My interest was recently sparked by an article discussing increasing Millennial dissatisfaction with the connectedness brought about by technology. As someone who straddles Gen X and Gen Y, I found myself able to relate. While I absolutely appreciate all of the conveniences and connectedness that technology has brought me in the last 15 years, there is a certain level of privacy and real connection from the days of digital yore that I long for. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I sense a backlash coming on.
Let’s take Facebook, for example. Now I’m not the first person to lament how Facebook friendship does not automatically equate to real life friendship. Sure, it lets me keep up with college friends-turned-acquaintances who I would have completely dropped out of contact with in a pre-technology age, or to stay in-the-know about college acquaintances who I only see at college reunions every 5 years, if at all. But how “connected” to these people am I actually? I’d venture to guess that for most of us, the answer is not very connected at all. It’s actually having an opposite effect. The access to photos and information gives us a false sense of connection to people in our social circles — we see them get engaged, get married, have a first baby, have a second baby, switch jobs, move across the country – but we’re passive, even voyeuristic, bystanders rather than active and involved participants in these experiences. Not to mention the inevitable jealousy that can arise from seeing the exciting things others are doing, while we are sitting on the couch following their status updates and pictures.
This brings me to my own views on privacy. If I can see all of this about a guy I sat next to in Psych 101 back in 1998, how much can – and more importantly do I want – others to know about me? The answer, it turns out, is not very much. I’m fascinated by Pinterest, both for personal and professional use. I love to observe and read about innovative ways companies are using it to engage with consumers and create relevance for their brands in consumers’ lives, and I like to peruse people’s boards for style and décor inspiration. But when it comes to myself, I’m a bit bashful! I recently started planning my wedding, and while everyone and their mother has told me to use Pinterest so I can show the (insert florist, caterer, band, dress shop) what my “vision” is, I’m fighting it. It’s partially a fear of being judged (“Why is she looking at those flowers?” or “That dress – really?”), but it’s also because I want to leave some mystique and surprise to the festivities. I want my guests to arrive without already knowing my dress, the bridesmaids dresses, the colors, the flowers, or the décor.
In some cases it’s satisfying to be on the periphery and observe how an old friend has progressed in life, and to appreciate it from afar, or to have that friend know about and share a milestone of mine. But as this data reaffirms, more and more, technology and social connectedness are making us carefully reflect on the quality of our online relationships and how we cultivate and share our own “personal brand” online.
That said, I’m not hopping off Facebook anytime soon and I’m taking wagers on how long before I give into making a few wedding Pinterest boards. But it has me thinking… maybe the next time I’m moved to “like” a photo on Facebook, I’ll reach out with an email or – gasp! – even make a phone call to that person instead.