I willfully admit - over the last 7 years or so, I have been guilty of surrendering countless hours of valuable time that I will never get back, to the mind numbing addiction of social media. It is unfortunately - a necessary evil of what I do in my line of work as a touring songwriter. Having what is often referred to as a “web presence” is deemed as “important” to building one’s career, and fan base, so you go along, play the game, and by the time you realize it, you've been sucked into the debates, the arguments, the sharing of all things in your life - good, bad, or indifferent - which in addition to posting your righteous opinion on every topic under the sun, eventually leads to the inclusion of photos of what you just ate for breakfast, newly acquired possessions, badly taken selfies, family vacations, and of course, your pet(s) - (sigh…..guilty as charged - on ALL counts!).
But perhaps it was a weekend of recent birding treks Sheila and I embarked on that finally hit me hard enough to make me realize that there is so much more to experiencing the world we live in, by getting out and interacting with other people - often complete strangers - and with the other creatures that inhabit this planet. While I experience a lot of one-on-one, human interaction in my work touring around the country, and playing my music, it’s been a welcome change to have those interactions in a different arena.
I guess that’s the deal – at some point you must get up off your ass, get out there and have the conversation – face to face, and in your community. Holding the meme of a protest sign up on your social media page might raise some awareness, but does little if you don’t actually get out on the street and hold it high, even if you’re alone in doing so. Bitching about the elected officials in your local, state, or federal government, without exercising your right to vote, turn those complaints - valid as they may be - into nothing but empty cries emanating from a silenced voice. Putting a donation button for a charitable cause on your birthday post may be a sign of your compassion for others, but from my personal experience, it isn’t quite the same as volunteering your time and efforts for that cause. Talking about your favorite bands and their albums sure is nice, but it doesn’t mean much if you’re not willing to buy the ticket, gather a few friends, go to the concert, and buy the CD. This action is of utmost importance when applied locally.
Who knows? You just might become a respected voice, or a catalyst for change by running for a local government office. You may actually find something new that you can become passionate about, whether it’s supporting a cause or a movement, a band or solo musician, participating in an art class, a creative writing workshop, an open mic where you can finally summon the courage to publicly read some of that poetry you’ve been secretly writing all these years, a group that meets once a month to discuss books they’ve been reading, a song circle or jam session to get out that music that’s been hiding inside of YOU, and the walls of an office cubicle for all of this time. Right there, in your zip code, where it has been all along. And if it doesn't turn out the way you expected? At the very least, you tried to engage in the experience!
Instead of posting pictures of your life events on Facebook (as I often do!), maybe it’s time to contact one of those friends you haven’t seen in a while, set up a time to meet for coffee, to share and discuss those photographs, and talk about what is going on in your lives, IN PERSON. Shake hands, and hug each other when you say hello, and in parting. Contact is, and should be - much more than messages sent electronically, and contacts - in the plural sense - need to be more than a falsely inflated number of how many “friends” you have collected on your social media pages, or in the address book(s) of your email server, and smart phone.
Yeah, I realize that I might have come across as preachy in parts of this blog, and I apologize if I have. But in the humble opinion of this lowly songwriter, wealth comes not from accumulation of money, or possessions, but from the relationships, and experiences we gather along the way. That, my friends - is where the true treasure is hidden……