Friday, 7 March 2014

The 'Stunned Bird' defence of social media

Hello you.
  • Do you have a fondness for Facebook?
  • An Instagram infatuation? 
  • Perhaps you blog? 
  • Or maybe you tweet? [On Twitter I mean ... your bird impressions don't count here. Unless of course you are a bird. In which case, apologies, carry on as you were.]
If you answered YES to any and all of these [apart from Instagram - which is surely only a matter of time for me - and the bird thing, because I don't think birds can read] then I can't deny it, I hear you ... I'm right alongside you on the social media front.

In fact I'm changing my status to "Yay! Me too! #greatmindsthinkalike" as we speak ...

But ... I  do know my predilection for social media is not universal.

Not everyone feels the urge to share photos of their meals before they tuck-in or keep the world updated on their current Benedict-Cumberbatch-Preoccupation levels [fyi: mine are currently fluctuating between 'well, this is distracting' and 'oh for goodness sake I can't look any more'.]

Often, those who don't spend their days immersed in 'likes', 'hashtags' and 'ats' decry social media as an unnecessary and even damaging screen [quite literally] standing between genuine human interaction.s  
And, let's be honest, even those of us who have embraced the myriad ways we can share our lives online can, occasionally, feel a little bad about why we're doing it and whether it's all just a bit well ... artificial. 

But, personally, I'm not big on guilt. Or beating yourself up about things that aren't hurting anyone. Plus, my interactions on social media have brought me so many opportunities to meet lovely people and follow new ventures why would I want to feel bad about it?

And so ... allow me to offer up the following #truestory as a form of defence both for social media as a platform and for its conflicted users ...

Sometime last year, at an unremarkable photocopy out-of-town retail park, following a post-shopping cuppa with my Mam and sister, we were just leaving the cafĂ© when we bumped into someone outside who simply could not wait to tell us what had just happened. What he'd seen. What we had just missed.
An out of breath 5 year old dressed in school uniform, his hand in the hand of his grandmother, his body leaning diagonally outward from hers with even his legs clearly brimming with excitement.

"Did you see that?" he asked us.

And there was no doubt it was us - three complete strangers - he was addressing. Looking directly at us [no self-conscious adult avoidance of eye-contact] he continued ...

"A bird just flew into that window!" he turned his head to indicate the plate-glass front of the shop next door.

"It went" and here he moved his arm in a swooping gesture to demonstrate the bird hitting the glass "then it just flew off!!!!"

He was amazed. Awed. Astounded. He'd probably never seen anything quite like it in his life.
"Wow" I replied; eyes wide and eyebrows raised to really illustrate how impressed I was at this momentous event.

And we smiled at his grandmother to show that we really didn't mind being stopped dead in our tracks by a small excited person in full-on live-reporting-of-breaking-news mode.

And then that was that. Once we were all up-to-date we went our separate ways.

But a few steps on it dawned on me that this exchange - as unexpected as it was - actually felt very familiar to me.
  • the 'I just had to tell someone' immediacy;
  • the instant communication;
  • the straight-to the point directness of the language.
... all of it was reminiscent of something else ... something which - unlike being stopped in the street by small boys reporting on low-flying birds - I experienced on a day-to-day basis. And I turned to my sister and said:

"It's like live Twitter! He just tweeted out loud!".

.... which is the key argument in my 'Stunned Bird Defence' of social media:
  • it's a natural impulse in us to share our news with others; so natural that children do it without thinking twice.
  • we sometimes simply want to make an announcement about our experiences; to define and document the moment by putting it into words.
Some of us - those who are adorable and cute and small enough and who can get away with it, do this by stopping a stranger in the street ...

... and some tell a friend ... and some use Twitter, Facebook etc. Then just as I responded to the little boy, those who read the tweet / status raise their virtual eyebrows and smile to demonstrate they heard what you said; they 'like', re-tweet, @ you or leave a comment.

So yes, social media may well be an artificial platform for human sharing ... but it's not actually an impermeable barrier between us ... it's a bridge. A connection.

Let's go forth and share to our heart's content without the guilt. Without the doubt.

So we're a society of facebookers, bloggers, tweeters, pinners and instagrammers. So what? 

No one died.

Not even the bird.
An experiment in illustrating blog posts with my collage ©Julie Kirk 2014

If you'd like to connect with me online [for instance, the next time you see a bird fly into a window you know you're going to want to tell me all about it!] then:
And if you're not on Twitter but think you might like to give it a go my [free] 2011 class 'Tips for the Twitter-curious' goes into detail to try to convince you / help you out. [Some of the screenshots etc will be a little out-of-date by now - but the majority of the class is intended to show the broader uses of Twitter, plus its benefits to you, which remain the same.]


  1. #totallyagree @notesonpaper
    Instagram and Facebook is simply bringing out our inner five year old self!

  2. ha ha ( i wish i could type a real laugh because i just did one) i have found that my blog has allowed me to be that little boy and blab my news and feelings all across the planet. and not to sound like sally field but sometimes, just sometimes - they like me, they really like me.
    long live impulsive thought release

  3. Impulsive... Share... I'm saying nothing!

  4. I only joined FB when I was moving away from everyone and everything I knew, now I don't feel bad about reading everyone's news - so thanks for that post. As for birds flying into windows? Unfortunately happens a lot here - we have big picture windows and lots of birds (I just hope it's never one of the big ones!!)

  5. And I am glad it's not just words that can be shared, because your pictures are always lovely to look at too :). I've not ever really got into the Twittery thing, (or Instagram - not going to happen), but I do love your blog!

  6. That is so perfect an explanation I feel a need to share your blog on FB.
    I am now old enough not to feel guilty about things I do... yup I am at the wearing purple stageg.

  7. Oh, how I love how you made this connection of ideas! And I think the collage is brilliant. Please keep sharing!

  8. It isn't often something really hits me in the face but this blog did!! For all the people who in reality look down their noses at those of us who interact on the internet maybe they should read this!!! They have lost exactly what you are talking about and while I don't personally want to share my whole life online I do like to share the highs and lows of my art journey and find it quite cathartic to do so!!!

  9. Yes! I, too, love social media (most of the time) and agree with a previous comment that it brings out the 5-year old in me.

    I hestiate often, really often, of posting every little thing that pops in my head. *sigh* I don't want to be one of "those"! haha!!

    I think I've connected in a different way with a lot of people through facebook and my blog in a way that wouldn't happen otherwise.

    I'll continue what I enjoy and figure that those that don't like it don't have to participate. Even better than kindergarten!

  10. This is it exactly! And by the way - that is one of my favourite of your collages :D I did proper real LOL at this post! And am now sharing it too :)

  11. #glorious#post on #notesonpaper! Thanks Julie for expressing (and collaging) this conundrum so well!

  12. Great post, Julie. I'm addicted to Facebook... have been here hours even though I am yawning and my body is saying 'bed'.
    I'm intrigued by Twitter and may check out your earlier posts though I have avoided it because I really can't spend more time addicted to social media!
    Love your story about the young boy and him wanting to tell his story - you are right - I felt that impulse this morning but did manage to keep doing what I was doing rather than share it on FB! I also love your college and how you used that throughout your post - beautifully done and shared.

  13. I can relate to you, Julie. This is usually the reason why most of us can't help but overshare because there really is the need to share bizarre events that suddenly make our day. Like, it might never happen tomorrow, so it’s better now than later, or never at all. Thanks for sharing this!

    Layla Stabile


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