04.30.2016 11:17 AM

Big: Does social media depress you?

Apparently it depresses a lot of people. 

I’m not going to dispute the findings. It looks like serious people doing serious work. But, for the demographic particle that is me, it doesn’t add up.

I’m obviously an early adopter to this Internet thing and the Internet’s bastard children – Facebook, Twitter, blah blah blah. This here web site, which existed before the word “blog” did, has been around for 15 years and attracts 3.5 million visitors a year. I’m maxxed out on Facebook friends, and I’ve got 21,000+ Twitter pals. And so on. 

Those figures don’t indicate that I have anything particularly novel or revelatory to say, of course. They simply suggest I’ve just been doing his stuff for a long time, and I’m a known quantity. I’m not a human being, I like to tell my family, I’m a web site. 

My Internet doings have gotten me business, lost me business, and gotten me in trouble.  There was the “baking cookies” incident of a decade ago, there was the barbecued cat incident of 2009, and there was the “segregationist?” thing in 2014. (I’m always intrigued that two of the Big Three concerned food. Food is political, I’ve decided.)

Those gaffes aside, nobody has ever successfully sued me over the web site. There’s a Law Society complaint against me by Andre Marin and his cabal, but I haven’t lost a minute of sleep over that one. I usually get the last word on stuff like that, and I reach more eyeballs than most newspaper columnists in Canada. Marin and his chums are about to learn that the hard way. 

Anyway. I’ve reached this observation, in a typically long-winded fashion: for me, this Internet stuff has worked out okay. It has been good, even. It’s been good because I’ve gotten to meet folks like you. Sounds corny, but it’s true. 

Case in point: a few days ago, the misses and me were at the wonderful Salad King on Yonge. We were going to Canadian Tire to get stuff to clean the deck at Daisy. (Daughter Two was going to scrub it for us, you see, in anticipation of the big Daisy tenth anniversay party on June 7. She earned her pay.)

So, there we were, and a group of young guys came up to us. One asked me if I was Warren Kinsella. 

I usually say: “That depends. Do you work at Revenue Canada?” 

I didn’t this time. I stuck out my hand. “Yep. That’s me.”

He shook it and introduced himself. “I have all your books and read your stuff online every day,” he said. 

I said what I always say: “Well, you shouldn’t do that.” Gets a laugh, usually. 

We talked a bit more and the young guy and his friends moved on. We returned to our spring rolls. 

Anyway. Here’s the point: if it wasn’t for the web site, if it wasn’t for social media, I would have never met that young guy. I would’ve never talked to him. I was grateful, therefore, that he considered my musings had some value, and that he said he enjoyed reading them. I was happy we’d met. 

Another example: my new friend Mohamed Elibiary. We got together for the first time a few days ago. Mohamed is a Texan, a Republican, a proud Muslim, and an expert in de-radicalizing Muslin youth. We met on Twitter and hit it off. He is an amazing and fascinating guy (who despairs of Trump, by the way). 

But for social media, but for the Web, we likely would have never met. We would never have become pals. Just like the kid at the Salad King, and tons of others. Tons. 

That – for this Internet participant, at least – isn’t depressing. It’s good. It’s positive. And, I think, it’s made my world bigger. 

Not smaller. 

13 Comments

  1. Richard says:

    I always did get a kick out of that self-deprecating joke of yours. Many moons ago I professed that many of my university friends and I were fans, and you lamented that’s why we were in trouble. LOL

    For all the ills of the Internet, and there are many–bullying, misogyny, hate groups, trafficking, and more–it does remain a tremendous connection tool if you are able to use it to find good people.

  2. smelter rat says:

    You forgot to mention the fallout from the great KD debacle when recalling past social media faux pas.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Food eh. I wanted Black Forest cake for my birthday two days ago but alas.

    Should have looked it up. Damn. But isn’t today Harper’s birthday? Hope he has a good one now that he has embarked on a new life.

  4. Jean A Paterson says:

    As an old lady, I always get enjoyment and often enlightenment from reading your viewpoint. What makes me despair is the truculent tripe that passes for “editorials” in the major newspapers, especially in my current “hometown” of Winnipeg. (Today is an especially bad example in the Winnipeg Free Press…worse than partisan, it attacks the very motives and character of the PM. )
    I don’t expect to agree with all I read, and like a well-reasoned attack on the status quo or the actions of a major public figure, but I hate one-sided rumour-based drivel pretending to be “editorials” in the print media.
    Your writing, WK, may often be provocative, but it adheres to a standard of integrity and accurate attribution that I and many others appreciate. Thank you!!

    • Warren says:

      Thanks Jean. You are always welcome here.

    • smelter rat says:

      Agree Jean! Today’s was the worst. Also, the Freep editors have no clue what a selfie is.

    • Kevin says:

      Well, old lady, this old man agrees with you entirely.

    • Bill Templeman says:

      Les, that WFP editorial is simply a petulant rant devoid of any political perspective worth analyzing. Our former Prime Minister regularly excluded mainstream media outlets from his announcements, remember? Some of the small town media outlets Harper used to make announcements of national import were hardly oracles of free speech and journalistic integrity. You don’t like Trudeau. Fine. But don’t judge his relationship to the media in a vacuum. And as my grandmother used to say, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

  5. Francis says:

    This is a great question/topic, and one I’ve been particularly grappling with in my current phase of life.

    I’m a younger person and my demographic is one that is heavily invested in social media. Everyone either has, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or a combination of all of these. Its all about connecting with people through what ever platform you can utilize.

    The problem though is that social media is not exactly what it holds itself as being. In reality, social media has become a medium through which its users advertise their lives to their audiences. Everything is about what you do, where you do it and who you do it with, all meticulously presented. Its an actual phenomenon known as “your instagram life”. We share pictures and moments that aren’t truly representative of the entirety of our lives; they are snapshots of what we view as “the good times”. Consequentially, we consume all this information on social media and are audience to those we follow/friend. Subconsciously, we begin comparing our lives with those whom we share similarities with. We see this white-washed version of someone else’s life and we immediately begin feeling insecure about our own lives. Our happiness and contentment is eroded by a growing dissatisfaction with our own achievements and a sense of failure. Another downside to social media, speaking in the political context, is that your opinions are tattooed to your reputation. No room is afforded for growth or change when people have the ability to quantify you through a series of tweets.

    So does social media depress me? In a way, yes, it does. I used to have an Instagram account but had to deactivate my account because the anxiety it caused me by having to constantly keep a polished “instagram life”. I had Facebook for a day back in 2006 but was uncomfortable with the privacy exposure that came with it. I currently have Snapchat which is more bearable because of the authentic nature of the app and its messaging features. I don’t have a Twitter account but do check in with Twitter just to keep up with #cdnpoli.

    Beyond that though, social media can be a great place to connect with people –no doubt; but its a prime place to unnecessarily judge your own life in a negative manner. There is a certain kind of insincerity that comes along with social media and the kind of vanity thats bred from this kind of quick access to an audience is hard to manage.

  6. KingPrick says:

    Well, it’s mental health week or month or whatever and I guess I should come clean… Approximately 4 years ago, I was glued to social media. Facebook mostly. I couldn’t help but notice that social media, quite often, is just a spot for mean people to hang out. Each time I went on, there could have been ten great comments about whatever was posted but when that one snide, cruel, or unusual comment was found buried amongst the positives, it hit me hard. I already have confidence issues that stem from the type of job I have—high risk, high pressure and lives held in the balance of every move or decision I make… To have others go on the attack over something as ridiculous as a FB post and sit in judgement, affected me greatly. So much so that I fell into a depression. I mean, I didn’t know it at the time but it was FB that was doing it to me. So, what was a guy to do?

    Well, this guy deleted FB and any other social media gathering place and almost immediately, I felt better. I think social media has its place but it’s not with me. It makes feel ill and I think it’s stupid now. Why? because there’s this thing called “outside” and “the world” and if you’re smart, you’ll stop looking at your phone or your tablet and strike up a conversation with someone using words. You know? The kind that are released from your lips. But that’s just me.

    So, as a part of my declaration that I suffer from depression I’m sold on the fact that social media, if not responsible for it, certainly fed into it. (For me anyway.) There you have it. There’s no such thing as “connecting” on social media. You connect with people when you speak with them, touch them and learn to know them. Social media is, for me, a place where people find nothing more than self importance. I certainly haven’t missed anything because I’ve left social media but rather gained my identity and my identity back. For that, I have my wonderful lady-friend to thank. Why? Because she has never been on social media and proved that it’s really nothing more than a stable for the foolish and the conceited.

    I urge everyone to dump it. (Social media didn’t help me find the Warren Kinsella website. His writing did.) It’s outlived its usefulness. It just has.

    So, to those suffering from depression, maybe it’s time to look at how much time you spend on social media. You might just feel better if you choose to avoid it. It helped me and bit by bit, I feel I’m getting better everyday.

  7. Tiger says:

    The internet is great. Social media is great.

    People just need to remember it is what it is — a carefully curated collection of random stuff, nothing to get overly fussed over, and there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t care about it lots of the time.

    Take the good, ignore the bad, and keep on trucking.

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