By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
To write about the ills of social media is but to be an echo, an oscillation of sound with familiar movement. Resembling the enthusiastic warnings of mobile phones, Internet and false idols delivered daily as a finale to porch swing sermons given to me by my grandmother, doubts can arise as to the legitimacy of the caution. Should I fear what I don’t understand or should I proceed with caution until the unknown is the understood. Societal interrupters are not a novel phenomenon. Arguments can easily be made that the emergence of the Internet, the Blackberry and even instant grits sent ripples of worry, fear and uncertainty to many who felt their purpose was extraneous. The daunting debut of societal interrupters is not new, it just moves much more quickly allowing for little adaptation. We find ourselves amidst the battle with no weaponry, no shield and often no running shoes. Our fight or flight response urges action with little thought, which is perhaps the very essence of social media.
Social media is the modern day wild card, loose cannon, Moby Dick, the whale that quite possibly has taken off the leg of traditional communication spurring us all in search of logical vengeance. It’s very inception has caused us to become a pseudo-aware society, inspired toward much of what was completely unknown prior to the opportunity for such astounding connectivity. Seemingly overnight we became passionate about causes that we previously dismissed due to distance. Increasing was our concern for our neighbor — the same neighbor we passed daily yet never acknowledged. We became friendlier, more supportive and in many cases far more attractive. Overnight we became whatever we were able to portray behind the guise of a filter. We also became reclusive, overwhelmed and increasingly unhappy as comparison to the tides of perfection crashed against our own shores of self worth. Social media has become botox for our reputation, smoothing creases and polishing our presentation in a precisely poisonous way. Is it sustainable? Can we continue to offer rose-colored glasses to all those we encounter? Will it become the catalytic agent that forces authenticity or endanger it to extinction? Will we adapt or will we divide?
As with any mass event there is collateral damage, for every action an equal yet opposite reaction. For every progress births a new challenge. Social media with all it’s positive uses has created a subculture. A world free of imperfection, glass castles with polished ceilings and crystal floors presented with the best light to those who applaud its shimmer and shine from the shadows of reality. Identities are measured by popular reaction. What is recognized by followers, fans and digital dignitaries is revered, what’s condemned is contagious and what is violent is often viral. Friends can be purchased, importance inflated and experience exaggerated. A world where anyone can be anything all the while actually doing so little. Everyone is an expert, celebrity, villain and victor.
Social media is not real just as hair dye, spray tans and instant grits. It’s another shortcut society has created that appeals to the masses to take the edge off of life’s little absurdities. Instead of putting in time and effort to establish relationships, instead of building an authentic reputation and instead of learning to face the intricacies of human interaction, social media offers a placebo. It’s but a temporary tan, semi-permanent color and preservative to extend what was never meant to be extended.
The irony of it all is that there is no avoiding what is real, especially in a small town. There is no filter to improve character. There is no substitute for a reputation built from face to face, day to day, deed to deed. Friends aren’t measured by number but by action. Social media is but a virtual gathering where everyone gets dressed up, participates in small talk, shares carefully selected highlights of their lives all to eventually return home to what is real, what is comfortable and what can’t be feigned. As with all new interruptions, we will find its purpose and pitfalls. Collectively we will decide, historically we will learn.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, real estate broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane, lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.