Social media connections: is there a disconnect?

So I was talking to my long time friend and partner in crime Susan, an extraordinary graphic designer, and she posed this blog/social media etiquette conundrum: “Is there an unwritten rule about how long you can post comments? It seems odd to comment after a certain amount of time has passed. People just stop. But that’s kind of silly to me. If anything it should be a way to keep a dialogue open forever. Would it be pointless to comment on something that someone wrote a year ago?”

Now, I’m by no means a “social media expert,” as there are plenty of those around. But my Facebook addiction is going on two years strong now, and from that experience, I would say that coming in late to any social media conversation is like bolting awake at 3am and blurting out a retort to a comment from a conversation you had two days ago. Everyone’s gone, the party’s over, lights are out. Cue the crickets. It feels odd to comment on posts or updates after more than 24 hours because, like any conversation, timing is everything.

But with social media, you can’t see when someone’s left the “room.” You can see names, dates they posted, the comments–but how do you know if anyone is still listening? How do you know if anyone still cares? If you post a comment, will anyone see it? If a tree falls in the social media world after the status update has been posted, does anyone hear it?

The whole point of social media is the immediacy–there is something intoxicating about posting an update and having ten people comment on it within minutes. You feel…popular! The center of attention! Cool!

It’s not the same across the social media board, though. Group topics for LinkedIn  can start conversations that last for days, weeks if it’s a really good one. But after so many comments, I stop following. I get bored. I want new, fresh topics. Amuse me! Educate me! Do it now!

Maybe that’s another reason why it feels strange to comment on threads after a certain amount of time has passed: our short attention spans. Sure, in Facebook you can see in your notification list if someone added a comment to a status update you’re following, but really, who cares a day later? Overnight, there are some 250 status updates in my “Most Recent” list. So many updates, so little time! You have to keep moving on or you’ll never catch up. It’s anti-climatic to see a comment on a comment or topic you were done with yesterday.

I’ll admit, I’m not as addicted to Twitter as Facebook, but Twitter seems like the most immediate of all social media. When I find an older status update that I like and want to comment on, I don’t. What’s the point? No one’s listening anymore anyway.

For blogs, don’t you feel silly hopping on a conversation thread after it’s been too long? The people who were following that thread have most likely moved on. So much content! So little time! So you could post a comment for your own amusement, but don’t expect to generate more conversation when everyone has already left the party.

Maybe the rule of thumb is this: if you worry that it’s been too long, then it probably is.

Susan argued that if you do find something really good on, say a blog post and you want to join the conversation but it’s been “too long,” then what? “It reminds me of when I travel alone to other cities and go to art museums,” she said. “Art can be experienced on an individual level, but after a while you want to turn to someone and say, so what did you see?”

I know what that feels like. YOu want to watch the other person’s face as she describe the experience so you can share it with her. There’s an immediacy there, a connection is established. I think what Susan is asking is, if you are constantly finding things to connect with people about after they have already left the museum, it can be a very lonely experience.

S0 the question becomes: are we losing our connectivity with too many connections? How can you get someone to experience anything with you “now” when they’re not there with you? As Susan said, what does posting all this stuff get us if it has no shelf life?

The other night, I was at a friend’s house. There were maybe six of us sitting around a table on her back patio and we were laughing, talking, enjoying adult beverages. The host’s teen daughter came out and sat at the table. She didn’t say hello, didn’t engage in conversation–no surprise there. She sat at the table among us, texting on her cell phone, probably texting how drunk and stupid all the old people were being. Whenever she was asked a question by someone around the table, her mother had to prompt her to respond–“Someone is talking to you, someone who is sitting right here in front of you.”

It was odd, sitting next to a person who was communicating with some of her estimated 250 friends, but completely disconnected from the people sitting right next to her. What will this mean 20 years from now? How will it change the way we communicate with each other? Will we even remember how to have real-life conversations, or will this too become antiquated and outdated? Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’ve forgotten how to have a conversation. I think in bite-sized “status updates,” which don’t really make for good conversation. Am I going to forget how to string sentences together next? Will I only be able to speak in Twitter bursts? Will my primary means of deep communication come through my blog?

I know. I worry enough for 10 people. I’m really good at it!

Maybe the best way to stay connected is still the old-fashioned way: talking in person. EEKS! Did I just say that?? It’s official, I’ve become my mother and every old person I’ve ever known. But maybe they were on to something. There are certain conversations that are just better in person. Once in a while, you’ve got to shut down the laptop, leave the phone at home, and just talk to the people who are right there in front of you.

What do you think? When is it too late to comment on a post? Is there a disconnect in having too many connections?

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2 thoughts on “Social media connections: is there a disconnect?

  1. I love to write, but if your rambling email is getting to be several paragraphs long; pick up the phone or better yet find the time to meet in person. If your single text message is longer than two messages. Pick up the phone and call. Email and texting are convenient but they don’t convey emotion or allow the real connection opportunities that come from voice to voice dialogue. You almost have to use emoticons to make sure the other person knows that you’re not lecturing them 😉 or pissed off 🙂 or affirm that you’re confused :-\ . I always try to hear a positive tone in any e-communication, even if it’s not implied in the message. Now if you’re hiding behind texting, tweeting and emails because you think you’re saving time…that’s another topic.

    Who wants to go the the museum with me?

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