We certainly live in an age of social media glut, don’t we? Personally, I’ve got two Facebook accounts, a Google Plus account, a Twitter account, an account with Kenzer and Company’s website, a Linkedin account, an Instagram account, a Vine account, and a Pinterest account. That’s all that I can remember at the moment.
I think I actually still, technically, have a MySpace account, but I haven’t used it in so long I have no idea. Thing is, there was a time when I really didn’t even want that.
Up until about 10 years ago or longer, I didn’t use the internet for much. I got e-mail and that was about it. I tried “surfing the ‘net” but it sort of intimidated me. My husband tried to help. I asked what I should do and he told me to just look for something I was interested in. I liked the show X-Files, so I found a site where people talked about that show. It was back in the days where there were mostly chat rooms and when I ventured into one, I immediately fled the scene, shocked at what they were talking about. I won’t go into detail, mostly because I can’t remember. But, it was not anything like I thought it would be.
I regularly visited the Kenzer site, but I didn’t interact with anyone. I simply logged on to get content for the magazine. What I saw, and what I heard my husband relate about some of the drama that went on there made me certain I didn’t want to have much to do with it at all.
Then, my husband’s partner Dave sent us all a link, via e-mail, about an online game called Legend of the Green Dragon. I thought it sounded fun and made an account. My first interaction left me wanting to never get on the internet again. My character, whose name I can’t remember now, simply said “Greetings” to the people around her, arriving at an initial point of entry. Immediately, somebody raged “Greetings? What a stupid thing to say. Only a n00b says greetings. You suck.” He added a few swear words for good measure and left me wondering what I had done wrong, and if I would be just as well off if I spent my time watching Jerry Springer re-runs.
Eventually, however, I found that several members of the Kenzer and Company forums played this game and found their “guilds.” I joined one run by a great Rock Dragon Goddess Edgelett. She told me that the guy I met was a “wanker” and welcomed me in. Soon, other people were interacting with me, including a nice woman who proofread for our magazine, under the name Moonshadow. I started to have fun and thought, maybe I should get to know them on the Kenzer boards. I did. I tentatively figured out how to read threads, how to post, and got to know people there. I had a nice time more often than not, although I have since realized, there will always be a few disagreements online. That seems to be the nature of the beast.
I’ve been a part of the Kenzer boards now for many years now and count some of the members among my closest friends, including Moonshadow and Edgelett. I’ve hung out with both in person, though Edgelett lives in Australia so the only time I’ve physically been in proximity to her was when she and her boyfriend Tony flew here, spent some time with us and went to Gen Con with us. That was a great time.
It was on the forum that I found out the Edgelett plays lead guitar in a rock band in her hometown of Adelaide, South Australia. The band’s name is The Irresponsibles and it’s pretty amazing. I was so enthralled with the entire idea of knowing someone in a rock band, one of those childish dreams I had had that I never pursued. She was living it out and working hard to make it a reality. So, to support her, I joined MySpace to get to know her band and its music.
I was very resistant to becoming part of Facebook for a few years because I thought that I didn’t need another site I had to be part of. I made an account, but rarely used it. When MySpace started to get harder to use, however, I started figuring out that with Facebook, I could actually connect with people I loved, but never had much of a chance to talk to, like my cousins, old Army buddies and childhood friends. As my contacts with long-lost friends grew, I started to see the beauty of the site and now, I’m very active and loving it. Of course, I did have to get used to the whole liking and sharing stuff, and the pokes. Poking people on Facebook is a very strange activity, but, it is a nice way to let someone know you’re thinking of them if you don’t have a chance to really talk to them much.
I made a Twitter account later, another thing I resisted, and still don’t use a whole lot. It does let you connect with the world in a strange sort of way, but part of it seems like talking to yourself. You never know if people read what you tweet unless they reply or interact in some way. Still, I’ve had some good connections there. I have even used it to get the attention of companies that have given us faulty service. It’s not something I like to do. I hate complaining online. But, sometimes, it seems the only thing that will work. Fortunately, companies monitor what people say about them online when you use hashtags (stuff with a # in front of it, like #KenzerCo). When they notice that someone is tweeting about bad service, they realize it’s bad publicity for them and they usually work to fix the problem as quickly as they can. I always try to publicly thank them too, because it doesn’t seem right to only use it to complain.
I made a Linkedin account later because people sent me requests. I had no idea what it was about or how to use it until I became unemployed. Then, I used it to sort of promote myself a little. It hasn’t helped much but then I don’t really use it like I should, I’m sure.
I use Google Plus mostly for its Hangout feature so that I can play Hackmaster online with a group of friends and my husband. That is so much fun. I really love it. I do have a Skype account, and it has come in handy for people who want to interview us, but I really find it much more awkward than Hangouts.
I got an Instagram account, mostly to interact with the daughter of a friend who feels safer if her sweet girl doesn’t have a Facebook account. I also interact with my niece and nephew there and it’s fun, doesn’t take much time, and introduced me to the concept of “selfies.”
My husband likes Vine a lot better. He’s always sort of liked making little videos and so he enjoys that site a lot. He isn’t involved in Instagram at all.
Last, but not least, I have a Pinterest account. You know what? I have absolutely no idea how to use it. It is the strangest site to me, and so I almost never use it, and when I try, I always end up confused and exiting the site as quickly as possible.
Over the years, I’ve also participated in some online gaming, mainly with a fun, free zombie game called Urban Dead. That game is really well done, text based, well-organized and complex. I got very much into it until Amber’s death and then I really just couldn’t take it. I had gotten too involved and people were taking it too seriously for my taste anyway. It was time to let go, but I do recommend it if you like that sort of thing.
Of course, there are cries that we have become a very detached and narcissistic society, reflected by the amount of time we spend online and I can’t really disagree. I do have more intense and regular relationships with people online than I do where I live and that can be a problem. I wonder if that is part of the reason it seems that society has lost connection with each other. I mean, why work to create relations with neighbors and co-workers when doing it online is so much easier? For someone like me, who works from home and on the computer, it’s like second nature. That’s why I’m glad I have my church. It’s helped me stay connected to people face to face.
As for narcissistic? I suppose selfies are an indication that we are obsessed with our own faces, but I am not sure that is what it’s all about. I think they are also a way to share ourselves with others. Tweeting about what you had for breakfast may be seen as self-obsessed, or maybe it’s not. Eating breakfast isn’t necessarily arrogant. So, sharing it with OTHERS may also be a way of connecting, especially for people who are interested in food. I generally don’t post about what I eat, but I have before, especially if I’m somewhere fun, or different.
When I’m sharing online about what I think, what I’m reading, or what I’ve been doing, I don’t actually think, “I’m such an awesome person, I think I will tell that to everyone.” I share because I’m thinking about those people and wanting to connect the only way I know how, by sharing something of my day with them. I love reading what they’re doing too.
Facebook has helped us communicate with freelancers, collaborate on projects, and do all sorts of business, all for no cost except for the price of the internet. We even shared with people in our loss, because we’d left our phones at home and it was the only way we could let people know that Amber was in trouble and we would need prayer.
I can’t tell you how much support we got from people at that time and it still means so much to us. It has been a great place to share prayer needs and to offer prayer for others.
Sure, I’ve also used it to play Candy Crush and Words with Friends. Those are connections too. In short, I can think of more good things that have come with my involvement in social media than bad things. Some use it for evil, I admit (bullying and trolling come to mind). I choose to use it for good.
Now, who’s ready for me to share a picture of my dog’s dinner?