Written by: Doug Breen

Embracing the world of social media (finally)

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Tommy Truong illustration

I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the world of social media. I didn’t want to be. I held to my Luddite principles for as long as I could bear it, and I still can’t abide the term “social media”, but I finally caved under the weight and capitulated.

I was stout in my opposition! I openly mocked Facebook as a haven for sexual predators and married women hoping to stumble across old boyfriends. I stated many times that nothing significant could ever be said with 140 characters or less, and, therefore, Twitter was a waste of time. I insisted that Linkedin was a place where the unemployable stalked and harassed the successful.

I wear a lot of different hats, and it seems like all of those hats ultimately lead me to any number of conferences, retreats and various otherwise named professional development seminars. And at every one, there’d be a speaker who would rant with evangelical fervour about the importance of using social media. But still, I resisted. I read several marketing books which opined that without an online presence, you’re invisible. But still, I resisted.

Yet, now here I am. It was a combination of old fashioned peer pressure, legitimate utility and the fact that everyone else in the world knew more about what my wife, kids and ponies were doing, than I did. Eventually, I realized that the rest of the world was having this great conversation in another room, while I sat alone in the dark, telling myself how much smarter I was than them. It was like being at a party and hiding in the attic.

Our son was selected for a national mounted games team, and for the entire month he was away, my wife and daughter would check various people’s Facebook pages to see what was posted. As a result, they knew exactly where he was, what ponies he was riding, what events he’d competed in and who he was hanging around with. When I was his age, you took pictures with film, developed them two weeks after you returned from the trip (or never), and if you wanted to share them with anyone, you had to pay five bucks a photo for “doubles”. Parents had no idea what you were doing, because postcards arrived at your house, three days after you did. Everyone’s mother complained about the cost of film and developing, and we were all admonished for “wasting film”. As a result, there are only about a dozen pictures of my wife with her childhood ponies, and most of those pictures rigidly posed. There are literally thousands of our kids.

Today, grandparents can watch posted videos of their grandkids riding in shows, taking a riding lesson, or just fooling around in the barn. In the past year, I’ve watched more hours of my daughter riding on her Facebook page, than I have seen her ride in real life. I’ve watched more footage of her doing stupid stuff in the barn, than I’ve spent time in the barn in person. When things get really busy, seeing my ponies on the internet is the only evidence I have that Krista isn’t just throwing a bunch of money into the garbage every month.
Speaking of horses on Facebook, we really need to tone it down a tad. People post a lot of pictures of their horses. A lot! Don’t get me wrong, we’re not as bad as the cat people yet, but we’re certainly gaining on them. I propose that everyone ought to commit to make at least a quarter of their posts and an eighth of their posted pictures, something that has nothing to do with your horse.

So, I’m a recent convert to the world of social media and, to be honest, I really like it. I’ve found some friends that I haven’t seen in years, caught up with some relatives and, best of all, I get to see what my family is up to, while I’m out making money so they can be up to it. Plus, Facebook is the only place on earth, where your 16-year-old daughter is completely honest about her “relationship status”.