This week in my Intro to Media Studies class, we were challenged to go 24 hours without using any social media. I’ve debated doing this in the past just because I feel I am way too addicted to Facebook than is healthy, but I always keep saying, “well……maybe tomorrow……” Unfortunately, I’m still saying, “maybe later,” and I’ll tell you why: my grandmother was recently placed under hospice care and I’m coordinating care with my parents and my brother’s family. The reaction I would expect would be “yeah, and? Why does that necessitate using social media?” My family is full of tech gurus of various types and we make heavy use of Google Hangouts, Google+ and occasionally Facebook to keep everyone informed on how things are going.
Just in the past hour, there have been 10+ messages on my family Hangout concerning who is relieving whom at my grandmother’s bedside, updating everyone on her night and morning so far, ordering lunch and dinner for caregivers, coordinating travel plans for out of town relatives coming to visit, and researching today’s football games (being a Louisiana native, Granny is a HUGE Saints fan). And my phone just binged again while I was writing, with another couple of messages. Google hangouts has great interactivity, we’re able to instantly send and receive messages to each other as a group, without having to mess with group texts, which can come in a different times from phone to phone, making exchanges confusing. Google Hangouts can be accessed via an app on your phone or online, which is perfect for the caregivers because there is no cell service to speak of at the facility my grandmother is currently residing in. Since Hangouts is internet-based, I am connected to the facility’s Wi-Fi network and am getting notifications regularly, where texts would not reach me until I walked outside for a few minutes.
The user interface (UI) of Facebook and Google+ lends itself perfectly to our needs right now: privacy options, multiple ways to display information and add it to a group, option to view from a phone, computer or tablet, and the ability to add a person to the group and they are able to see all previous conversations. Anything important (medications, questions to ask the doctor/nurse on the next round, new behaviors to be aware of), is added to the Facebook group and Google+ for caregivers to be able to access easily. I have a cousin traveling in tomorrow and all I had to do was add him to the Facebook group so he can get caught up on what has been going since he was in town last, and he’ll be fully prepared for his visit, no surprises.
After having said all that, I think this demonstrates our connected culture very well. Pre-internet, the only way to get this information out to such a wide variety of people would be phone calls and “family meetings”. Or maybe a list of directions taped to the wall in Granny’s room for each caregiver to read and add to as needed. In the beginnings of the internet, method of choice would probably be email or Instant Message. Now, we have so many options of social media platforms to use to stay connected with each other, it’s a matter of choosing the one that the most family members are active on. The interactions we have on a daily basis would not have been possible 15 years ago. Of course, I truly believe the type of interactions you are having influences whether social media has a positive or negative impact on your life. In my case, I am able to connect with distant family in a private forum so the positives outweigh the negatives at the moment.