Social Medi-Uhhh

We don't realize that when we're staring at ou...

Last month, a dear friend of mine asked me to change all of her passwords online.  So I happily obliged her.  This is not the first time we have made this little agreement.  For one month, despite any potential plea she made or how angry she got, I was not to provide the new password.  She got through this incredibly difficult work period (night float during her residency – woah), and managed to take an important doctor test (more woah).  On Friday, I gave her back control of her social media presence.  I could have done some damage, right? I controlled myself.

Aside from the fact that I’m touched she trusts me with her social media passwords, she was also really entrusting to me her identity.  Social media is, after all, how we interact with the world.  I follow a lot of lawyers and law blogs on twitter, and it seems maximizing your online presence is utterly critical if you want to have a prayer of continuing to practice.  Social media is also how we make new connections, socialize with people who have moved away, date, and make weekend plans.  It’s no wonder my friend needed to be cut off cold turkey.  Just holding your smartphone makes you want to check Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

We spend our whole lives searching for “chemistry.” With our friends, our partners, our co-workers.  Most of us couldn’t even define what chemistry means to them if they tried.  Chemistry is why some people end up marrying the absolute polar opposite of who their “type” should be.  You can’t have chemistry with your laptop, or your smartphone.  So it is a real wonder we spend so much time staring into the dead screens on both.

I’ve seen mention of the “FOMO” phenomenon.  Fear Of Missing Out.  I feel this FOMO in so many different ways. I don’t want to miss out on the latest gossip, the most interesting industry updates, the upcoming young lawyer events, who the most recent engaged couple is, the latest breaking world news.  The list goes on.  Plus, I have to actually live and work in the real world too.  Exhausting.

So how do you find that happy line between being in control of social media, and it being in control of you? How do you keep your social media presence in perspective when it seems to be all we hear about?  I’m not even going to pretend to have an answer to this conundrum.  I can lose hours scrolling through social media updates when I’m supposed to be relaxing on a weekend.

In Boston, making eye contact on the T is regarded as dangerous, inviting of unwelcome behavior.  I once traveled three whole stops without noticing one of my closest friends from college was seated right beside me, within 12 inches of me.  When I touched her shoulder, she thought immediately that I was harassing her.  Our world has reduced to the size of our kindle screen, our ipods provide a pre-determined soundtrack to our lives.

The more I focus on the issue, the more I see the value in the regular people around me.  There is simply no substitute for the amusement and challenge inherent in interpreting someone’s body language,  or watching someone’s facial expressions as they deliver a joke, or seeing someone’s lips tighten as they prepare to debate a particular position.  Social media lacks the subtlety and complexity that makes being human so interesting.  It lacks nuance.  Most importantly, it lacks stories.

There is a lot out there to see and hear. Weeks ago, one of my firm’s founding partners covered an arbitration.  It was a case I had worked on.  His first question to our client was “who were your parents?”  The story that unfolded from there was one of the most unbelievable and inspiring tales of perseverance, dedication, success, failure, heatbreak and love. This story changed the course of the case. But the story had been missed.  We were so focused on other things, deadlines, paperwork. There is inspiration everywhere if you’re open to looking for it and so many silent heroes populating the space around us. So look up from your phone once in awhile.  Find your real voice again, and say hello to the world.

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