It was my 37th birthday yesterday, and it caused me to do some reflecting on myself, my relationships, and who I am growing to become. If you know me then you know I spend a lot of time on my phone and on social media. It seems as though social media has a negative association with it. “Oh I don’t have any social media, too much drama”, “I don’t need social media because I keep up with everyone I need to” or my favorite “they have my phone number and if the relationship is that important then we will keep in contact.” To all those I say- you are a liar! Liar you hear me!!! Maybe it’s that I have moved around for the last 20 years of my life all through the US and now know that A. I can’t keep up with everyone in my life through calling or texting, and B. I don’t WANT to keep up with everyone through calling or texting. People. Let’s be honest. There are people that are great Facebook friends that you do not want to talk to on the phone or through text. You don’t want to call or text that random girl at the bar who you thought you were having deep conversations about Doritos when you were both drunk and then said you wanted to keep in touch. But, you will gladly add her or follow her on social media. That is about as good as it will get.
For a woman who has lived in 10 states and traveled throughout the country on a consistent basis, social media has been my connections to friends and family. Social media has allowed me to keep up with people who I have an acquaintance relationship with or allows me to keep deepening my relationship with friends who I already knew. It allows me to find out what is happening in everyone’s life, whether it is casual or serious. I find out who got married, who lost a husband or father, who had a child or adopted one. I learn who has a new job, is looking for a job, or has decided to change careers. Social media has allowed me to reconnect with people I would never in a million years knew how to get in touch with or who to contact to get in touch with them.

I have been able to reconnect with old elementary friends, people I met casually at a bar, or randomly on a vacation. I get to see the lives of people grow through the years. I get to congratulate them on amazing things that occurred, and my condolences when something bad has happened. I get to learn how to teach my mom how to use social media (yikes) and see her have fun posting pictures and great articles. I get to watch my nieces and nephews grow up. I get to watch friend’s kids go from babies to adults (holy crap am I old). I get to have in-depth conversations on issues I would have never know friends were interested in if they had not posted articles or videos. I am able to find somewhere to stay or a person to have a drink with whereever in the world I am. I can send out an SOS and know that a friend will contact their friend to help me out. I have meet so many people on social media that I have never met in real person yet, but but I know it is only a matter of time before we meet and has some great converation. But the most important thing about social media is I don’t have to have long awkward conversations with people I don’t want to! I don’t even have to talk to them on the phone. I just send a few comments and I am good to go!

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Social media has educated me in so many ways. There are many stories that have occurred, and without social media I would not have gotten the full story. I think of the Charlotte riots where we were seeing video that told a different story compared to the media. Social media allowed me to learn about the Dakota pipeline protest, when the media had it completely blacked out. I think of how much truth I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for social media. Social media made me see the world through a different lens, a lens that eventually made me want to change careers. I started seeing story after story on issues that impacted. Social media made me start seeing my blackness- it made me come face to face with who I was and who I needed to become. I saw myself in the stories I was reading about. I saw the bigger fight that needed to be fought. Hearing story after story shifted my life and what I wanted to do. Social media allowed me to start meeting people that shared my views, that could educate me more, that could lead me on to more information. I don’t go a day without reading at least 5 articles that have been found through social media, whether it be a story someone shared on Facebook, an article someone tweeted about, or an article messaged to me. I learn about bloggers, writers, activists, artists, and freethinkers. I have met so many like minded people through social media and have gotten to learn. Really learn. I have also learned about the complete opposite of my political views, and why my views are so important to have for society. Social media has become my teacher and I am its student.

Social media helped me become more of an activist. I know when marches are happening, what they are for, and where to go. I am able to stay up on politics at the federal, state, and local levels. I know my representative and senator, something I would have never thought to know. I pay attention through different social media mediums the different bills that are coming through the pipeline and how they will affect citizens. I am able to stay up to date on all policies changes coming from the federal government and have friends on social media who can give me in-depth personal knowledge on policies. I am able to be more knowledgeable about things that affect me because of social media.

Social media also allows me to contact people directly. I can contact a business, company, person, or anything else quickly without having to wait for an email response. I can write about a terrible experience with a haircare company and be put in contact with someone immediately to resolve the issue. I can write about a terrible experience or an awesome experience at a restaurant and a manager is getting back to me the next day to thank me or to talk to me about the situation. I get to have a voice, not just be a letter they ignore.

As with everything, you have to take the good with the bad. I am not so crazy that I don’t know about social media’s pitfalls. The bullying, the harassment, stalking, and hurting. I know fake news has negatively affected and changed people’s perceptions of what is truly going on I am not blind to it. Social media has the ability to create silos and allow people to only hear what they want to. But that is also who you chose to associate yourself with. I have friends of all political leanings and I have consistent conversations with those friends. They have truly helped me not only shape my view but to also see another side of the story. I also know that social media is also of people who want to only show you this “perfect” life they have, and unfortunately, people try to match up their life to what they see on social media. As the old saying goes, “do not compare your book to their page.” When I see awesome pictures I always envision how much trouble it took to get it. I don’t understand how some of those camera angles don’t seem possible by just one person. Also, how do people get these awesome selfies of themselves sleeping?

Lastly, for my birthday I posted a note, “Tomorrow is my 37th birthday. In an ever changing world that is growing farther apart, the only present I’m asking for is to stay close with you. I highly value relationships, so, instead of posting on Facebook, I invite you to send me a private Facebook message. Tell me what you’ve been up to, your favorite memory of us, ask me a question, or start a conversation. It would mean a lot to hear from you, but if you decide not to, I still value you and our friendship.”

I want you to consider posting this note for your birthday and seeing what happens. It was great. I had so many old friends reach out and chat with me about things that meant something to them. I know it meant a lot to me, and will to you as well. Use social media to keep the relationships going, use it to keep your network tight, and use it to stay informed.

And on that note, NO. I will not get off social media.

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