About three years ago I decided to say adieu to my facebook page. I almost went to the extreme of deleting my account, but decided that perhaps down the road I might find some use in it. I went almost two yeas without logging into my account and then one day figured what they hey and logged back in, luckily, with a completely different perspective than I began with two years prior. Below are the questions that inspired my leave of abscense and my own personal asnwers at the time.
How do I feel when I am using social media?
I usually find myself wondering why on earth I am wasting my time, but at the same time I keep scrolling. It is sort of like this mindless, I can’t think for myself kind of feeling, like a disconnect between my rational mind and my actions. Like I know I shouldn’t be wasting my time but I can’t help but keep checking people’s posts to see if there is something interesting. It is the thrill or lure of anticipation.
How do I feel immediately after engaging in social media?
While I am digitally “socializing”, which by the way is really a poor form of socializing because really all I am doing is reading what others have written, posting my own random brain farts, and then occasionally clicking the like button, or making a comment or two that follows a disjointed piece meal conversation. But while I am reading other people’s posts that in most cases are made up of personal brags, cool experiences, rants or whining, the obvious (yes, everyone wakes up, or eats dinner, or goes to the bathroom) or sharing links to external sites that are occasionally impactful, but mostly just entertaining time wasters. How do I feel when I read brag after brag . . . dissatisfied with my life. How do I feel when I read ranting or whining . . . unhappy, annoyed, loss of respect for the person sharing those thoughts. How do I feel, when I have other things that could be much more fulfilling to do or work on, yet I get caught up in reading silly articles that are irrelevant to anything in my life . . . depressed, loss of purpose and meaning to my life.
Does social media allow me to develop deep meaningful relationships with those people I personally interact with on a regular basis?
No! In most cases when I am using social media there is someone physically nearby, that I could strengthening my relationship with, including myself, but instead I’m not. I’m busy being alone with a lot of people where almost no one is accomplishing anything of lasting value. And even if there is no one near by, I could go where there are real people to converse with, call someone up, spend time reflecting on my own life, or work on a personally meaningful project.
Does social media enhance existing non-digital relationships?
I used to tell myself that social media allowed me to know what was going in in people’s lives so that when I saw them in person we would have something to talk about, something to ask them about to get conversation going. Indeed it is nice to know about important or unusual events that are going on, and in some ways this does enhance conversation, unfortunately you have to sort through so much of the aforementioned posts, that the time and quality of life consumed hardly yield a good return on investment.
Another benefit I convinced myself of was creating a personal network of family and friends that I could tap into whenever I wanted to. Whether I was curious as to what so and so was up to, or was traveling somewhere and wanted to connect with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, or needed to tap into people I know for finding a job, etc. It has definitely been good to meet up with people I haven’t seen in years as I have traveled for work and see what people are up to, though to some extent the latter seems almost voyeuristic, in the sense that you are watching someone without them knowing, which is, in the non-digital world a very awkward thing to do, and highly anti-social. I haven’t had the chance to try out the job hunt thing. I would probably have just as much if not more success making some calls and visiting with different companies in person.
Have any opportunities come my way as a direct result of social media, and if so could those opportunities have occurred without social media?
For the fifth question as far as I know the answer to this one is no. Most opportunities that have arisen have come from my real life social network, and not my digital social network or from someone I have exclusively connected with in the digital realm. And I am doubtful that people I once knew a long time ago would actually invite me to help with a project if they haven’t had personal contact with me in the recent past. So is it worth it to maintain an active account at the cost of inner turmoil?
Does social media enhance any aspect of my life?
How has social media impacted my interaction with others around me?
When I am sitting in front of a computer, I am not interacting with other people. If I am working on a self-reflective project, or producing something meaningful, that’s wonderful, as long as it doesn’t, out balance, for an extended period of time, the relationships I have with others. Social media however, does not fall into this category. In fact when I watch other people engage in social media, they seem to be doing it in order to escape what is going on around them, which in many cases are those critical moments where there is a lull. A lull in the conversation, in day to day activities, or in personal interest toward the current situation. It bugs the crap out of me when someone’s mobile device is more important than my presence or than what I am saying, when someone tries to multitask me, or interrupts the flow of our conversation, because their virtual friends come calling. It’s sad to watch the phones pop out in succession, whenever there is a moment of awkward silence. What are these people doing? They are scrolling through meaningless content for the sole purpose of avoiding personal interaction with others around them. And I have been painfully guilty of this on occasion for which I am ashamed.
Is social media actually social? Or does it isolate me?
And I think I’ve addressed number eight in above. It is, as Sherry Turkle put it, being alone together. It’s time for me to make some serious changes that some might view as extreme, and reclaim what is truly important in life.