Georgina Guedes

Bring on the dashboard thermometer photos!

2014-06-10 11:12

Georgina Guedes

Last week, as temperatures in Johannesburg plummeted to zero degrees, I readied my smart phone to take a shot of my dashboard thermometer and post it on Facebook and Twitter.

What happened next was entirely predictable.

Local friends shared their similar shots, "liked" mine or commented "Brrrrr".

Friends from Europe told me to stop whining. We had the same old conversation that we always do about how South African houses (and people) are not equipped to deal with the cold.

What a merry time we were all having, fumbling for our "capture" buttons with icy fingers, and then commenting on other people’s timelines. And then, of course, someone posted something complaining how boring and predictable it was that everyone was posting photos of their dashboards.


Now, as far as I'm concerned, the only things that people shouldn't be posting on social media are killjoy comments about what other people are posting on social media (and unsubstantiated bilge - that too). It’s like telling people who are having a fine time comparing their worst hair cut experiences ever that they’re being boring. They are, but they’re having fun. If you don’t like the conversation, go to the loo and read a magazine.

Social media is not a paid-for service; it’s about each individual posting the things that interest them and, taken in aggregate, these updates give you a good idea of what’s happening in the world and in the lives of your friends.

There is no editorial committee, no code of conduct, no content strategy and no subeditor for your friends’ accounts. They're just giving you snapshops of their lives, their thoughts and their musings.

For instance, a friend of mine took on a new job responsibility last week. Within two days, she’d achieved a significant milestone. She posted about it on Facebook (yes, she bragged). She's not a close friend and she certainly would never pick up the phone to tell me what she'd done, but she broadcast it out into the social space, and I was happy for her and proud of her, and I clicked "Like".

If she'd posted something boring or irrelevant or meaningless to me, here's what I would have done: scrolled down.

The social nature of social media

Social media is exactly that, social. You can post the world's most meaningless drivel about your day-to-day existence as if you're chatting with a best friend (just this morning I told the everyone on Facebook about a new type of cheese I'm addicted to), you can post long, scholarly articles about issues of professional or ethical significance to you and you can post photos of your lunch (I love photos of people's lunches).

The Friday morning dashboard frenzy was an expression of exactly what social media is used for. Instead of waiting until the 8 o' clock news to be told my some broadcaster's newsreader that temperatures in the city dropped below freezing, we shared the news, socially, with photographic evidence. "Oh, there's yours, here's mine, mine was colder than yours 15 minutes later, must be because we live in a dip, did you see Jenny's, hers was minus four, but she lives in a fridge."

I like knowing what my friends are up to, what they've won, what they feel strongly about, why they're sad, how their kids are doing and, most importantly, what they ate for lunch. For me, this is the entire purpose of being on Facebook. I sit alone in an office all day, but I still go home with a fairly good sense of what's happened to most of my closest - and some of my distant - friends. I feel connected.

So if you’re a grump who doesn't like a bit of social fun, you have been warned: I will up the stakes and complain louder than you and in a column.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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