Blogversation 2012: How do you use social media to uplift your life?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

Today’s question comes from Lauren McCabe, mermaidchronicles.com, @mermaidtales on Twitter, originally posted on her blog under the headline In Defense of Facebook, Twitter and Every Social Network:

Lauren McCabe wants to know how you use social media to uplift your life

 

I’ve noticed something: when one of my friends deletes their Facebook account, it’s always in reaction to some disastrous incident involving love.

My friend in Rockaway wasn’t on Facebook because his ex-wife cheated on him with someone she met on MySpace. “I’m done with that stuff,” he said.

One night during my sophomore year of college, I stumbled back to my dorm room exasperated by another failed romance that started with a guy flirting with me on Facebook. I promptly deleted my account.

Social media has inevitably started to play a prominent role in this space of failed connections, and thus sometimes becomes the scapegoat. “Social media made my wife cheat,” or for me, led to another aching heart.

But before we blame social media for all our social woes, here’s a study that finds Facebook isn’t making us sad, lonely or even happy, but rather it is making happy people happier and lonely people lonelier. Just like a harp doesn’t make beautiful music, social media doesn’t make someone a cheater. The harpist makes beautiful music come from the harp. The cheater uses social media to cheat. Social media and a harp are just tools that we use to create our own experiences.

When you look at it this way, the opportunities to use social media to do something amazing are endless; especially since the most important things we do in life often require the participation of other people. People to be our clients, to support our art, to share our secrets, to join our bands, to read our novels, to love, to be with. And in this way social media can be our tool to make anything happen.

If you’re launching a business and need clients, use social media to connect with clients.

If you want to do more things in your community, use social media to keep track of events.

If someone has hurt you and cheated on you and social media was a part of that, don’t use social media to flirt. After that fateful night, I vowed never to let a man woo me on my wall again.

So here are five ways to use social media to make your life better, to forge more meaningful connections with the people you care about, and to engage your community in a deeper way.

Social media, like life, is what you make out of it. So make something amazing.

1. Rekindle

On Sunday, I bought a mandolin. I love bluegrass; when I hear it, something inside me spins all the way into the sky.

I have always played huge, clunky instruments that I have to tow around. The harp. The piano. The French horn. Things that require me to go to the instrument, rather than the instrument coming with me. I am a traveler now; I move houses and cities and countries constantly, and I need a companion. I need an instrument that can fit into a bag and journey with me.

Yesterday, twelve minutes before closing, I walked into Bywater Music and bought my mandolin. Paul, the owner, gave me the phone number of Pete, the mandolin teacher.  I walked out into the New Orleans sunset with everything I needed to begin playing. I was so happy. There is nothing in the world like getting a new instrument and sitting down to begin playing.

I took a picture of my mandolin with Instagram and posted it on Twitter and Facebook. And there from the depths of Facebook emerged people that I hadn’t spoken to in years. The old Director of American Music back at my college radio station who DJed the bluegrass show, commented “Yee haw!”

Then there was Dave, who actually gave me my first bluegrass CD, who made me fall in love with the sound of the fiddle. He jumped in, too.

Tim, whom I shared a dorm wall with my senior year, who constantly held jam sessions filled with guitars and flutes and bongo drums, asked me to send him a recording so we can begin jamming.

This is so cool. I love how people can come back into my life because we are traveling along a similar path again, because we are relevant again from our experiences.

In our lives, we meet thousands of people. They come into our lives, and then they leave. Paths diverge and they disappear into the fog of the future.

One of the most beautiful things is when your path reunites with an old friend’s, when your lives that have spindled away in different directions now come back and cross again. How much wiser you all are. How many more stories you all have to tell.

Use social media like this: to reunite with people you’ve lost.

2. Art

I love art. I create art sometimes, but mostly I enjoy supporting artists and making sure that they are able to revolutionize the way we think about the world.

There is this band, Truckstop Honeymoon, that sings a song that makes me cry every time I hear it:

In life we are married by preacher and church
In death we will be married in rich black earth

When they sing this, I can feel the weight of eternity in their voices. I can feel our desire to have something forever, and then the wrenching realization that death is the only forever we will ever have.  It is so hopeful, so hopeless, so human.

They’ll be playing at DBA this Thursday, Oct. 18 in New Orleans. I will be there, I will be there, I will be there. You should come, too.

And this is how I discovered that they’ll be here in New Orleans: a sole Facebook update last Wednesday, eight hours after they posted it.

The merman was shocked when I told him they were playing, “I just checked their website last week.”

But you can’t sign up to receive website updates, can you?

This is how you can use social media: to have more Thursday nights full of beautiful, aching melodies.

3. Travel

When we left the tea village, Mohin cried.

“Here,” he gave us two silk scarves. “They have been blessed by my Buddhist priest. For your safe travels.”

How can I describe to you how much of nothing Mohin had? How can I describe to you that he made a dollar a day and was giving us gifts? How can I describe to you how friendship goes beyond culture, beyond language, beyond words and can exist in the space between two people making each other’s lives a little less lonely?

Here’s a picture of the Merman and Mohin and a beautiful tree with a hollow that we could climb inside.

Kurseong India

In fact, here is Merman actually climbing inside.

Kurseong india

And here’s what happened a year ago. Someone cut this tree down. Mohin remembered our time there, he remembered the picture, he looked it up on Facebook, and he told us this in a comment on the picture. In a small way, we have become a part of this village across continents. That we can still talk to Mohin, Facebook chat with him, see pictures of him, is astounding.

Use social media to do this: stay present in that small tea town in India that changed you, and to let that small tea town in India continue to change you.

4. Politics

I like to say I’m apolitical, but really I’m not. I have strong views. I will argue vehemently with you. I’ll do it as good naturedly as possible because I love people who are different from me – I can learn something from them.

But here’s the thing: everyone in my close circle is liberal like me. Which is great, but not interesting.

Well lookey here, exactly 14 of my 785 Facebook friends like Mitt Romney’s Facebook page. And then I have a friend who is becoming a doctor to save unborn children from murderer abortion doctors, or so she says. This all makes great fodder for some fascinating conversation.

During health care reform, I had a long-winded debate in the Facebook comments section of the old boss of a surf camp I worked for. I learned a lot about the other’s point of view and I got to hash out some tough issues.

These are conversations that I would never have in person with these people simply because we would never actually spend time together, but I love that we can still debate and discuss and learn from one another, that I can still broaden my empathy and understanding of the other point of view.

Use social media for this: to remember your viewpoint is not the only one.

5. And?

How do you use social media to uplift your life? I want to know.  Tell me in the comments below.

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Categories: lifestyle

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3 replies

  1. Lauren,

    You can use social media for good or evil. Good reasons include the list above and I would add to scratch a curiosity itch. Evil also includes the reasons you list above, and social media can be an outlet that sucks you in when you are avoiding or not focused on the present. Just like a little chocolate (or wine!) each day is good for the heart, so too is a little social media. Sharing that chocolate with friends is even better. Using chocolate to build on current relationships and make new ones is an added bonus.

    You will love this Ted Talk – Abigail Washburn builds US/China relations with a banjo: http://www.ted.com/talks/abigail_washburn_building_us_china_relations_by_banjo.html

    Any chance your travels will bring you to Madison, Wisconsin? Would love to host you and your mandolin!

  2. Very cool question, Ms. Lauren! I go to Twitter for bursts of fortuitous and serenditidous guidance. Love the inspirational quotations, and I grab and apply the ones that speak to my present situation. Also am psyched about the great opportunities I find on Twitter. I found my summer job as Neighborhood Coordinator for the Brooklyn Museum’s GO Open Studio weekend. Also discovered and attended the welcome home gathering for Brooklyn’s Olympic bronze medalist in swimming, Lia Neal. That event will stay with me for a LONG time!

    As a blogger, I use Creative Times as a passport to adventure, a way to meet people I’ve always wanted to meet.
    Hence, you’ll see write-ups on interviews with original cast and crew of Sesame Street, folks who designed Muppets for Jim Henson. You’ll come across a piece based on a in-person chat with design and illustration genius Maira Kalman.

    I’m on Facebook less and less, but I do love to see photos of my brother’s children. They live far away in San Diego, but they feel a bit closer when I see and read about what they’ve been up to.

    I’m not someone who loves to sit for long periods at the computer, but I’m definitely glad I have access to social media as a way of creating and extrapolating meaning from all the amazing people, places, and minds around me.

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  1. Blogversation 2012: Wrapping up a year of online conversation « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

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