Commentary: The Balance of Social Media, Life and Automotive Enthusiasm

The calendar is right – it is a new year!

A new year means new adventures. Not just in physical new adventures, but to do written ones. You may never know what the world will dish out to influence a story – or several.

As we settle into 2015, expect a lot of related material that pertains to not only the automobile but to its culture. For example…how do we connect as a car community?

Social networking and media is old hat, by now. It built communities – car communities, to be specific -through technology unlike any time in our history. It also breaks down barricades between us and expands the possibilities of human connectivity.

However, has our personal social media strategy replaced real honest-to-God friendships? How much of it has imitated life?

The fast answer to these questions is simple: It depends on how that person uses it.

Sure, it’s a simple answer, but let's be honest about ourselves here. Deep down inside, we want to feel connected – even more so than in years past. Even more so, since the dawn of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al…

Remember getting that letter from a friend from far away and that feeling you get when the letter contains good news and tidings? No one writes letters anymore – let alone e-mails. That is not entirely correct if you get your annual "Christmas letter" from a friend far away.

How about that phone call from a long distance friend that racked up a huge bill? In the past?  Boy, were they worth it! You heard their voice – you felt their emotions. Then, you gave out your mobile phone number. Soon, those phone calls were replaced by text messages. Most likely, your current mobile phone is now an overgrown communication device gathering tweets from Twitter and status updates from Facebook.

Have we lost our ability to communicate and connect with our friends? Or, have we brought into the concept what some people consider “friendship” as a casual way to connect with others within a reasonable area of common ground?

Now at middle age, I find myself questioning the concept of friendship in terms of today's technology. I often wondered if a guy caught between the Baby Boomers and Generation X has any business tweeting, Facebooking and/or Instragramming only to, on occasion, feeling like the Maytag repairman.

To somehow answer this question, a decade ago I explored one of those Employee Assistance sites that delivers emotional health programs to find out more about the topic of friendship. The web page on this topic said that after turning 40 years old, the realm of friendship changes. It no longer holds the fervor of earlier years where it was cool to be a friend and hang out drinking until the cows come home. By 40, there is an expectation of solidity on a life centered on family and the mid-portion of a professional life. The web page continued to state that friendships one had in their 20’s and 30’s no longer hold the same glamour, as one gets older.

This explains everything!

I often fall back on something that was said where you would always know who are your friends when they attend your funeral. I would like to not wait until that happens to find out. I am blessed to have some good friends that I can talk to, send e-mails and holiday cards to – but, should it really matter if there are swaths of people that would rather call a friendship one where you're simply connected to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?

Maybe this is a foolish question to ask. In car communities, you have different levels. There is the local one where you participate in a club or driving group where the connection is physical, as well as virtual. You can also be a spectator where you attend events locally to try to connect with those you exchanged ideas with online. In a more global setting, where communication is exclusively virtual, there is a delicate balance between connecting and disconnect. The want of connecting beyond the virtual realm exists, but how does one execute such a physical connection?

You read and hear it all this time. "Gee, would it be great if I were (someplace a good distance from where you live that Person B lives) so I can hang out with (Person B) and check out his ride?" That want is a double edged sword. On one hand, if you have the capacity to break through that virtual wall and be there – you would, right? What if you do not have that capacity? This is why we should consider these opportunities and take them as possible. A connection made that converts in real life – in real time – is one that could launch a trajectory towards fulfilling your dreams.

Converting a virtual friendship into a real, tangible one fulfills a healthy life – yours.

We all need to continue to know, grow and love our friends as usual and not worry about technology's consequences on those relationships. Isn't that what the cycle of life is all about?

Photo by Randy Stern

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