My Thoughts (This Week) on Social Media
I have long considered myself a dialecticist. Socrates believed that all of us grow closer toward Truth by engaging in a dialectical process: I have a thesis, you have an antithesis, and through dialogue and consideration of one another’s points, together we arrive at a synthesis.
In my own life, then, I frequently waver back and forth, arguing both sides of the issue. I have been in favor of the death penalty, and then against it, and then for it again, and currently I’m probably someplace in the middle. So that’s not uncommon for me. Most likely, as long as I’m drawing breath (and thinking (reasonably) straight) I will continue to examine my beliefs and values and meander back and forth between possibilities. A better word for “dialecticist,” of course, might simply be “wishy-washy.”
Another issue upon which I waffle is social media. Yeah. Not surprising, I know. “Join the club,” you say, and all that.
Here’s how I was introduced to the addiction that is, Facebook. The event: the annual fall faculty retreat. The culprit: Wye Huxford. Back in August of 2008 we were having our faculty retreat, which is always scheduled shortly before the start of classes for the fall semester. That year Mr. Huxford had a young woman come in as a speaker who had done graduate work studying young adults and the ways in which they form relationships. She stated that many of our students might not come up and introduce themselves, but that through avenues like Facebook they had a means of getting to know who we were, even if they never had us in class. Social media was an additional means of being available. I thought she made a pretty good case. The next day, for the first time in my life, I ventured out into the labyrinthine world of social media.
Now, I completely understand the down side. I see all of the rants, and the hurtful language. I’m aware of the many misguided notions that seem to spread and promulgate like an insidious, contagious rash plaguing the country. There’s no doubt that social media is a source of much that is misguided.
I am also aware of the tremendous amount of time that I can waste. Initially I wasn’t on very much at all. But after a couple of years, when I had connected with as many personal friends as I had students, I was spending far too much time on Facebook. More recently, even though I get on several times a day, I rarely spend more than ten minutes each visit. I’m doing better, but over the course of a year that’s still a lot of time.
Despite all of these negative points, in recent months I have gradually swung to other end of the spectrum in my perception of social media: I have been thinking a lot about all of the positives. For me, and many others I suspect, college was a great period of my life. But it’s also a very short window of time. My students graduate, get jobs, find spouses, have kids, move to all parts of the world––and because of social media I am able to follow their myriad accomplishments and adventures. I am unable to express how rewarding it is to see what Point students go on to do with their lives. I frequently think to myself, “I played a part in that. I was a stepping stone that helped her reach a greater destination.”
So, although my opinion will surely swing back the other direction at some point, for now I’m thankful for the blessing and encouragement that I derive from all those who share their ups and downs. Here’s to all of the positive things that social media makes possible:
What are your thoughts on social media? Do we use it too much? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
DJ Dycus, Ph.D.
Professor of English and Humanities