There exists the age-old question of whether or not alien lifeforms inhabit other planets, whether our world is one of many in the cosmos. Well, search no further…the answer is an emphatic “YES!” Our scientists have simply been searching in the wrong places. You don’t need to travel to outer space to discover alien life. You only have to go as far as your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Social media is PROOF that an alternate universe is not only surviving, but thriving! This other world features its own inhabitants, languages, rules, and ways of calculating success. Relationships and communication take on very different forms which are barely recognizable at times. It’s like our own version of Narnia where we walk through the wardrobe by logging on.
Since my initial foray into this alternate universe, I’ve received quite an education. Did you know that all social media users are experts?? Medical, legal, psychological, you name it. All members are well-trained in language arts/spelling, athletics, and self-improvement; and they’re ALL willing to share that expertise free of charge. Opinions are formed at breakneck speed, and the truth is optional. In the world of Twitter and Facebook, an investigation or complaint turns into a conviction within moments. No need for the justice system when you have the social media mob. Instantly, Tony Stewart is a murderer and Colin Kaepernick is guilty of sexual assault. It reminds me of an avalanche: when Twitter starts tumbling downhill and picks up speed, it collects anything and everything in its path. Lebron James is branded a quitter because he can’t finish an NBA Finals game with debilitating cramps. The greatest shortstop in baseball history is overrated. Tom Brady is old and broken, Peyton Manning can’t win, and Kirk Cousins is the best option under center for the Redskins until he commits five turnovers on national TV…then he promptly turns into a bum and needs to be traded immediately. According to recent statistics, only 7% of the US population uses Twitter, but none of that 7% is shy or reserved. Those roughly 50 million people wield great power and influence; their collective voices can be LOUD when singing in unison. Just ask the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, and Carolina Panthers how impossible it is to ignore the chorus.
The assumption is that advice and input are always welcome. No such thing as privacy either. If you choose to enter the social media sphere, everything from your work to your family to your background to your dating life is open for discussion and debate. Not even my mother weighs in on my hairstyle as much as my “friends” on Facebook or Twitter…most of whom have never actually seen me in person, ha! The marriage proposals may be my favorite part, though. Did you know it’s unnecessary to develop a personal relationship with a woman before asking her to spend the rest of her life with you in this other society?? A tweet of 140 characters serves as romance. Of course, social media is a world of extremes, so for every marriage proposal, there is hate mail. I’m reminded on a continual basis that I’m a hack who shouldn’t have a job, only good enough to host on weekends, a woman who will never make it in a “man’s world” and ugly to boot (because that definitely matters on the radio). I get called names I’ve never even heard before…and would never hear in person.
The inhabitants of this social media universe may LOOK human, but human decency doesn’t always apply. Cowards hide behind their profiles and take keyboard potshots. They fancy themselves warriors whose end game is to provoke a reaction and be recognized for their efforts. A response serves as their badge of honor and spurs them on. These aliens or “trolls” have no accountability and nothing to lose. The same standard does not apply for public figures: athletes, actors, entertainers, TV and radio broadcasters. One offhand comment, spontaneous remark or angry retort can spread like wildfire in minutes; and the consequences can be massive. Opinions and impressions are shaped and formed, fair or not, based on 140 characters that can never truly be deleted. As a result, I’ve settled on several basic rules for my time spent in this alien world: no vulgarity, no name-calling, no personal attacks, no words that would embarrass my 92-year-old grandmother or my employer, no posts or tweets that I don’t read at least twice before I hit “enter,” no messages or pictures I wouldn’t want the entire world to view. Respect, kindness, humility, humor, and empathy disarm the majority of on-line opponents. Most importantly (and this is the toughest rule to remember when I’m emotional), I choose my battles carefully. Not every battle is worth fighting.
After spending time in that universe, you’d think common sense would kick in, and people would avoid any contact with these alien lifeforms, but the opposite is true. I’ve come to accept that social media is like a drug; and in the sports world, it can easily turn into a minor obsession. I’ll admit to my love-hate relationship with Facebook and Twitter. I vacillate from morbid fascination at the process to joy over the comradery to disgust at the language to gratefulness for the access to anger at the conversation. I’ve reconnected with high school and college friends through social media, and I’ve formed brand new friendships, including one that I now consider among my closest. I interact with listeners and sports fans all over the globe, from every corner of the US to England to Israel to Australia to Afghanistan. I can barely remember what it’s like to watch a major sporting event without the running commentary on Twitter, and I recognize the value of social media to promote my radio shows and build my “brand.” And there are amazing moments we would never experience otherwise. The Ice Bucket Challenge craze raising more than $100 million for ALS research this summer is just one example.
I’ve seen more than enough to know I don’t desire dual citizenship. Short ventures through the back of the wardrobe are plenty. It’s a relief to be able to step out of that alternate universe and reconnect with the real world. Funny thing: not one other member of my family uses social media to any measurable degree. That’s reason enough to leave it behind and beam back to my own little corner of the planet.