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The problem with social media? Too many Joneses to keep up with

social media complications twitter facebook tweetingThe overarching goal of social media, no matter the service, is to help people connect. That’s a noble goal. Unfortunately, humans weren’t meant to be connected to hundreds of people at one time, and that connection certainly wasn’t meant to be real-time and instantaneous. That can lead to issues.

When we first signed up for a social network (it doesn’t matter which one), its purpose became instantly clear: Find people from high school you vaguely knew and put the most positive spin on your current life as possible.

Serving 5-10 for multiple DUIs suddenly became “semi-professional drifting driver”.

Unattractive wife? Only post pictures where you appear with more than one girl and neglect to identify which one is your SO.

This was fun for a while, until that same culture from high school crept back into this new world. The same people that were socially awkward back then are the ones that flood your feed begging for some random vegetable on FarmVille. You end up blocking them, just like you did 15 years ago. Those games are just the 21st century version of Magic: The Gathering.

Just like back then, you keep those vague high school people on the periphery while using social media to interact with the people you normally interact with on a regular basis. In other words, it’s a layer of interaction in your real life that didn’t exist before. A complication.

Take, for example, this hypothetical scenario that seems to happen all the time:

I take a picture at some event, usually of my daughter. A friend is in the background.

“Don’t tag me in that on Facebook.”

“Why? It’s a good picture.”

“I told my dad we couldn’t visit this weekend because I was sick.”

facebook permissions social media sharingThis leads to a five-minute discussion of us comparing Facebook security settings and trying to determine if her dad would actually see the update. It required the use of a whiteboard, Venn diagrams, and flow charts. In the end, it was determined that it wasn’t worth the risk. Now I lose the opportunity to show the inconsequential people from high school that a.) I have a cute daughter and b.) I have friends.

Then there’s LinkedIn, which everyone I know treats as a business networking opportunity and is incredibly careful about what they post. If you think Facebook is self-edited, check out LinkedIn. Everyone (including me) makes themselves sound like the second coming of Jeff Bezos. So when somebody forgets that their Twitter is linked to their LinkedIn feed, hilarity ensues.

“Mary Smith, Founder & CEO of Smith Avon Distribution, tweeted the following: ‘Out DRINKING with these sluts!!!!?!?!P!!! [Attached Twitpic of middle-aged women dressed in low-cut tops]”

I don’t know how many potential Avon leads Mary lost from the other CEOs on her LinkedIn feed, but I’m pretty sure looking like Miley Cyrus wasn’t in her fiscal 2012 marketing plan.

Layers on top of layers.

That’s why it’s important to remember which services are linked to each other. I recently introduced my wife to Spotify, knowing that the default setting is to share what you’re listening to on Facebook. Nearly instantly, it paid off:

“Wifey is currently listening to a radio station based on Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ on Spotify”.

When you’ve been together for 10 years, it’s the little things that keep the romance alive, like knowing your soul mate has the musical taste of a 13-year-old girl.

Our parents didn’t have to worry about situations like these. Their secrets, for better or worse, stayed secret. They lacked this modern need to publicize themselves. As much as we make fun of our reality-show celebrities, whose first impulse is to whore themselves out by any means necessary, we all have a bit of that impulse in ourselves right now.

Social network feeds inherently produce competition. We need to get the most likes, the most comments, or the most retweets. My daughter has to be cuter than any other child I see on Facebook. I need to have a nicer car. My vacation pictures need to be from Bora Bora.

To be fair, this kind of competition existed before the advent of the Internet. That’s where the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” comes from. But with the emergence of social media, the Joneses multiplied. You now have hundreds of neighbors and they are more than happy to share intimate details of their life. If you don’t follow suit, you’re falling behind.

This might be one race worth sitting out. As the kids from high school can attest to, I wasn’t very good at sports.

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