Back when I was in the Air Force, as the glaciers receded, I was approached by a very nice gentleman who wanted me to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars. If I recall correctly, he was a World War II veteran. My first response was that I didn’t think I was eligible, but he was pretty direct with the questions and it turned out I really was qualified, even though this was before serving in the first gulf war. (Using the word “first” in there always makes me feel old, though it really shouldn’t!)
So I asked about what the VFW did, and he told me, with the result that I was really not very interested in joining. It didn’t seem attractive to me at all. He left with that look that the older generation gives the younger (and I’m sure I now do it to younger folks!), which suggests that you really don’t understand what’s important in life.
Now I’m not against the VFW. In fact, I think it’s a great organization. That’s not increasing age speaking. I even thought it was a good organization at the time. It just didn’t provide the types of activities that interested me. It’s hard to get me to sit down and just chat. I talk about things. I don’t just talk. Well, actually I do, just much more rarely than most people I know.
Enter social media. Twitter and Facebook are crammed with updates that just don’t interest me that much. For me, it’s a discipline. I do find things I like, and I know how to “like” them or retweet them, but there’s so much else. I have to determine to look through the updates and do something about the things that I actually like.
And I do. I diligently review my Facebook. I less diligently review Twitter. I do it diligently enough that this dislike may come as a shock to many people. I’m often identified (at least for my age group) with social media involvement, though most of that comes through blogging and through my business activities.
Like the VFW, or any other group that provides social connections for people with a particular background, social media is a means of social activity. You may like it or you may not. If you want to meet people, you’re going to have to go somewhere or be somewhere that allows you to meet them. That may be a cyber location like Facebook. It might be a VFW hall. It might be your church fellowship hall. It might be a combination of all of these.
Some people reading the headline might have expected to read about the problems of using social media rather than personal contact. I could, of course, write something like that. Nostalgic yarns about how wonderful things were before some new technology arrived and how that particular technology is ruining everything are, to use something equally cliched, a dime a dozen.
I suspect that after the invention of smoke signals there were those who objected because there would be less personal contact by runners carrying messages. And then there was the advent of that tool of the devil, the telephone!
The modern equivalent is claiming that the younger generation is missing out on personal contact because they use Facebook instead. Personally I think that’s some more of that nostalgic face sunshine. One only has to observe a group of young adults arranging to meet up using their smartphones and social media. The ad hoc event may change multiple times before everyone gets together, but eventually they’ll be together at some event they all chose. It’s hard for someone as old and slow as I am to keep up, but it works.
So my dislike of social media is really just my personality and the way I’d interact with people if I had the chance to do so. It’s not that the technology is bad, though improvements can be made. It’s just that I have to filter through so many things I don’t like in order to get what I do.
Which could, if you think about it, be a metaphor for life.
— Henry Neufeld, Energion Publications Owner