John Seven: Social media must be kept in perspective


Never has the argument against social media been louder than in last week's automobile death of Courtney Ann Sanford in North Carolina. As was widely reported, Sanford lost her life in a car crash that occurred immediately after updating her Facebook status with the words "The happy song makes me HAPPY."

Police also noted that she had been taking selfies while driving prior to the deadly crash.

Sanford was 32, well over the target age of the PSAs reminding people not to text and drive.

I don't think people updating their Facebook status will become a scourge that causes numerous deaths across the country, but it is an indication of how people perceive social networks on their personal list of priorities. Does "paying attention to the road" come after "check Facebook" for a lot of people? I hope not.

Making a more trite point is a 5-minute video by director Gary Turk that has been racking up the views on YouTube. It urges its viewers, through poetry and drama, to disconnect from the electronic teat and enjoy life. Actually, forget that and just notice life. As a point, it posits the prospect of a missed opportunity at love because you were too busy staring down at a screen.

I'm sure that happened in the long era before smart phones, too, but you get the point. A distraction of old like tying your shoe is generally more important than checking your Facebook feed. At least, it used to be.

I do often wonder what is so important that all these people have to walk down the street or through the grocery store aisles texting. What is going on that is so immediate, even dire, that it requires answering right now, that second, while you are supposed to be watching where you're going. It reminds me of a scene from the movie Brazil, in which an important man in the organization is followed around endless hallways by a crowd of subservients who need answers to important work questions right now.

It's gotten to the point where the thing that annoys me most about visits to New York City isn't the crime or the traffic or gaudiness of Times Square, but the volume of people wandering through the cramped sidewalks staring down at their smartphones and having no clue that they are about to bump into people. It is a constant game that you play there now.

Looking at my own Facebook feed this morning and transplanting myself through the power of imagination to a city sidewalk, I imagine I am not paying attention to anything other than the immediacy of what my friends have typed out this morning.

Several people posted art. One person posted doughnuts. I like doughnuts.

A meme about nature that gets its facts wrong. Don't trust memes, by the way.

A photo of Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. You kids won't know who that is, but maybe they will reboot it with Johnny Depp and you will.

A photo of Gatorland in Florida! I love it!

Stuff about kids, like birthday parties or photos.

A friend of mine is filming in London right now.

Another friend of mine contributed an essay about "Six Million Dollar Man" dolls to a book about toys.

Lots of ferret photos. I know who's posting those.

Maybe you have far more important things on your Facebook feed than I do, but I can definitely say, and I think you will agree, it is not worth bumping into someone over a photo of Raymond Burr. I certainly don't want to crash my car and die for it.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions