Social Media, Evil or Blessing? How About Both?

social mediaI’ve spent the past week on social media.

The Good:

Why have I been on social media when there are presents to wrap and cookies to bake? The truth is an iPad is a great companion when you’re not feeling well enough to do much more than run your finger over a shiny screen with brightly beckoning icons.

Maybe you’ve been in the same situation. You’re getting over a cold or an injury, you’re tired of the Food Network, and Turner Classic Movies–not to mention Hallmark–and you want something a touch more active. You pull out your tablet or phone to play games and decide to check Facebook or Instagram first, just to see what the rest of the world is up to.

Four hours later, your battery’s dead and you’re wondering why you never got around to starting that game of canasta or Bejeweled.

Those of you on my Facebook Page probably realize how much more I’ve been with you this week than usual. It’s been great fun keeping up, finding out what holiday plans you’ve made while I sniff and cough. I’ve made fun of HGTV, shared my symptoms, told you about my chicken soup recipe. That’s been the good part.

The bad:

The bad part was that eventually I was checking my iPad over and over within minutes of putting it down.

My reliance on a cute little device to entertain me reminded of visiting La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona last month. This is the architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, a cathedral for which construction began in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, was taken over by Gaudi and still continues today after his death in 1926. It’s one of the most amazing of places. One of the man made wonders of our world.

And do you know how many people I saw standing inside those hallowed walls on their smartphones checking their mail? I don’t either. I stopped counting after awhile.

(For the record, in the photo above? I’m listening to an audio history and guide, not my iPhone. You thought you had me, didn’t you?)

The ugly:

An interesting op-ed in Gulf News about the dangers of social media claims that Instagram is the most damaging social media platform because everybody else’s life looks so happy and perfect. Facebook is likely a close second. You begin to feel that your own life will never measure up. Depression follows.

The same article asked how your health might suffer if you lit a cigarette as often as you check your smartphone. Good question, right? Addiction across platforms.

You know the dangers, I’m sure. Hopefully we’re all trying to make eye contact with real people over the holidays and enjoying the sounds of each other’s voices without listening to them through tiny speakers. We’re making memories without snapping photos every fifteen minutes, adding hashtags from carefully curated lists, and posting them.

One more quick social media issue, though, about a tweet gone bad, and then I’ll step off my soap box.

The “you can’t make this stuff up” part:

I’ve mentioned a few examples about the way social media can influence us as we follow it. But what about the way we influence others by the things that we say?

This week a brand new time author tweeted that Nora Roberts was riding on her coat tails because the title of Nora’s latest book resembled the new author’s. The new author’s fans went on the warpath. Note that I said resembled. Not even the same. Nor was the genre similar nor the target audience. Nora riding on another author’s coat tails. Nora, one of the most successful and wealthiest authors in the world. 

If you read my blog often enough you know that titles can’t be copyrighted. Also that books are, ahem, in production for many months and titles often precede them. Enough said. Nora, who has delighted readers for decades, and who was a victim of real plagiarism in the past, did not deserve this. But her response to the young author was classy beyond measure. She explained. She also explained how upsetting it was. And through her entire explanation, she did not use the other author’s name. Not once.

Now the author says that when faced head-on with the truth, she apologized. And after awhile, and then more “awhile,” she finally took down her tweet.

But what if instead of Nora, this successful new author had gone after a less successful newbie. Try to imagine the distress, the heartbreak that author might have experienced if her career had been fatally impacted by such a baseless accusation of plagiarism.

I can’t help but add a wee postscript to the story. In the ensuing uproar over the first tweet, a fan of the tweeting author accused long-time novelist Beverly Jenkins, who defended Nora, of white privilege. Now Beverly is black. Has been all through her long successful career, too. Whether or not you agree that white privilege is a problem (I do believe it is, so let’s not argue that point) we will all agree that accusing an African-American author of white privilege is nothing short of odd.

Social media. Watch what you read. Watch how it makes you feel. And most of all, please, please, watch what you say.

Use Google before you use Twitter or Facebook. Check facts from a reliable source before you post. That’s a good rule to follow for everybody, including media figures and elected officials.

Especially the latter.


  1. Carol McIntosh on December 5, 2018 at 11:19 am

    So true Emilie. It is disheartening how many people repost things without a second thought to their truthfulness, thus spreading lots of garbage worldwide. And we won’t even start on the rude, hateful, mean comments. I so enjoy your even handed, uplifting words of wisdom. 🙂

  2. Nancy C Lepri on December 5, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Amen, Em! I can honestly say I’m sick of all the hateful, hurtful and false things that are posted on social media. I try to ignore a lot of things and only comment on the positives. I even try to stay off Facebook after so much crap is posted, but I have to say I’m addicted to some of the games, so…

  3. Kathryn Trask on December 5, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    I noticed that tweet being responded to by Beverley Jenkins and wondered what was going on. Made me smile with your last sentence! Mostly I have to say these social media stuff just goes on and I don’t notice or get involved – too busy reading good books!

  4. Rita Tellier on December 5, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    We should declare one day a NO USE cell phone day. Work related or not. Unless you are waiting for a kidney you can probably put your phone down for one day without the world crashing down around you. Loved your message. You go girl.

  5. Lynn Ross on December 8, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Excellent article, Emilie!

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