The Social Machine

I have a confession to make: Sometimes, I am the worst. At writing, at life, and at social media, you name it, and I’ve probably been the worst at it at some point. Usually, I can sound like an expert and a know-it-all about almost anything, even things I know nothing about in real life. (But not a guru. Never a guru.) But I wrestled with that while writing this post.

ksAs I was trying to write about humanity being necessary to social media I realized I sounded robotic, unfeeling, and nothing like a human. I felt like Kristen Stewart in every movie she’s ever made (except I smile more).

Then, I found this Margret Atwood quote: “Social media is called social for a reason. It lends itself to sharing rather than horn-tooting.” Reading it was a gentle smack in the face — if there can be such a thing. The sentiment reminded me of what I truly love about being on all of these social media platforms: the stories, the sharing, and the people.

I love that ordinary people share their hilarious songs about why you can’t date their daughter because people can relate to it or find it funny, and it spreads like wildfire. Or there are others, like the Rees family, who started a page honoring their daughter who died of cancer. Now they spend their lives making the day of other children who are battling that horrific disease. In fact, our stories can shine even brighter through social media. Photos, videos, and blogs give us the opportunity to share what we all share; our human need for connection and community.

A great example here in the Springs is SparrowHawk Cookware. Allen Eppley runs the store and its social media channels. If you look at SparrowHawk’s Facebook page or Instagram feed, you’ll see a broad range of content; with posts ranging from pots, mugs and Le Cruset cookware sales to conversations about community events. He has found the key to connecting with his community and creating potential customers along the way.

I know, it sounds trite to say that social media is about the people, but it’s the truth. Whether we run a business or we’re Facebooking just for fun, we are still communicating with others — there’s just a pixelated screen between us. Besides, in some way, we’re all just looking to be heard — even the Internet trolls. (OK, maybe not them. But Dave from Australia, who trolled his utility company with a drawn picture of a spider, is possibly an exception.)

Communication, whether it’s in person or online, has to be intentional. Our words and expressions are what we make them. There are barriers to communicating online, but it isn’t impossible to be human and communicate like one in social media.

We have a growing and thriving social media community in Colorado Springs. I’m the girl who won’t do online dating, but I have dated two guys I met on Twitter. (Don’t judge me. Tinder wasn’t around then.) But seriously, I’ve met great people online who have become dear friends in real life, and I believe the connections and the friendships I’ve made have given me a deeper connection to the city. And I see more potential in our community and know more about what’s happening around town because of the time I spend on social.

There I go, getting all sappy again. I have a tendency to do that. But it’s because I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly that happens — both in real life and online. And every time I see the good, my faith in humanity renews.

When the bad and the ugly get to me, I take BuzzFeed quizzes. Part of me feels better knowing Thomas Jefferson is my Founding Father soul mate, my pop culture dragon personality is Drogon from Game of Thrones, and I’m 54 percent ‘Murican. How about you?

(This post originally appeared on the IndyBlog in July of 2014.)

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