Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Exclusion Zone

I kept away from social media yesterday. I felt that my SoMe (social media) communities were engaged in a collective discussion around a topic for which, although I had some sympathy, I was not 'qualified' nor engaged with enough to want to participate in or discuss, nor to raise any other topic which could be construed as 'off message'. The topic, of course, was the death of David Bowie.

This got me thinking about why so many people have a view that social media is 'not for them'; how they feel excluded from 'the club'; that they 'don't have anything to say' in those spaces. I get that. I have found a community - and a voice - in social media, principally in my professional field of Learning & Development, but also in other areas of personal interest. And those communities  have been enormously important and supportive to me and my family in this last year, for which I am eternally grateful.

But sometimes, it feels like I'm the only person in the world who hasn't been touched by - or indeed, cares enough about - some events. And that triggers my 'not belonging' injunction, big time. I feel myself drawing back into my shell, wanting to keep my head down, whilst trying to resist an underlying anger and almost contempt for others' genuine and sincere sharing of their individual feelings. This makes me feel even more unworthy and shallow, as though I am lacking in empathy or cultural awareness, whilst all around me are remembering, emoting, respecting and sharing their grief and their loss. 

This is difficult stuff, by the way, and I share my thoughts here advisedly. I made the mistake several years ago (2011 in fact) of expressing a contrary view to the death of another cultural icon in a fairly dismissive tweet, and was rightly called out on it. I blogged then about how that changed my perspective and thinking about intent versus impact in social media "What Else I Learned on my Holidays"

Nowadays, I try to exercise consideration (and thereby constraint) in my SoMe activities. I am very conscious of the appropriateness of topic or comment in the face of others' national, community, collective or indeed, individual experience, which is immediate and heartfelt. Whilst I recognise the importance and significance of David Bowie's leadership in our art, music and culture over the last 50 years, and I totally get how important he was to so many people - particularly, it appears, in my SoMe and PLN (Personal Learning Network) communities - and whilst sad for his family, friends and admirers for their loss, I remain pretty untouched by his death.

So I stepped back yesterday and let everyone get on with it. No offence intended.  As my Jewish In-Laws say at times like this, I wish you a long life.


  1. Interesting read Niall. Funnily enough I felt exactly the same yesterday. Bowie clearly had a massive impact on lots of people around me - but not me at all. Yes I like some of his classics but that's it to be honest. There's something about social media that brings people together when times are bad or some big event happens, but I also think it's OK to not have to be a part of everything that's going on.

    I saw some people for example, announcing some time off from social media over the Christmas holidays (which I think is great by the way, we all need a break sometimes). But I have come around to not feeling too much pressure to be 'there' all the time. Sometimes I am, sometimes I can't be because of numerous other demands on my time. And that's OK. So no announcements for me, if I don't feel like tweeting or don't have time, then I just don't. Same with not being a part of a groundswell of feeling - it's OK to just let others get on with it, but as you rightly say, respect their feelings even whilst wondering what all the fuss was about (and that isn't meant disparagingly about David Bowie at all). I just got on with my normal day yesterday although I must admit I was singing 'Heroes' to myself most of the afternoon...

  2. Thanks Kate - that makes two of us anyway! Hope all well with you and yours and the new job is working out well. See you at #LT16UK I hope.

  3. I agree as well Niall. I've made a conscious effort to only post positive and thought provoking posts where possible (no cat videos or pictures of my Sunday lunch) and have recently pruned my 'friends' list of Facebook to those I really want to stay connected with. I feel free of the desire that so many seem to portray, that of wanting attention or sympathy, even if unconsciously. The 'look at me' culture also leaves me numb. Using your old phrase people should 'look up' from their devices and see life is going on around them and talk face to face or take a walk in nature with the phone switched off. Or am I turning into a grumpy middle aged man?

  4. You and me both then, James! 'Old' me would have had more to say on this, and less kindly, but I thought this blog was enough. Thanks for adding your thoughts.