Clear communication is the key to everything.
Poor communication, misunderstandings, and unknown expectations have been the downfall of countless relationships in my life. Romances. Childhood BFFs. Business partnerships. Permanent damage has been done in ways I wish I could rectify. And all because not enough right words were said at the right time.
So in this world run by social media, what weight does this hold now on our lives? What is our responsibility to communicating as effectively and efficiently as possible now that we are regularly communicating with the world (or, at least in my case, a few hundred Facebook friends at least).
I have some friends that take things like Facebook very seriously. They stay up to date with other's posts like they're national news. They write the appropriate comments on pages when births or birthdays or childhood recitals occur, "like" photos of events and milestones, and keep their status up-to-date with clever quips or comments on recent political affairs. They spread their warm fuzzies across the digital universe and, in turn, reinforce their ties to a community of people that would likely otherwise forget their existence.
Well it's true, isn't it? The majority of people we have listed in our chat bar in Facebook are probably people whose names we would have otherwise had to be told at our high school reunion. Or people we met in some bar somewhere we wouldn't/won't ever see again.
But is that so bad?
I also have friends (husband included) that refuse to keep an account. They don't tweet. They don't keep an updated LinkedIn profile. They don't "participate". They have their reasons, but often it comes down to a feeling that it is all very superficial. Why am I wishing Happy Birthday to someone who has three children I didn't know about?
So back to that responsibility question: what onus do we have on communicating effectively on social media? I think it depends. I think it comes down to individual expectations. There are some mornings when I "check in" and realize I've missed my best friend's birthday (because, like phone numbers, we don't have to remember these things on our own any more), or my cousin's graduation, or my inlaw's retirement. And it's eaten me up. And there have been those times when I've posted something I felt was monumental in my life (you know, like Violet's latest attempt to permanently paint herself blue) when no one has commented and I've been left feeling unvalidated and upset.
We communicate things when we don't say anything at all.
So do we have to apologize when we miss these things? Feel guilty when we go away on vacation and neglect to keep in contact for a week? The more we participate in these things, the more expectations others may have that we continue to do so.
Weddings, pregnancies, performances, moves, promotions - these details are the stuff of our lives and they matter to us. And although my husband doesn't buy it, all those updates that appear in my reminders matter to me. I may have only spent a week with so-and-so in Thailand a million years ago, but I like that I can still congratulate them on life events, and see how they are living out their lives. And I want them to know that.
Life is busy, and a few hundred "friends" can be a lot of responsibility to keep up with. But a "like" on their photos, on their posts, every once in awhile is a nice way of keeping that tie going. What harm does it do? As long as they aren't pissed when you are in Vegas the day their son is born and you don't get around to the "your baby is beautiful!" post for awhile.
To all the people I have pissed off in some regard, for not commenting, not liking, not tweeting, not sharing, missing events, misunderstanding, misquoting - I apologize. It's not for a lack of caring. But communicating is tricky at the best of times. Ask my husband.
We do our best with what we've got. And at least now there are things like emoticons and "pokes" to shortcut words from the heart. What would we do without them?