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"I am," I said: Social Media and me (and Neil Diamond)

A new me is rumored to be in the works, with public release to occur later this week. The new me, called "iMe," will feature a me that can be downloaded for various tasks and fun times, ranging from "work" to "friendship" to "party buddy," without actually needing the real me to be present. The new tool will save those who acknowledge my existence considerable time. Real me could not be reached for comment, and may not, in fact, actually exist at all.

I wrote that about a year ago as a status update on Facebook. It's ironic that I'm now using it as a lead for a post about the potential ills of social media and media tech in general.

I'm not going to harp on it too much here though, except to say that there will come a day when I run screaming into the woods leaving a trail of cell phones, laptops, and probably pants, behind. Besides, plenty of dire warnings are already cropping up; but with warnings come the potential for solutions and balance. Two in particular from this past week are worth a read:

The first regards Susan Maushart, who unplugged her teenagers for six months. No Internet, TV, iPods, cell phones, or video games. She calls her book The Winter of Our Disconnect. In my opinion, the best takeaway, in easy-to-digest sound bite (tweet?) format, of course, is this line: "Her girls had become mere 'accessories of their own social-networking profile, as if real life were simply a dress rehearsal for the next status update.'"

The second comes from MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who writes in her new book Alone, Together, that loneliness is failed solitude, explaining, "If you don't learn how to be alone, you'll always be lonely. We're raising a generation that has grown up with constant connection, and only knows how to be lonely when not connected...if you grow up thinking it's your right and due to be tweeted and retweeted, to have thumbs up on Facebook, we're losing a capacity for autonomy both intellectual and emotional."

My own greatest concern with social media--and remember, we're talking about me here--is with the development--or rather, overdevelopment--of the ego. So much of the focus of so much social media is on "me."

Before you denounce me, a disclaimer: I'm not going to even begin to contend that social media is a bad thing overall (just that it is an all-consuming monster that feeds on the flesh of humans and which can never be satiated). It has the capacity to do and has already done many wonderful things, particularly in the way of charity and disaster response.

But today, it seems more and more that the new American Dream is to go "viral;" a celebrity culture where everyone is a celebrity. In point of fact, no matter how much you tweet about yourself, or how awesome and interesting your status updates are, or whether 100 million people watch your YouTube video--the majority of the world will never have any idea who you are or were. It's true: of the nearly 7 billion people in the world, nearly 7 billion of them have no friggin' idea who you are, and they never will. Fact. In some ways then, you are already dead. Sorry. My point, I guess, is this: you better make sure your intentions for using social media are about more than you.

Neil Diamond: social media pioneer
In any case, take heart: the majority of the world also has no idea who Neil Diamond is, even though he's been pumping out hit after hit for more than 30 years, and looking awesome doing it, particularly during his sequined phase. But there's an important philosophical question about Neil here apropos to my point: Is Neil Diamond's sequined shirt an accessory to Neil Diamond, or is Neil Diamond an accessory to his sequined shirt?

Neil, of course, has already posted on this exact issue, in his hit, ""I am," I said.

I leave you with some of the lyrics:

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair

"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

I am available for karaoke upon request.



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