On The Grid/Off The Grid

Even though I’m now in my 40’s, I consider myself an above-average observer of social media and how it has changed our way of communicating with each other.  I remember our pre-cable TV world, our pre-Internet world and a world where our version of social media was logging into a chat room on America Online.  Over the short span of about 20 years, the ability for us to allow our family, current circle of friends, past friends, co-workers and even celebrities into our lives has never been easier.  That is, if we want them to be in our lives.

I’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.  In 1998, I had a clunky Motorola cell phone that I kept in my car for emergency purposes, and that was it!  It was just a phone, nothing else.  It was too big to carry around since the size was comparable to stacking three current Android model phones on top of one another.  When I upgraded to a Samsung flip phone in 2003 it had a color screen display and I paid $10 a month for Internet access.  My friends thought the color screen was cool enough; the Internet access was otherworldly at the time.  I had text message capability, but it was too costly to use it (10 cents per incoming/outgoing text).

I would have joined Facebook from the beginning if I could have.  I jumped into that in early 2008 when it was just gaining popularity outside of the college campuses.  It was cool at first when I would have people from another time in my life come back into my consciousness on a daily basis without having to physically meet with them or actually having to pick up a phone to catch up on the X amount of time apart from one another.  Looking at their family photos, personal triumphs and daily posts drew me closer to them without being any closer to them prior to the Facebook experience.

I never got into Twitter or any other type of social media at the time because the amount of time I was spending on Facebook was enough for my interest in it.  I would estimate that I would spend between 2-4 hours a week on Facebook and my friend list was a modest 450 since I didn’t go out of my way to “Friend Request” people.  As I grew more comfortable with having Facebook in my life, I also developed a hatred for it that grew more intense over time.

The “tipping point” concerning my love/hate social media relationship slid to the hate side in 2012.  The early 2010’s were a very busy time in my life, and my wife and I were spending the greater portion of our time searching for a home to buy.  We were saving money any way we could, so we put off getting smart phones until we determined our budget with the new home.  Once we found a home, we of course spent many days getting the home ready for us to live in, which made checking our social media accounts less of a priority.  When our son was born, stuff like Facebook was not even thought about for days.  When we would log in after a few days, we would discover news from friends via social media that was not shared with us via cell phone or even text messages.  We would see that people would post things like, “We are going to ABC bar tonight around 8, then hit XYZ when the drink special is over at ABC.”  2 days after said post was put up, my wife or I would get a message saying, “Hey, we see you didn’t reply to us going out on the weekend.  Is everything all right?  We missed you guys!”

This happened a lot starting in 2012.  Another trend I noticed in the same year was how much useless crap my Facebook friends were posting on there.  I don’t know if I was blind to it the first 4 years I used the site, but I like to think I wasn’t.  I found myself on average wasting a good 45 Facebook minutes a day filtering through the drama, politics and other agendas I constantly tried to escape from in everyday life.  Also, my responsibilities in life were about to be increased by 100% with the birth of our son, and I didn’t want his photos plastered all over the Internet.  So I deleted my Facebook account in early 2013 after a good 5 year run.

In July 2013, my wife and I attended the wedding reception of a friend of mine who I’ve went on a couple of road trips with in the 2000’s.  When we arrived at the banquet facility, I noticed there was a memorial table set up with two pictures, one of which was a recent photo.  The recent photo was my friend’s father, who unexpectedly died a few months before his wedding.  Can you guess how the news went out that his Dad died?  That’s right, Facebook.  No text message or a call from anybody about what happened, and I deleted my account already.  I told my friend that I didn’t know what happened to his Dad, and certainly if I did, I would have attended at least the visitation at the funeral home.

Fast-forward to the present, and I still do not miss having a Facebook account.  Yes, I do not interact with my old buddies like I used to, but even if I would have a Facebook account, I wouldn’t see them anyway.  I have a toddler that keeps me busy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I also noticed in 2016 that the majority of people and businesses who are in the entertainment and recreation industries use social media to promote events and their brands more than other traditional forms of Internet-based interaction (Company websites, e-mail and fan club websites to name a few examples).  I got a Twitter account right after the new year.

So I’m off the grid.  Sort of.

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