A Socially Happy Birthday!

Social Media

Have you ever really considered the impact of social media on your life?

I caught up with a friend recently and we were shocked by the amount of time that had passed since our last face to face. Initially we were adamant we must have caught up earlier but had forgotten.  Apart from busy lives, work and family pressures, we both landed on Facebook as a strong but subtle influence in our lives, because through Facebook we had involvement in each other’s lives without actually seeing each other in person.

I’m someone who works full time in the digital space and my out of work life is also very digitally enabled. I am still often lost for words at the speed with which our world is changing because of digital innovation. What is increasingly evident is the effect social media is having on our personal interactions.

Visit any cafe and no doubt you will see at least one person on the table transfixed by their smart phone and not interacting in conversation. With online dating, you often know more about someone before you’ve met them than you would learn in the first couple of dates, and let not talk about the the photos you may have shared. Looking down the train carriage in my morning commute, it is rare to see someone holding a paper or chatting with someone. The smart phone, kindle or tablet rule this time of day as the perfect time to catch up on social media, news or your emails.

As I finalise this blog, I look down the floor of the office and there is more than one person doing something on their smart phone – apart from using it to take calls, no doubt they are on some type of social media app if I was to investigate.

Our noses are pressed so close to our multi-screen world that sometimes it is easier not to look up to the real world and understand what is going on around us. Social media bridges the gap with friends around the world, because the occasional Facebook post makes you feel like you are there with your friends, but it can also create distance with your local friends.

September last year was life changing for me with the passing of a close family member followed a few days later by my birthday.

On my birthday my Facebook profile was full of wonderful ‘happy birthday’ messages from my friends around the world putting a smile on my face. What was noticeably different on this day was a drop in phone calls from my friends wishing me a happy birthday. My family situation wasn’t widely known by my birthday, but no doubt it had some impact as people find it difficult trying to find the right words when someone is grieving.

Is it becoming the norm that a birthday post on Facebook replaces a phone call?  My birthday was challenging for me and it was a time when I actually wanted to hear the voices of my friends rather than read a Facebook post. I wanted to wake up to a few voicemails from friends overseas wishing me a happy birthday – but this was the birthday I felt social media had changed for me.

Lately, I have noticed a few friends closing their Facebook profiles and when asked why they did this, they all commented on the loss of the personal touch with their friends and they want to catch up with people face to face, or chat over the phone to hear about their lives rather than read a post about it.

Social media isn’t going anywhere and if anything it is getting more ingrained in our lives. We can, and should, make the effort with our friends where it counts. Since my birthday, I still leave a Facebook post wishing a happy birthday to my friends on Facebook. However, I now always ensure I call my close friends and wish them a happy birthday. This phone call gives me the opportunity to ask my friends how they are doing and maybe just hearing my voice may put a smile on their face. A phone call from a friend always puts a smile on my face.

Next time you read a Facebook post from a friend or see an Instagram pic and you click ‘like’ or write a witty comment, why not take the time to pick up the phone and also say hello. You don’t know where that person is in their head at that point in time, but I’m sure they’d love to hear your voice whether it is in real time or even via a voice mail.

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