Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I Love Social Media
I love social media like I love salty potato chips! Even better, social media is like eating salty potato chips with interesting people from all over the world. When I consider leaving most social media platforms, I already miss those engaging people.
I know. I’ve heard about trolls, too, and I’ve interacted (briefly) with two. TWO! In all the years I’ve spent on all different social media platforms, I can only remember two users (and I think one of these was a bot) who actively tried to make others feel bad. The one who was not a bot was intelligent, articulate, and mean as a snake. But two trolls, that’s all in all that time.
Listen to me read this post:
Of course I’ve seen strongly-opinionated people. They’re easy to deal with. Just like in real life, I choose not to interact with them. They’re targeting an audience to which I don’t belong. I’m not looking for a fight and no one has ever approached me online looking for one.
Through social media, I’ve connected with old friends and made a ton of new ones. I’ve got a young friend from Malaysia and an older friend from the Netherlands, lots of great writer friends on Twitter and Google+, and loyal local supporters of my work on Facebook. For me, social media was a positive place to spend time until it wasn’t.
I think now I’m addicted to the stats, to the clicks, and to the likes. I crave online attention. What’s this constant distraction doing to my brain? Experts say it’s breaking my concentration apart. I’m seeing evidence that they’re right.
My social media use changed when I quit my teaching job and returned to school as an online student. While teaching full time, there wasn’t the opportunity to be online. I don’t use a cell phone, so I didn’t even check that during the hectic workday. Most of the time, I was offline. My time on social media was necessarily limited.
Working at the computer all day every day in my office, and being alone all the time means that I spend more time on social media looking for pleasant distractions. Then there’s my Samsung Galaxy tablet that makes my online addiction portable. Now I can move from room to room and still get my fix. It’s not so good.
Entertainment, Not a Fundamental Technology
Dr. Cal Newport says that social media is a form of entertainment more than it is a “fundamental technology.” This passage from the transcript of his TEDx Talk hosted in Tysons, Virginia made me question how I use social media, what I’m giving to it, and what I’m getting out of it in return:
Social media is not a fundamental technology. It leverages some fundamental technologies but it’s better understood as this, which is to say it’s a source of entertainment — entertainment product. The way the technologist Jaron Lanier puts it is that these companies offer you shiny treats in exchange for minutes of your attention and bites of your personal data, which can then be packaged up and sold.
Who’s Getting Rich?
This made me consider all the time I spend posting my own photographs, creating engaging content, and writing online. I work for likes from my followers and for the benefit of the social media company to which I post. Which one of us, the social media company or me, is getting rich? (Hint: it’s not me.)
These platforms offer me shiny treats that leave me hungry, and still I eat them up.
What’s My Problem?
So what’s my biggest problem with how I use social media? As a writer and an editor, and as a regular meditator, I resent how social media has fragmented my concentration, another effect that Dr. Newport pointed out to me.
I’m certain that I’d be more productive and more focused without the distraction of social media. How do I know? I know because prior to my increased use of social media I was more productive and more focused. I cherish my mind and my thought processes. I hate to think that I’m allowing them to be harmed for a taste of virtual sweetness.
It’s Not Social Media’s Fault
Let me be clear. I’m not blaming social media for my choices just like I wouldn’t blame a bottle of wine or a casino. I’m an adult and I choose my behaviours. Social media is there to draw me in, to entertain me, to connect me, and to keep me coming back. That’s its job and that’s how it profits.
When I think about leaving, I’m hesitant for the same reasons that Dr. Newport outlined in his TEDx Talk. In fact, I felt like he was speaking directly to me when he said:
So here’s the second common objection I hear when I suggest that people quit social media, the objection goes as follows: ‘Cal, I can’t quit social media because it is vital to my success in the 21st century economy. If I do not have a well cultivated social media brand, people won’t know who I am, people won’t be able to find me, opportunities won’t come my way, and I will effectively disappear from the economy.’
Heck, this person could have been me explaining to Dr. Newport why I’m nervous about leaving social media. I have a lot of social media followers and I do a lot of online advertising. That being said, I don’t sell a lot of books or writing services online. The majority of my sales are made face to face and in real life. That’s how I connect with people, and how I market my products and services.
If and when I leave a platform we share, I hope that you know that you can find me on my website at any time. You can comment there on my posts or contact me through one of the bazillion contact forms on my WordPress site. Consider following my blog then you won’t miss a post.
Keep in Touch!
If you’ve enjoyed our interaction, get in touch and I’ll send you my personal email. Give me your mailing address and I’ll even send you a Christmas card. There are lots of ways for us to stay connected. I’m not sure I want to do it through a medium that compromises my concentration and my imagination.
I hope that in leaving some social media behind, I can keep you and my focus, too!
Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori