THE PREPETIT COLUMN
Dear Social Media Abstainers: An Open Letter
By Ralphael Prepetit
We all know certain people in our lives who for one reason or another refuse to entertain the use of social media. For the purposes of this blog, let’s define social media as Facebook and/or Twitter. Let me first start by stating that the only time I notice that certain people don’t have a Facebook account is when I go to tag them in a picture and realize that they don’t exist on Planet Facebook. There is no page to be found, no tweets to enjoy, no tagged pictures to gaze open or laugh at or swoon over or turn away in horror and/or disgust. I’m addressing the kind of person who has virtually no Internet footprint. It’s almost as if these people believe that they are part of an intelligence agency and cannot afford to have their avatars be seen in cyberspace. For some reason, they have consciously made the decision to be part of a small minority of people constantly on the run from friend requests.
Perhaps they value their privacy more than the average person. Or perhaps it’s something deeper–something sinister? Doubtful. However, the purpose of this blog is to address, question, and investigate some of the possible reasons for abstaining from getting “poked” and ignoring the hoards of Facebook event invitations that would require a personal secretary to correspond to in kind.
For my money, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is holding a cardboard sign with the following question written in bright red sharpie: “Are you a technophobe?”
Does the notion of participating in e-commerce cause you to suffer episodes of night terrors? Does your refusal to type your credit card number into your keyboard have anything to do with that LifeLock commercial that makes it seem like the entire world is after your PIN? Before you answer that, I need a quick sidebar.
I would like to state that the fact of the matter is that two-thirds of reported cases of identity theft as reported to various reputable nationwide surveys involve stolen credit cards. It’s the normal kind of stolen–not Missing Impossible stolen. Stolen identities? Not so much. At the very least, not anywhere near the exaggerated claims. The fact is companies like LifeLock are trying to sell you a “just in case” product, which they need to scare you into buying. Not to mention that federal regulations cap a person’s liability at $50-$100, and most of the time the card issuer will waive those charges if it has that contingency built into its annual budget. The Internet isn’t a scary place; the corporate footprint on the Internet can be. I’m here to tell you that e-commerce is safer than you think. End sidebar.
I have noticed that the same type of person who refuses to use Facebook also refuses to participate in e-commerce, and as a result, also declines to enroll in perhaps the best invention since the last best invention: the modern miracle known as “direct deposit.”
I have had co-workers who have been adamant about not getting direct deposit. This is maddening to me. It upsets my extreme sense of efficiency. I ask them, “What do you object to–the speed, the convenience?” And the follow-up query, “So, you actually enjoy standing in line at the bank?” I have never gotten any answer that resembles anything at all reasonable.
Are you fearful that giving out your Wi-Fi password will allow people to hack your email? Does the appearance of spam in your inbox cause you anxiety? Do you spend any amount of time wondering why you keep getting emails concerning octogenarian bingo nights?
If the answer to any of the above referenced issues is yes, or if I have in any way described your belief system, then I’m afraid that you may in fact be a technophobe.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of a technophobe, is as follows:
Technophobia: A fear or dislike of advanced technology, or complex devices and especially computers.
That definition makes sense to me. What keeps me up at night is trying to understand why. Seriously, people, what are you afraid of? I have several family members 18-40 years old. At least two of them had a smartphone at one time. And now? Well, let’s just say the last I heard, they were on the forefront of bringing the flip phone back in style. Yes. They returned the smartphone in favor of the basically obsolete, uni-tasker flip phone. This is a sickness.
The good news is that there is a cure. Are you ready for it? Because I’m about to kick you down some knowledge. Ready?
OK. So, in no particular order …
a) Go buy a laptop, have the Geek Squad link it up to your new iPhone or Android (either one works just fine), and then get a grip. We are about halfway through the second decade of the 21st century. Does it look like things are slowing down in any way? Failure to utilize modern technology is putting yourself at a severe disadvantage, so knock it off, and get with the program. I can’t be seen with you at a restaurant if you’re going to pull out a Motorola flip phone when your wife calls. What will our server think?
b) Create a Facebook and/or Twitter account. Even if you plan to never use them. It’s an important first step. I believe in you and your ability to do this. Realistically, Facebook is an email account with bells and whistles. It’s a place where people who may be separated by time and distance can access and share information with one another virtually and instantaneously. If that was the only upside–but it isn’t–then it would still be worth it. Technology can be a mixed bag of goodies, while also having the occasional stale mint butterscotch mixed in there. But what can’t be denied is that it exists for the benefit of us all. I remember what it was like before everyone had a cellphone, then MySpace, then Facebook, and how many people I lost touch with, especially in the years immediately after high school, jumping around through different universities. I wish I had social media sooner in life. I couldn’t imagine ignoring these tools of communication and expression for any ideological purpose, or plain irrational fear, just like I couldn’t imagine using a pager, analog flip phone, or AOL dial-up Internet access (with that iconic, annoying fax sound) today. It’s like saying “No, I don’t want to drive a Mercedes. I really enjoy cruising in this Model T Ford.”
If I sound harsh or insensitive, it’s because besides the personal slight you are inflicting upon yourself, you are also cheating all of the other people in your life out of a part of you. But what really gets me is the way non-social-media people look down on us active social-media people. You typically look down at us like people suffering with an addiction. Well, you might be correct on that, but it’s a harmless addiction. Besides, four out of five dentists say that it’s all right to use. By the way, I should probably mention that I have an unhealthy fascination with dentists.
The moral of this particular story is that I really wanted to try and understand the psychological underpinnings of technophobia, and perhaps come to an understanding of such people. Unfortunately, after further review, I’m going to need you to start keeping up with the rest of us. It’s a bad look otherwise. You don’t have to be Bluetooth-earpiece guy. And you don’t have to be Mr. or Mrs. Facebook. But what you need to do is not be outfoxed on your laptop by the average fifth-grader. And trust me, if you have children who can walk and put sentences together, they have probably already exceeded your technological proficiency. And you embarrass them. This was a good talk. Go make it happen, champs.