Relationships Are Becoming Virtual. Get Over it.

For at least two years, I’ve been hearing and reading about how social media is taking over our lives. It’s terrible. It’s revolutionary. We love it. We hate it. It needs to stop. We need to learn how to use it. What will we do when the bubble bursts?

It’s time to get over it. Social media is not a fad, although some of the particular websites that have been popular early on (such as MySpace) are struggling and may disappear. Like other electronic technology it will continue to evolve. But it’s not going away.

It’s time to stop arguing about if and start discussing the who, what, when, where, why and how of social media.

So here are some social media myths I want to bust:

  • “Social media is a fad.” Sure it is, like television, telephone, radio and the printing press. All were controversial when they started: people were afraid they would force out existing forms of communication. They didn’t eliminate existing forms, they added something to the mix. Social media is doing the same.
  • “Humanity will suffer if we spend all our time online.” Of course it will, but almost no-one would spend all their time online. We become boring if we spend all our time online or talking about being online—just like we become boring if we spend the whole day watching television, or talk about nothing but sports or our own hobbies. We’re actually more interesting when we have information and ideas to share from the “real world.” As the novelty wears off, we’ll figure out how to switch effortlessly back and forth between the real and the virtual and communicate our most interesting discoveries between them.
  • “[MySpace/Facebook/Twitter/insert your own choice] is boring.” Yes, perhaps it is—to you. Not everyone enjoys everything. Those social media platforms that don’t interest enough people will vanish, either shut down or absorbed into another platform. The good ones will attract users (which usually will make them more interesting), evolve and thrive. Just because you don’t like one site doesn’t mean the whole medium is a failure.
  • “Too much time spent with social media makes us unproductive.” Sure. So does too much time doing any one thing (see above). But, honestly, what would you be doing with that time? If you would be working hard at something productive, then go do it. If you would be twiddling your thumbs, stay with the social media; at least you have a slim chance of learning something interesting or useful from a virtual friend.
  • “Virtual relationships aren’t the same as face-to-face.” Absolutely true, but on the other hand virtual relationships are better than not knowing someone at all. I have three kinds of virtual “friends”: people I knew first in real life but no longer see often (because we don’t work together or one of us has moved); people I met virtually and then had the opportunity to meet face-to-face; and people I’ve never met and perhaps never will. In the first case, we would have completely lost touch if we didn’t have e-mail, social media or some other way of staying in touch, so I consider that a good thing. In the second, I took advantage of an opportunity to meet someone because I was impressed with what I knew of them online, and it has enriched my life. In the third, social media has given me the chance to meet people far away whom I would never have met otherwise (and perhaps will never meet in person), but the virtual world has given us the opportunity to know just a little bit about each other via the Internet. Isn’t that a good thing?

Those are my observations about social media. It is maturing, but not yet a finished product. The time has come to stop debating if it will succeed (it has) and figure out how best to use it. What is the truism you’ve heard too often and want to bust? Comments welcome!

Today’s post is part of the #UsBlogs project. “Tired, Old & Redone Social Media Rhetoric” is the topic of the week.

4 thoughts on “Relationships Are Becoming Virtual. Get Over it.

  1. Lubna April 16, 2011 / 2:40 am

    Hi Karen,
    Nice post. Came to your blog after ages, thanks to your reply and the url on LI on :Why did you start blogging.
    I believe in SM, but don’t spread myself thin, I restrict it to LinkedIN and my blogging (if I can call that social media)


    • Karen E. Lund April 16, 2011 / 7:45 am

      Hello, Lubna.

      Blogging is definitely considered social media, especially if you get to know other bloggers (online, if not in real life).

      I tend to spend most of my online social time with LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. I have a profile on Facebook and a couple of niche sites, but don’t visit nearly as often–as you say, it’s best not to spread myself too thin and my primary three cover most of the people I want to stay in touch with.


  2. Sherry April 11, 2011 / 10:24 am

    I completely agree. Everyone keeps talking about social media like it’s the real estate or dotcom “bubble.” But neither of those things ceased to exist just because there is no longer gobs of money to be made. We still have more and more websites every day and most people still live in a house or apartment of some sort.
    I, for one, plan to stick with SM, especially because of the great friends I’ve made and reconnected with. You’re right; platforms may change, but it’s not going anywhere.


    • Karen E. Lund April 14, 2011 / 8:30 am

      Sherry, as you rightly point out, we had the dotcom and real estate bubbles and busts, but the Internet goes on and the real estate is still there, even if the values have gone down. So there’s a death watch for MySpace and probably a few other social media sites will go bust or change beyond recognition. A lot of the small start-ups won’t make it. But social media, as an industry, isn’t going away. Neither is the Internet, despite some articles I’ve read (online–oh, the irony!), it’s just morphing into something more interactive and user-generated than the early websites of the 1990s. You know, more social…


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