Social media is a strange medium. You are staring at a computer or a mobile device when you post and tweet. By its very nature you are not engaging with another human. You are sending messages to an unknown number of recipients you can vaguely imagine but can’t really identify.
The result of that communication can alternately feel like shouting into a quiet forest or a very loud, crowded room. And yet, because it’s so public and so immediate, there are moments when tweets and Facebook posts can feel shockingly intimate.
The latter kind was on display when an NPR host live-tweeted his mother’s death.
Some people might find his tweets unseemly and some commenters thought it trivialized the moment, but I think this kind of public experience of real life will increasingly be a part of our future. We’re all living simultaneously public and private lives. And not just public and private, as in the case of writing a memoir, but instantaneously public and private. It’s something entirely new.
I’ve remarked in a recent interview about how pleasantly moved I was by the outpouring of support after I announced my divorce. It didn’t strike me as false or trivialized by the medium. It was real, even though it was coming through a computer.
Whatever it is, this is a completely new medium for experiencing life, one that is both distant and immediate, public and intimate, and mechanical and human.
What do you make of this new social world?
Art: Saint Jerome by Carvaggio