It’s no secret historians are going to identify social media as the key catalyst for the downfall of humanity (unless, of course, the historians are simply social media employees). One of the many reasons they’ll draw this conclusion is because social media has leveled the playing field between important friends and barely acquaintances.
Similarly, our usage of social media has equated the death of a loved one with a poorly-photographed plate of food. People take to social media for to share thoughts or news ranging from waking up to a plate of eggs to the birth of a first child.
Big news is no longer big news because it’s treated the same as a mundane life event and the recipients are just as likely to be people you didn’t even know you “friended” as they are people who’ve been some of the most important in your life.
And when people do share news of great significance or importance, they receive hundreds of “likes,” sad faces, happy faces, bland comments, or whatever the heck emoji they think appropriate from people who’ve little or no connection to the event upon which they are commenting.
There are many things that simply shouldn’t be shared via social media – at least not until the most significant or special people in your life have been told, in person, first. They include:
- The death of a family member: Posting that someone near and dear to you has passed away on social media cheapens the event and dishonors the person you are announcing. There’s little in life more emotional, momentous, significant, and potentially devastating as the loss of a family member, friend, or person who made an impact on you. Get on the phone or meet up with the select group of friends most impacted and tell them in person. If you’d like to honor them later, than perhaps social media is the way to go. But it shouldn’t be the way most people hear of it the first time.
- The birth of your child: When my daughter was born, I called or stopped by everyone I knew was important to me. I wanted them to hear it (not just read it) directly from me. It was too significant to depersonalize through a social media post. Too many times, far away but close friends of mine have had children, and I didn’t even know they were pregnant. It was only after a check-in phone call when they talked to me like I should have known. Births, like deaths, are significant events and deserve a phone call.
- Birthday wishes: Thanks to notifications from platforms like Facebook, you don’t have to even remember your friend’s birthdays. You just get an email notification that day. Then every one of that person’s 1000 closest “friends” put a token and thoughtless “happy birthday” comment in that person’s Facebook feed. Take down the birthday notifications and find out just how many friends you really have. I make a point of remembering my closest friends birthdays because they’re important to me. Now, when I remember it, I get lumped in with hundreds of people who didn’t know or care. This is supposedly bringing us closer to each other.
- Personal illness: If tragedy befalls your or someone close to you, this news should be communicated in person, when possible, or by phone if distance or travel is an issue. There are people who’ve known, supported, and cared about you for a long time, and when you just post something like that online, you dismiss or diminish those people, while elevating people who don’t even know how you connected online in the first place.
- Significant personal news: If you are moving or getting a new job, there are probably a few phone calls that should be made before you tell the masses. There will be people you are moving away from, or toward, or people who significantly helped you in your career growth, and those people should be told before you blast it to a wall of people who don’t really know or care about you.
Social media is no replacement for intimate, personal, and caring relationships. Neither, for that matter, is texting. The march toward digitizing our humanity is well underway, and perhaps unstoppable. But you can stall that and maintain a little of what makes us caring people by sharing your most important news with people in person.
Stop by – unannounced will really throw people off, pick up the phone, or even better, write a letter. Give people your time. Make those most important to you feel as special as they are. Don’t lazily post something on Facebook and then go on with your day like it’s one more chore done for the day.
Make the special moments as special as they are, and connect with people in person as often as you can. It’s not too late to spark a human connection. Keep those feelings alive… before it’s too late.