Beneath The Noise Of Social Media
It may have been 2013, but I was still getting acclimated after having returned from Los Angeles in 2008. One would be surprised at how difficult it can be to reorient yourself in your own home town, and even build a new group of friends.
I was on the right track, though. I was at the beginning of being welcomed into my current social circle, one that I hold dear.
I am still not very great at the whole “social media” thing, but I was most certainly worse back then. This would prove to be something I’d have to change, because this circle of friends…well, social media was their thing. This was a period where “tweetups” happened. Get togethers where people who had only ever interacted on Twitter finally met face to face and became real friends. I got involved in the tail end of that.
When one of my now best friends invited me out to a happy hour so as to help me meet new people, I didn’t realize exactly what kind of setting I was getting myself into. It was a small “going away” gathering at a bar, for a person I’d never met before. I knew no one there, save for my friend. All of them used twitter. I’d tweeted before, just not frequently. Or anything of note.
If I wanted to be included in this group of friends, becoming an active social media player seemed to be key. And as the evening went on to become a successful one, everyone wanted to know my twitter handle before we parted ways so we could remain in touch. Awesome! I’d made friends.
I hadn’t used it in so long that I’d forgotten anything that I’d tweeted. I was quickly reminded, however, when my friend searched for my account and laughed aloud “Your last tweet was over a year ago on New Years Eve, and all it says is ‘Help.’”
I blushed. It quickly became a fun talking point of the evening. Everyone wanted to know what the story behind that was; there absolutely must be a good story. I couldn’t imagine how red my face was, but I remember how flushed I felt. I played it off like I couldn’t recall what the hell I had tweeted that for. I knew, though. I knew for sure.
It became a long running joke for several years. Friends simply tweeting “help” to me every once in a while, or something along the lines of “would somebody HELP this man?!” I allowed it to continue. It was better that way. As something that made people laugh.
Social media has changed a lot since 1/1/2012, the day that I sent out that tweet. But one thing hasn’t for sure. And that’s how much gets lost in the endless sea of self-expression.
You see, the internet is a safe place. It’s safe because there is a wall between us and everyone else, a wall that allows us to be more confident than we’d normally be. To say what we wouldn’t normally say, to be bolder, less vulnerable. There’s oftentimes no immediate repercussion to what’s said, and even if there is, it’s mostly forgotten about within minutes.
But the internet is also a dangerous place. It’s dangerous because there is a wall between us and everyone else.
Important things can go unnoticed, very quickly, especially as new and improved algorithms get put in place to make sure only the most interesting and popular topics are seen. How dangerous can social media be when everyone is listening…but also nobody is? When something really important gets lost in the shuffle?
One could argue that social media has a purpose, it has an etiquette, a moral code. Only specific topics are supposed to be shared, others are to be left behind closed doors and talked about in person. Yet, that was when I found myself turning to social media…when I was behind closed doors and felt I had nobody to talk to.
Over three years of having that tweet as a joke, I had recently disclosed to one of the people there that night what the real story behind it was.
It was New Years Eve. The clock had recently struck midnight. I had just had a late dinner with my sister, her husband, and two dozen of their friends…because I had nobody else to be with. No one there spoke to me, because I didn’t really belong. My sister tried her best to give me her attention, but it was difficult when she had to socialize with all those there.
I had decided enough was enough, and that I would go home so as not to be a clingy brother. She asked if I was alright, and if I had a good time. I said yes to both. Neither were true.
New Years is a tough holiday for a lot of people. For some, it’s a fresh start, a chance to rekindle the passion of personal endeavors. For others, it’s a reminder of the things we still hadn’t accomplished. A reminder that things hadn’t changed as much as we’d hoped the last time this holiday swung around.
It was on my way home that I sent out that tweet. Where I thrust out into the great electronic abyss in a most vulnerable moment, “Help”, hoping a single person would respond with, “What do you need?”
There were no responses.
I tweeted “Help” because I wanted to go home and make that night my last night.
It clearly wasn’t. But this was something I wanted to get off my chest.