Social Media and Knowing Someone You Don’t Know

There is a strange effect in social media I feel no one really has properly reflected on. It is the fact that individuals have the power to share their lives with the public. Anyone can have a sizable following on social media. Across Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine I follow a small group of musicians, comedians, models, and friends. It is unbelievable how aware I am of their movement. The point I am getting at is that people are watching. I know more about a person’s life from social media than I ever did from a Wikipedia page or even from a face to face encounter.
Twitter takes me inside people’s thinking telling me their interests and pet peeves. Instagram gives me a glance into their world and the persons most memorable moments. Snapchat lets me know a little more about their not so memorable funny and random moments. Vine gives me an idea of how clever they are. Any individual can choose to be an open book. There is an element of fandom going beyond the profession. You can be a fan of someone’s lifestyle, looks or beliefs.
Onlookers gain a lot, but does this power come with any responsibility? What are the new implications of meeting someone for the first time when you feel you already have a good idea of who they are? Do you go up and spill all your knowledge or be coy and subtly impress the person by only hinting at your insider information.
My conclusion is that thanks to social media we are a community of stalkers or predators or whichever word you like that exaggerates my point but gets it across. We are forming one sided relationships with people we admire. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up for debate. My point is there needs to be a standard set of socially acceptable rules for these interactions which I am going to propose right now. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” that is out of the question. Way too creepy. Here it goes with some of my suggestions.
Use these when meeting someone for the first time, from the same general location, when you are very well versed in their postings to social media. “Hi I am aware things are going well. It is nice to meet you in person.” “Hi I very much enjoy your contributions to (insert social media platform here) is all else well.”
There is a world of nuance to this interaction. My proposals are admittedly formal. The criteria are that you need to signal to this person that you are in the know without being overbearing. To clarify when I say same general location I mean someone from the same city or state. This could be another person in the same company as you or perhaps a person you went to school with was a few grades below you. The trick is to keep in mind you are on an even keel with this person. You are definitely NOT a fan. You simply have a preexisting respect and the intent is to highlight that.
Use these when meeting for the first time someone you have no geographical relation to who perhaps has a similar interest and notably high status in a certain field. Think premier chief at a food convention, or executive at a company that makes a product you like. “It’s great to see you in person. I adore what you have done with (insert subject of expertise).” “I am keenly aware of your life right now, tell me more about (name specific incident you could only know about from being a Snapchat follower.)”
Now in this case you sort of are a fan, but this person is not the textbook definition of famous so it is not out of the question to ask them to lunch. You want this interaction to be friendly. You want this person to understand that from your previous knowledge of their social media you would be comfortable with this person asking a favor of you.
I can only imagine what the future holds. Would it be interesting for lines of communication to be more seamless? Can we be more present in the lives of people we don’t know? I tend to think not. Yet, it would be hard to imagine online communication diminishing. Feel free to comment on this issue or add more introduction lines to the conversation. Thank you for reading.

-Mahib Balde

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