I came into the social media world much later than many of my friends and relatives. I thought for a long time that it would be a fad or that it was for people much younger and more tech savvy than I. But once I got "connected" to high school and college classmates, seldom seen family members, and former students I regretted not entering this world sooner.
Since then I've enjoyed embarrassing old photos, living vicariously through the travel adventures of friends, way too many "selfies," and even a beautiful plate of someone else's food. I savored the once or twice (or more) times daily I logged in to see people living, loving, laughing and "liking" with one another. If I were Mark Zuckerberg, the amount of satisfaction I would take in celebrating the connections between millions of people is awe-inspiring. Who wouldn't want to claim responsibility for classmates reuniting, distant relatives communicating, and stories of inspirational people who somehow lifted themselves up despite the odds to positively impact thousands and thousands of people? That is the medium I desire. That is the medium I miss.
As of late, my experience with Facebook has become less and less about bringing people together and more and more about showing our divides. I'm certainly not naïve. I know our differences exist. I know that healthy conversations and oftentimes debates surface when people are passionate about politics, social concerns and religious beliefs. I'm all for having those discussions but I can't help but wonder if our smartphone-send a text message avoid eye contact and hope no one answers-culture is forcing the topics that need to be thoroughly examined to the one place that is the most familiar (and dangerous) to many… social media.
As an experiment, I paused as I was writing this post to quickly check my "news feed." Remember this is where your "friends" post statuses to "connect" with others. The first three postings were of
- a slam on a political candidate
- a social commentary on the Syrian refugees, and
- a friend of mine that changed their profile picture with shades of blue/white/red to support the people impacted by the attacks in Paris.
Upon further investigation, all three posts included comments that
- explained why said political candidate was an a#$ and why someone would be stupid to ever vote for them
- remarks as to why in the world we should be supporting Syrian refugees when they're simply trying to infiltrate the US with hopes of generating another 9/11 event, and
- how insensitive the individual was to support the victims of the bombing in Paris when no one created a similar profile picture option when hundreds are dying in the US from lack of more gun regulation.
I sit here at my computer uncertain of what is worse… the recent tragic events occurring across this world or the fact that at a time when this world needs to figure out ways to come together and work through our differences that many rush to a site that makes it incredibly easy to constantly "speak" and not have to listen.
I'm very close to cutting ties with social media. I keep it only to love on my family, friends and singers. I know that there are many positive postings daily… but sadly I don't remember many of them. Seems all too much like the many positive letters and emails I know I've received throughout my teaching career and yet, I'm always haunted by the one or two that remarked "you didn't," "you failed," or "you messed up."
When I look out at Collegiate Chorale during their rehearsals, I see the faces of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Atheists, Activists, Theologians, Liberals, Conservatives, Gays, Lesbians and people with beautiful hues of skin and hair of every color. Yet, when we sing we are able to add our voices to one another and CREATE HARMONY. Our many voices become one. When one voice decides to sing louder than the rest… the beauty is lost. When one person shares the color of their voice along with everyone else… magic happens. Yet it only works when every person in the room agrees to listen.
I know I won't be able to give up completely on Facebook and I'm certainly not advocating that you should. I've taken the app off of my phone. I've started to "unfriend" or "unfollow" those that cause me any sadness, distress or anger. I guess I can hope for a revolution to occur when others get fed up as well. For now, I'll continue to post with hope of making connections with people through respect, admiration and acknowledgement.
So…I guess I’ll start now.
Andrew Last, Luther assistant professor of music, conducts the Collegiate Chorale and the first-year men's ensemble, Norsemen. He teaches private voice and conducting, and encourages the "need" for singing as part of his teaching/conducting philosophy. Last is a 1997 Luther grad, and also holds degrees from Northern Arizona University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music. He is a member of the honor societies Pi Kappa Lambda and Phi Kappa Phi, and the American Choral Directors Association.