My So-Called Digital Life


Cheri EllisIf what we said mattered as much as what we did, we would all edit.

by Cherri Ellis

Remember when Facebook was just Facebook? When you used it to share the occasional witty observation, or pictures of a certain group of people to a certain group of people? Now I log on (which I do entirely too often, according to my daughter), and I am instantly informed that Eleanor Likes Bounty Towels, NPR says Anthony Weiner is Carlos Danger, and what the last three songs are that Robin listened to on Spotify. I have exactly 128 recommended pages, all of which I am invited to like, and they are all promising me just about anything to get me to click.

With one keystroke I can discover the five foods I should NEVER eat, the ten foods I should ALWAYS eat, and the one simple move that will give me a flat stomach/comfortable retirement/better sex. I am invited to seminars to teach me how to have a better presence online. Oddly enough, I get the invitation digitally, yet I need to drive to a building and park for the actual presentation. I sat next to Lisa from Alexander Advertising at one of these. We learned how we can be at Home Depot but really be working since we can upload content to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr and Instagram all at once. I hope Lisa isn’t doing this. I’m not.

I certainly post plenty, but I do think we could all be a touch more judicious in what merits sharing. I know a woman who just attended a wedding and she posted (then liked) 80 pictures of it. She documented it like it was going into a time capsule of our civilization’s last event. She photographed the gift table while it was still completely empty. She admitted to asking one of the waitstaff at the venue to re–assemble the “Memory Table” (a table full of framed pictures) after it had been broken down so she could get a shot of it. It didn’t occur to her that, perhaps, the wedding being over and all, the optimal time for picture taking had passed. (What servers endure, it just makes me want to get in my car and drive until I see a waiter and hand him a $20.)

The most judgmental phrase in the world is “it is not mine to judge.” Saying that out loud is an instant declaration that you heartily disapprove, but you are far too well-bred to say so. It is usually followed by a knowing look and a pause to let the speaker’s goodness momentarily catch the light. Online, judgment is wielded by the omnipresent “like” button, which I use liberally, provided I am not being bossed into doing so. The mandate “Like if you agree” is digital mob-ism. Nobody is going to get a new puppy or liver or fresh outlook because of getting 50,000 likes, but some company is going to be able to purchase quite a contact list. According to the social media web management platform called StatusPeople, you can easily buy blocks of likes and Twitter followers. They even have an app that cross references data and tells you what percentage of your followers is fake or inactive. (Lady Gaga?  71 percent fake). When Facebook came out as a publicly traded company, their stock famously plummeted from $38 to $18 a share. It has recently doubled to $39 bucks a share due to the revenue generated by ads on our cell phones. There is social media, and there is digital marketing, and you don’t always know when one is trying to look like the other.

And isn’t it jarring when people’s online persona does not match their real life self? I know a woman who in person is the most delightful creature you would ever want to meet. I do not know her well, but she appears to be a good mother, a funny friend, a hard worker, etc. Online? She is a jack-booted, tiny–minded, politically dogmatic wackjob. She’s the ultimate “mean memer,” passing along little nuggets of bad sentiment that make reading her posts like being digitally pinched hard on the arm.

Perhaps we all should have to earn the right to tell people what we think. If we had to earn action credits for verbal espousal, then we would choose our declarations more carefully. We would put our money where our mouths are. Wanna be a gun rights advocate and rant about the first amendment all day long? Super—but first donate money to the family of a kid hit by a stray bullet. If you want to protest a women’s health care clinic—cool by me…. right after you finish babysitting for free for a couple of hours for a struggling mother on welfare. If what we said mattered as much as what we did, we would all edit.

The beauty of Facebook lies in seeing a co–worker’s kid doing their thing, the frosty adult beverage posted by a friend you know works too hard and the birthday greetings that feel like a landslide of love. It is reconnecting to a college buddy across the country with whom you hadn’t talked in 20+ years, who has now become a digital touchstone in your life. All these good things come to us now hand in hand with knowing if your life or a life of a loved one could be enhanced by a Pelvic Mesh Sling. And that is okay. Just know when you’re being loved on, and when you’re being marketed.

Click “Like” if you agree.

One Response to “My So-Called Digital Life”

  1. David Crump says:

    Cherri, I think that for the most part, people want to be connected to others without a personal touch. It is hard to talk on the phone to hundreds of people or write that many letters, so most FB users can post something and get an instant response. I think some post way too much information, never thinking about how it will impact their family or close friends. . Just as Joe Walsh laments in his song, ” I am an Analog man in a Digital World”, there is something wrong with us if we are not connected 24/7. I am guilty of being drawn into a discussion that I feel passionate about only to wind up arguing about the subject with someone I don’t know. I don’t have a Twitter account, don’t know how to post pics on Instagram, but i do hit the “Like” button way too often. I share recipe’s way too often on food I may never cook, share a Status for an hour for other people and answer questions that are really none of anyone’s business.

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