A few months ago, a good friend of mine sent me an iMessage containing a beautiful photo of a Boston street during autumn. This friend, who uses social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook infrequently, leaves her accounts dormant for months at a time. I replied back to her, “Photos like these would be great for Twitter, you know!” And my friend, who is extremely wise now that I look back, replied that it meant more to share something with one person than it did with the entire world.
It didn’t hit me right away, but as I took an extended break from Twitter (38 days and counting), I realized that she was absolutely right. It’s hard to give someone your exclusive attention when you have the world in your pocket, and it’s much harder when communicating digitally. But whatever hope you have to do so is completely obliterated when social networking sites come into the picture.
They are the killers of intimate moments.
Twitter and Facebook encourage sharing. Publicly. Twitter wants you to share every step you take. Tell us you don’t want to get out of bed. Tell us how much you hate traffic. Tweet a stream of consciousness during your meeting. Make sure we’re filled in on every moment of The Bachelor. And, while you’re at it, share some links to articles and retweet every single other tweet you think is hilarious. Before you know it, you’ve compiled tens of thousands of updates; some that might have stirred up serious discussion, but more that simply don’t matter to anyone else. They’re 140-character diary entries that, for some reason, you saw fit to share with the rest of the world.
Facebook, on the other hand, puts you in touch with a more fine-tuned audience: people you went to high school with, people you’ve met at work or at networking functions, or the few people you’ve met online that you trust. With such a powerful network at our fingertips, you’d assume that people are using it to keep in touch with those they care about. That’s how it was in the site’s infancy, when people were more selective about who they “friended” and the only line of communication was a Wall post. Then the News Feed happened. Now, you’re as likely to see a humblebrag status update as you are a quote image full of misspelled words. I can’t even remember the last time I saw someone write on someone else’s Wall; now people have taken to “tagging” someone’s name in an update so they’re positive that everyone else can see it. Because it would be a shame if they didn’t.
What’s truly sad is that, for every single inane tweet and irritating Facebook status update that makes its way onto the Web, there is probably someone out there who does care and would love to get that news. But will they? Will they scan through all of the tired T’e'o jokes, hashtag memes, relationship status updates and 1,398 photos of someone’s children to see that you landed your dream job, or that you’ll be back in town for a few days?
Instead of hoping, try this. Send a text message. Send an email. Hell, use the “phone” feature on your phone and place a call. Allow yourself to focus on just one person for just one second, and pretend that no one else in the world matters. Did you just get some big news? Share it with your mom first. Did you stumble upon a hilarious YouTube video? Send the link to just one person you think will really appreciate it. Do something exclusive and unique for just one person. Just one. Make them feel special.
Trust me, when someone does the same for you, you’ll appreciate it.