Social media gets a bad rap. Most of it is well deserved. It caters to various strains of "fake news," unrealistic life standards and relentless commercialism of all aspects of life. But as a work-from-homer, social media has been a savior against the stark loneliness I felt when I sat in the office alone, particularly over the past year.
Pinging people during the day via the internet has allowed me to stay sane. I didn't know how much I'd miss the watercooler at the office — or more, the work friends I could meet in the break room for another cup of stale coffee — until it was only me and four walls.
Days of sitting in a room alone for hours at a time, even with a loudly snoring dog, necessitated me sending a round-robin of messages to indulgent friends and waiting for them to respond when they could. The alerts almost acted like the bubbling of the proverbial watercooler. Almost.
When everyone left the office last year, I started getting the pings instead of being the continual pinger. It was fantastic. I held the scrolls of knowledge that led with the first commandment about having no guilt over sweatpants as work clothes, so long as you have a blouse ready to throw on in Zooming haste.
The downside was the increased hot-mess drama that social media created, with people who had too much time on their hands and not as much sense. The rancor became more and more laced with toxic fumes, to the point that even I'd have to take a break with some actual fresh air.
A reader emailed me saying, "technology is the epitome of the double-edged sword, but I think the sharpest edge is the one that allowed the proliferation of social media." Many days, I feel exactly this way about social media. Every flick through images, every mindless scroll, started to equate to a death of a thousand cuts as it whittled away my time. On other days, I remember that it's the weak ties that help build a community, extending you beyond your self-created bubble.
In those ties, there are moments of connection. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance who is the wife of an old boyfriend's friend — naturally, a key candidate for a strange social media friendship — posted a long document with some of her thoughts. She didn't specifically call for readers; more so, she showed what emotional release looks like for her.
In my sojourns of digital work-time procrastination, I found her piece and read it. She had written about the Sad Room, a room in the hospital where patients are taken when more privacy is needed. She'd had a miscarriage.
It was heartbreaking; it was beautiful. It was human.
I immediately contacted her, seemingly out of the black nether regions of social media. Hers was writing that needed to be seen, I told her. We chatted via Zoom later in the week, and I gave her some feedback, and she submitted it to her local paper. I checked in; the paper rejected it. A few days later, I got a ping. She had submitted it to one of the biggest mommy blogs and it decided to run her piece. I couldn't have been more thrilled.
While technology may be a sword, it can still be a tool that allows us to fly with "the better angels of our nature." My apologies for ending with the eloquence of Abraham Lincoln, but there are still bright spots in the web of social media. And as Lincoln allegedly said, you can't trust everything you read on the internet.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also the Executive Director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and can be contacted at [email protected] To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: LoboStudioHamburg at Pixabay