and I only follow what blogs I feel I can keep up with and that interest me. I blog for myself, and I am totally happy with the few people who give me support when I really need it (that includes you 🙂 I don’t have more than a couple dozen FB friends, and most of those are actually really close IRL friends or family. I guess, I’m a social media hermit?

6 Audrey { 11.07.11 at 10:20 am }

I spend an inordiante amount of time online. But I don’t have a smart phone, I can’t even send pictures I take with my phone for some god awful reason (people seem astonished a cell phone can last 4 years, but I’m not sure why since the one I had before that lasted 5), so I don’t really feel connected to the Twitter conversations all that much which makes me feel disconnected from some of my blog friends because they sometimes seem to treat the Twitter as more real than the blog. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a paranoid 13 year old trapped in a 32 year old body. 🙂

7 Audrey { 11.07.11 at 10:22 am }

Oh jebus, I forgot to fix my spelling before I hit submit… *inordinate

8 Amel { 11.07.11 at 11:02 am }

I’ve also felt the same lately. I do try to limit my time online by not joining into too many groups, but it does feel that I’m missing so many things if I don’t check at least my emails or Facebook regularly. It feels weird in a way…It did cross my mind to at least delete my Facebook account, but in a way it has been useful in getting in touch with friends and relatives out there (‘coz I’ve moved far away from my home country)…balance is one of the hardest things on earth and I think it’s gonna get more and more difficult to keep in this “online world”.

9 Sharon { 11.07.11 at 11:27 am }

Throughout my life, from elementary school on, I’ve more often felt like an outcast than a member of the “in” group. So while I do notice what you’re talking about it, it doesn’t bother me much. (Guess that’s one benefit to being 40 instead of 14.)

I enjoy the connections I make with people through my blog and through Facebook, but I don’t really care that much about the stuff I miss out on.

10 N { 11.07.11 at 12:05 pm }

I DO have a smart phone and can’t stay connected ‘enough.’ I went on a twitter hiatus a few months ago because I was getting upset at not being able to keep up even with the folks I self-selected to have on there. I’ve been much happier, but there is a loneliness there. It’s like one of the main reasons that I, as a socially inadept person, preferred the Internet – time to think and give thoughtful, coherent reactions, a
Has disappeared. The game has definitely changed. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can keep yo with people I went otherwise in places like FB, but I just feel so TIRED anymore, the way my introverted self would feel after a party or time spent with a ton of people, but in my own home.

11 Kate { 11.07.11 at 12:26 pm }

I feel like the different platforms are for different things, but, I agree that you start feeling more left out the more you do.

12 Tiara { 11.07.11 at 12:27 pm }

The game has changed & I know I can’t keep up & do feel on the fringe.

13 Nikki P { 11.07.11 at 12:31 pm }

You always pick up on how I am feeling but you have a much better way of saying it than I do. I tried to do the twitter thing and to stay in touch with the girls that were also struggling with infertility. I can’t get on at work and when I get home I do other things where I am not in front of my computer. I do have a smartphone but I don’t like sitting on it all the time. I felt out of the loop a lot and I never felt like I was part of the group. I just didn’t know how people had all that time to be on twitter like that. It seemed to be a good support system for some people but for someone like me who feels easily rejected I just couldn’t break in. Felt like grade school and high school all over again.

14 LJ { 11.07.11 at 1:09 pm }

I agree, the game is changing, yet it also stays the same. I remember a psychology professor reading us a newspaper editorial lamenting how the youth of today don’t value privacy or the art of conversation. We thought it was recent to the time (circa mid-90s), but it had been closer to the turn of the century. We have to take advantage of the old school opportunities when they arise, and reciprocate them to cultivate those ways of communicating, but work to incorporate newness into our lives or end up in self-imposed isolation. (imagining ‘zine writers from 20 years ago, saying “yeah! And get off my lawn.”

It is a lot of information, and fast, and overwhelming. Same as it ever was, no?

15 Pam/Wordgirl { 11.07.11 at 2:48 pm }

This is on my mind a LOT these days. We have a nearly twelve year old (my stepson) who is entering adolescence — and we haven’t shielded him from media nearly enough — and it is a fearful thing to see unleashed in the adolescent these days — and he isn’t even linked into social media — it’s just the pervasiveness of it all — the swirling, pulsing consumerist frenzy of it all — now I can’t speak to the blogging world from the beginning — I had a web page in 2001 — and posted writing on that site — but I didn’t have a blog until 2007. I felt then that it was really a welcoming atmosphere — and while I was surprised by how many wonderful phenomenal writers there were out there — I still felt like I was part of something (thanks to you, Mel, I might add) — even if I didn’t ‘know’ a certain writer, at least in the ALI community- I knew “of” her — and knew so many people who knew her that we felt like acquaintances even if we didn’t comment on one another’s blog …

I had a core group of IF’ers that I read — and we read one another while TTC — and almost all of them conceived before I — but many of them kept reading — virtually holding me up until I came through, what for me, was my journey’s end — with Z. After Z I commented less, had less time to explore new blogs –and really respond — and I wasn’t going to ‘drive-by’ respond — if you know what I mean — and so my own traffic dwindled a bit… and the women I knew blogged less (with the exception of Eden who has been steadfast) — and I found myself feeling lonely again in cyberspace — and then a voice would pipe up — and I’d meet a new friend, — or two, or three – or four — and it’s never been in droves — and I, by no means, feel popular by any stretch of the imagination — and twitter makes me feel like a loser — especially when I ask questions and get **Silence**… but I do feel read — if you know what I mean. I feel like if I write a blog post there are a handful of people who click over to read it — and I so value it.

I lose the thread sometimes and feel like the seventh grade loner who lives inside of me… I was never the social butterfly in any situation — switching mediums wouldn’t have changed that.

Thanks, as always, for the thought-provoking post.

As an aside — I have a good friend/former roommate/fellow writer from graduate school is in your area (I think) — and I kept mentioning you — your blog etc… and she said a woman she knew from the JCC came up to her with “Life From Scratch” and said “You have to read this book my friend wrote…” It is a small world. I keep telling Deborah to look you up — hopefully she will.



16 Leah { 11.07.11 at 3:51 pm }

I’ve deliberately kept my personal twitter very small, and have an “add all” for my blog one. I use twitter “rudely” for my blog, to announce posts and very occasionally actually engage. I spent about 2 days realising that lots of chatter from people I didn’t know well didn’t work for me.

There has definitely been a shift from when social interaction was on newsgroups, or email lists or forums, to when the bulk shifted to social media and blogs. I see blogs as the beginning of the deviation. Rather than being 1 participant in a distinct community, you are the queen of the domain. With fb and twitter, there is not one distinct group to belong to, everyone has a different experience of it, there is no “guarantee” of the space being any particular way. On the other hand, people have embraced a more rounded online identity, using their real name on facebook, including people from all aspects of their lives. I think that’s a positive. It was weird for me when my online life had to open up to offline people but it’s been good.

17 m. { 11.07.11 at 3:54 pm }

The game has changed. And I’m feeling like I got the short stack of monopoly money. You know, the kind you give your younger brother through some creative counting (one for you, one two for me….)

I so appreciate this post because I’ve been participating in some self-flagellation lately. There are just so many cool things happening here in this community (Redbook videos! Spoken word posts! book clubs!) that I WANT to be a part of, but have been finding that I can’t afford to – both time-wise and brain-wise. Right now, life’s roller coaster seems to be amping up into a higher speed and shit, it is all I can do to hang on, maybe catch a post or two from my favorite blogs, and, if I’m feeling ambitious, write a few words in the comment section or answer an email from month’s back.

The pace has changed. And the odds of worlds colliding have increased exponentially too. No longer just an anonymous blog. no! Do I link my twitter to my blog? My facebook page? Vice versa? The blogger that was once upon a time paid for content inside me says “OMG yes! You have to connect! Use every avenue! SEO! Optimize those hits!” But oy, there are other realities. And for why? Will people know its really “me” when I post on their FB page with my real name? Will a colleague or nemesis weave their way through my aliases and land right on that post where I’m talking shit about them? with my luck, odds are good)

Not just any online community this one – it’s one I feel for the most part is protected, self-patrolled, and I do appreciate that safe place. I feel I am constantly walking the line between sharing and educating and advocating and unknowingly exposing someone’s safe place to ones that aren’t so by posting that post on that social media site.

The game has changed and I would appreciate an updated rulebook.

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.07.11 at 4:26 pm }

Sigh. I am both in agreement with you and part of the problem. I am pretty connected by smart phone and am caught up in staying in-the-know. At the same time I realize I can never really be in-the-know enough because THERE IS SO MUCH.

And in striving to be in-the-know in my online communities, I am not always fully present in my off-line life.

Thank you for making me think and reevaluate.

19 Emily { 11.07.11 at 4:26 pm }

I never really felt the need to be online until I started blogging. I love reading and commenting on posts because it makes me happy and I love this community. I don’t tweet and never will. That looks too fast for me. I only started Facebook because family members wanted to share pictures and thoughts with everyone at once. I don’t go on Facebook much now. It just feels like too much. I do have a smart phone, but only because the Hubby dragged me into the 21st century and I am not on it too much.

20 a { 11.07.11 at 6:01 pm }

I am a huge fan of my smartphone, so I can keep up with Damnyouautocorrect.com. And Stirrup Queens. And a couple other things. It’s good, but I can’t do all I want to on my phone because some platforms are incompatible.

I have a limit to what I can tolerate before I must escape to quiet. It can be conversation (frequently), information overload, or anything else. I reach the limit and I have to take a break. I don’t feel guilty about it – better that I walk away than be more obnoxiously rude and tell everyone to STFU.

There are a few blogs I feel semi-obligated to comment on every post. Either I am inspired by the content or I feel like I have a relationship with the writer, and I feel I need to respond. I won’t get involved with Twitter because I can’t keep up. Facebook is OK, but only because I get updates on my smartphone. If I really want to get together with people, I will call or text them (unless I know that email or Facebook is a viable alternative).

I’ve never been worried about popularity, because I know I don’t have the energy necessary to keep people interested in me by being accessible and interested in them all the time. Lazy should be my middle name.

21 loribeth { 11.07.11 at 6:11 pm }

I agree. Sometimes I think I’m just getting old (& cranky, lol), but I just can’t keep up. I don’t have a smartphone & the one I do have is rarely on; I don’t even text. I have my blog, I’m on FB & a couple of message boards where I’ve been for years, and that’s about all I can handle. As it is, my Google Reader has been at 1000+ unread posts for the last month or so. I love being online, love the connections & all the great stuff that’s out there just waiting to be explored, but I still have to work & sleep, the house still needs cleaning & the laundry still needs doing, etc. etc.

22 HereWeGoAJen { 11.07.11 at 6:51 pm }

Yes. And it has destroyed my friendships with a few people who only do Twitter now. I mean, I also do Twitter, but I don’t take it as seriously as others do and I don’t consider it a place for Real News.

23 missohkay { 11.07.11 at 10:02 pm }

Great post. I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to read the tandem posts Esperanza & I wrote last week (which someone so graciously linked to in Friday’s Roundup), but your post fits right in with our topic on how our online experiences fail to meet our social utopia expectations. Like you, we also both discussed the outsider feeling that social media can lead to and the self-imposed stresses we’ve experienced online.

24 Barb { 11.08.11 at 12:03 pm }

YES! Herewegoajen and I were JUST talking about this recently. I have felt VERY down about some of this. Some people I thought I was close with have moved into Twitter, FB and all that and I’m just not as active with social media 1. because I don’t have the time or the attention span.. something has to give, and it’s not going to be my family and 2. I have a job where I can rarely get to a computer for anything other than work. I get forgotten in favor of the online crap. It makes me upset. And I agree with your comment about how people plan things online and then fault you for not seeing it.. not thinking about you personally. It’s sad. 🙁

25 jodifur { 11.08.11 at 3:17 pm }

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when you are out with people and you sit around and talk about……Facebook. Like the only thing left in life is to talk about things that happen on Facebook. Like the whole world is inside the computer. Like if I missed your Facebook status update I’m a bad person.

It is so much and impossible to keep up with it all. My favorite bloggers now blog five places. And no matter how matter how much I love them, I can’t read them everywhere.

26 Justine { 11.08.11 at 3:22 pm }

I sort of jumped into blogging when the rest of social media was also exploding. I’d already had a FB account (for professional use, back when FB was brand spankin’ new and that was the best way to hunt down my students), but then I started taking commenting seriously. And that’s one thing I think might be unique to folks like us: if you feel that commenting is an important part of blogging, then you’re REALLY overwhelmed. Because not only do you have to listen to the conversation in other people’s spaces; you have to contribute to it. You owe it to them to contribute. I just got a smart phone, and I am not planning to use it for FB or email. Until I have to.

27 Mali { 11.08.11 at 9:14 pm }

I think knowing our boundaries is important. If we like, comment or reply to everything on FB or Twitter, if we read and comment on every blog, if we think emails have to be responded to immediately, then we’re neglecting something else. And that something else is often us, or our relationships with people in the same house, or with us at the coffee shop. And that does none of us any good.

I don’t have a smartphone, and though I love new gadgets I’m trying to resist getting one, because I don’t want my email/FB/blogs etc chasing me. I know I’ll cave, and get a smartphone sooner or later. But I’m going to try to be strong, and save my money!

28 gingerandlime { 11.09.11 at 6:36 am }

I definitely feel like I’m left behind online — I mean, here I am, commenting on this post two whole days later — and I don’t even do Twitter. I have my slow little corner of the blogosphere and am never going to be one of the “cool kids,” but that’s OK — I don’t have the energy for it anyway.

29 Anon { 11.10.11 at 11:25 am }

I’ve commented here before and I know you can see my email but I’m going anon for this comment.

I recently posted a comment which was on a joky, outrageous post about something true that happened – the comment was something like “wow, that sounds made up!” and received very shortly an email that said something like “are you calling me a liar?”

I comment frequently (at least, frequently for me), and also often in a tongue in cheek manner on this particular blog but it is massively more popular than mine. Hugely more popular. Infinity times as popular.

I am personally friendly with a couple of people who I know are personally friendly with this particular blogger (who are intermediate in popularity). I’m not sure if this blogger thought “total unknown, who do they think they are?” or recognised me and thought “last straw, had too much of this person and their stupid jokes”.

But it left me feeling that I am the uncool person that thought people knew she was funny but actually no-one even realised it was a joke, because they didn’t even know who she was, or that she’s normally funny.

It does make me question actually whether there’s any point in commenting on the cool blogs, because if your comment agrees with everyone else and says how cool the blog is, then what was the point in posting it, and if it’s a little bit out there then because everyone else says how cool the blog is, then even if it’s meant to be funny or to provoke debate, the fact that everyone else says the blog is cool, means that your slightly different comment offends the blogger.

30 Anon { 11.10.11 at 11:31 am }

PS just to make you feel even more pressured by social media, I am the person who has just added you on FB…
I quite like having Google Reader and FB on my smartphone, because they are not the kind of thing I can justify spending hours reading at work (of course I do) and I’d rather sit in front of the TV with my smartphone, than sit at the computer, in the evenings.

31 Sarah { 11.10.11 at 4:58 pm }

This. This right here is exactly how I feel. I have been blogging for nearly five years, but I feel like I was late to the game somehow. Like even after this long, I am still not really fitting in to the blogging world, much less social media.

I used to be on twitter more, and it made me feel more involved, but with my new job I lost that ability so now I just feel like I am online, but not in the group. And I WISH I could do more, be online more, feel more apart of things, but I do my best. My phone is like a curse, I know what I am missing, but I don’t have the time to keep up any better just for having the knowledge.

Have I told you how much I love your blog? How you write what I am feeling but can’t ever seem to get into words? Thanks for being awesome 🙂

32 Vee { 11.15.11 at 5:20 am }

Oh yes me too! I feel the same way.
I remember the good ole days Mel, where everyone knew each other.
I have become time poor but when I do have the time I spend a lot of it on FB these days, mainly because I am trying to run my new business through it. I couldn’t do it with out it. But whilst I am hanging there I keep thinking I should really write a post or read some blogs and comment but then my time runs out before I do.

I have 10 of your posts to read in my reader, I am never that far behind, especially with my favourite blogs.

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