I will be the first to tell you that I am addicted to social media.
The first step is admitting you have a problem though, right?
I am a huge fan of social media. I studied communications in college and social media was something that we discussed, researched and learned about in nearly all of my communications classes. Additionally, I am part of a generation that came of age during the advent and mass acceptance of social media.
I remember when Facebook first became a thing. I was living in Hawaii for YWAM and getting ready to move to Cambodia. I had already moved away and disconnected with all of my friends from back home in Washington and was preparing to do the same with my new-found friends who were from all over the world and were getting ready to head to places all over the world for the next couple of months. I thought it was the coolest thing to be able to stay connected to those people, no matter where they were or where I ended up.
I had very overprotective parents and the internet had only barely arrived in Cambodia at that time. We still had to go to internet cafes to check emails and place awkwardly timed phone calls to loved ones back home.
I wasn’t able to take advantage of social media and all it had to offer until I was a junior in high school. In retrospect, I am grateful for that. I have a lot less stupid, awkward or just plain weird stuff pop up on my page from years and years ago. (This being an exception).
I think social media, in most of its forms, is an incredibly valuable tool. I love how it can be used to transform businesses and lives. It makes the world a much smaller place and I am appreciative of that.
For better or worse, it has revolutionized the communications sectors. I’m referring to my career focuses: journalism and marketing. In some ways, that’s long overdue and much needed.
For journalism, we are able to hear from so many more voices on so many subjects. These ranges of voices give us the opportunity for diverse perspectives, but we don’t often take advantage of that. We can hear from anyone located anywhere in the world on nearly any subject, but we often stick to the same voices that, unfortunately, reinforce our worldview. Additionally, the cacophony of voices sometimes makes it hard to find the truth as well, look at the reddit Boston Bomber situation for proof of that.
The idea of “going viral” has brought a sharp change to marketing as well. It’s been cool to see marketing look both more natural and more targeted, but that is also super scary. Social media has absolutely blurred so many of the lines when it comes to branding ethics and the idea of being paid to post.
Getting to the point, I have a love/kind of frustrated with relationship with social media and I decided to give it up for a week. For me, this was about seeing if my life was all that different without it and focusing on “being in the moment” or something like that.
I didn’t want to make some announcement across my platforms letting people know that I was doing it. Firstly because I really don’t have enough followers for that to be relevant, secondly because I just wanted to walk away and see what would happen. I deleted Facebook, twitter, snapchat, and vine from my phone and iPad and I installed an internet extension on my computer called “cold turkey” that would block those platforms (and a few other time-wasters, I’m looking at you buzzfeed) from my computer for a week.
Cold turkey was irreversible. The way it works is you say what you want it to block and for how long and it asks if you’re sure, then it blocks it. It’s very simple, but you can’t get around it (which I found out the hard way when I realized it had also blocked Netflix from my computer).
The first thing that happened was that Facebook sent me an email checking in on me. They let me know that I had over 25 notifications after just a couple of days, which is ridiculous.
The other thing that happened, that you probably gathered from the title of this piece, is that I failed. I didn’t make it a week. In the end, Instagram is what broke me, but I was still able to learn a lot from the experience and the process of failing.
I went on a hike last week and ran into some guys who were also hiking, we kept passing each other and I was snapping pics with my camera. When I started to head down the mountain, they asked if I was on Instagram because they wanted to see some of my pictures. They looked me up and followed me right there. I realized that I felt like I was being rude if I didn’t follow them back. This social norm has now been engrained in me. I reinstalled the app, posted a shot from the hike and followed both guys back.
I held out from Facebook for a couple more days, but it was a similar experience that put me back on, same with snapchat. Maybe I am too dependent on social media, but after this experience, I’m not entirely convinced that that is the worst thing in the world. I think it has become an added way to experience the world.
There are obviously ways that it has the potential to be a distraction, I want to strive to be present and fully experience the life I am living, but social media has largely become another way for me to do that. I am able to interact with and be a part of the lives of friends in Spokane, Cambodia and around the world, for that I am incredibly grateful.
What I’m taking away from this experience is that I don’t want to be the kind of person who is only able to “do it for the vine” (or the ‘gram if you prefer). I want to be intentional with what I share on social media. Hopefully, the kind of person that I am on social media reflects the kind of person I aspire to be and actually am. Social media is an amazing tool and a way to share life, but it shouldn’t be a reason for experiencing life or for living it.