Social Media: Getting Drunk and Vomiting
Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Last week I read Sarah Glazer's post, Writing as Solitude and found this link to Alone, With Words by The New Republic's Jed Perl. From there I read Emily Gould's NY Times Magazine article.

Social media - the power lunch redux - is networking. Arguably this tool takes networking to the tenth power; however, the expansion of results are achieved through an amplification of consequences. When we power-lunched in the 80's we got drunk; when we overshare in the 2010's we vomit.

Early in my tweeting career, I followed a woman recommended by an acquaintance only to learn her tweets are limited to three areas: her breasts, getting drunk and how much she hates her job. She posts from work all day long. Tacky to be sure, but when I found out she's an elementary school teacher, I unfollowed and sighed. Surrounded by cheap-chirps and furious-facebooking, I am still hard pressed to find a colleague or friend smitten with twitter, facebook or blogging who will in any way speak ill of their new obsession. So I called their girl-friend a slut.

I'll admit I struggle with peering over the edge and into the abyss. I tweet. I blog. And I update. If I publicly share a piece of my life that hits fairly close to the bull's eye, I at least confer with the other parties involved. Emily Gould, though somewhat reformed, and many many others argue two-fold: "freedom of speech" and "it's the truth". Both positions may very well be the case, but neither is a defense against human decency nor accountability.

The idea of tell it all and tell it anywhere is quite frankly just bad manners. The online equivalent of the nose-picking, gum-smacking gossip you encounter at a networking event and break away from at the first possible moment. And yet, online, with its built in anonymity for both writers - and readers - we spend the night with mean-spirited and self-absorbed people with whom we would never be friends. Then again, they could already be a friend, or parent, or child.

Perhaps part of our collective challenge as writers in this age of immediate gratification is the absence of a cooling off period. We react, we type, we post. I found Jed Perl's words to be true at a most basic level. Some thoughts, feelings and beliefs are private. Some are meant for only a few. And some are shared among thousands. My responsibility as a writer, a friend and most importantly as a parent, is to pay attention. To drink responsibly. To remember that while I can burn the pages of a journal, I cannot burn what I put out into the cloud.