When I told my cat, Gordon, he had received 22 likes on Facebook for a photo of his tail sticking out from under the comforter, he blinked and went back to sleep.
This brings me to a recent article in the Seattle Times by Tyrone Beason called “Resetting our Inner Compass — Are we too busy following to find our own way?”
Beason says, “Let’s take the cursor off the “Like” button and celebrate the somehow decadent proposition that for at least part of every day, we shouldn’t care what everyone else is thinking.” As an antidote, he suggests we disconnect from GPS, social media networks and websites chock full of critiques of restaurants, markets, bars, entertainment, and everything else imaginable, and find out for ourselves what we like and dislike. One way to do this is by “aimless strolling” in unfamiliar places, dropping in to parks, small businesses, bookstores, bars, coffee and tea shops, making choices and decisions on our own.
Looking at the influence of social media from a different perspective, an op-ed by New York Times columnist David Brooks quotes another writer, who “argues that the omnipresence of social media has created a new sort of shame culture…The desire to be embraced by the community is intense.” This is deeper than turning to others for guidance on decisions about where to spend one’s time and money. Brooks says, “Social media can be brutal for those who don’t fit in. Twitter can erupt in instant ridicule for anyone who stumbles.”
I confess to choosing new restaurants based on friends’ recommendations and Yelp reviews, and deciding on products from Amazon based on the number of stars they receive. I’m fine with the occasional aimless strolling, but need a good reason to drop into businesses or bars.
I stopped using Twitter, mainly because I had nothing to say. I limit my Facebook friends to people I know and trust. And I never comment on newspaper or other on-line articles. The discussions might start on a civil note, but they don’t usually stay that way. Sometimes the commenters remind me of a little boy about four years old, who lived on the dock across from the houseboat I once lived in. He always made the same comment — “Stupidhead” — to everyone he saw. Some on-line arguments don’t quite reach this level of courtesy.
As far as worrying about the number of likes we receive and what strangers are tweeting and who’s saying what on-line, I think Gordon knows best. Let it go. Take a nap instead.