“What! You’re having a baby?!” I wish I was kidding. Rather than finding out through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever, I found out 8 months late that someone was pregnant. Fortunately this wasn’t a close friend but it’s someone I knew well enough that I should have probably known. Put a bit better, if I was still on social media then I DEFINITELY would have known.
Being social in a world so centered on social media leaves me in some awkward moments. Like not knowing someone got a new car and almost getting in the wrong one in a parking lot or asking how someone’s boyfriend is doing only to find out they broke up 2 weeks ago. Those I’m close with I am mostly up to date on plus or minus a few selfies on Instagram. It’s the people in between close friends and acquaintance I have found social media to be helpful with.
I love to ask questions. Further, I love knowing what questions to ask. Social media gives me that immediate set of knowledge that I can go back to. Plus since most of the world is making use of it and making a point to post, it leaves me as the awkward one asking things I could in theory know if I was plugged into it all.
How to combat this?! After many awkward conversations, I have figured out that asking super open ended questions can work. Specifically, questions that are open ended but targeted enough on things that are 1) relevant to most everyone at that time aka newsworthy events or 2) based on what I know previously about them. An example: “Whats going well for you right now?” Even then though, I walk away from conversations sometimes feeling like if I was just on facebook we could have skipped all this shallow catching up to jump into some deeper topics. Rather than, let’s say, talk about how someone recently started a new job but I didn’t know I could go straight into diving in about what the new job is like, why they left, etc. Instead I have to first even figure out they started a new job and left an old one! Sometimes information like that doesn’t even come up purely because the other person assumes I know.
Alright- I’ve covered the downside of trying to be social without social media. What’s the upside?
Assumption-less conversations. There’s a complete drop off in terms of what I know about a large majority of the 1000+ Facebook friends I had after deactivating my account. When I see one of these people, it has that same feeling that I used to have at summer camp where you hadn’t seen someone since last summer. I hated summer camp but regardless you get the emotion I’m referring to. Rather than not having anything to talk about, there’s so much to talk about because I literally know nothing about their life in the past 8-9 months. This has resulted in friendships becoming closer with people I wasn’t close with before as well as some very random yet wonderful conversations.
Without assumptions, there are less leading questions. Take my friend who started her new job. Rather than setting her up with “oh my gosh I bet you just love your new job based on your Instagram feed of the food they serve at lunch!”, I am left with a very simple “how do you like your new job?”. There’s this pressure to romanticize things nowadays too based on social media. Usually when you really break down someone’s super excited post about something, you find there’s a lot more to it.
The message in all of this? Don’t make assumptions based on social media. If you find yourself “creeping” on friend’s profile, reach out to them. Don’t just like a status, hear the story. Even though we seem to share a ton online, there’s even more to share in person and 1-1. Social media and networks were created to connect us both on shallow and deeper levels. The private messages that take 3 hours to type are just as important as the like button you can press in a matter of seconds. Make use of both.