Social Media on My Mind

I’ve been reading a lot of important pieces about social media lately, and they keep poking their little pitchforks into the back of my head. Every time I grab my phone to start a monumental scroll through Twitter, then Instagram, then Facebook, my wrist aches and pleads with me to put it down.

I know, I know, the irony of reading tweets that point to links to articles about the need to step away from social media — and then writing and tweeting about them — is thick. Sue me.

Here are two of my favorite reads on the topic. They’re the ones doing most of the pitchfork poking.

Reclaiming Our (Real) Lives from Social Media by Nick Bilton at the New York Times 
Nick Bilton is one of the first newsy people I started following on Twitter (and wrote a book about Twitter!), so he holds a special place in my heart. In this column, he compares himself (and a lot of us) to Hemingway: Dear Ernest wrote something that turned into a chapter of a book while he was trapped in a cafe during a rainstorm — what would you have done with that time?

While my early adventures on social sites were exciting and novel, increasingly, my time spent on these services is starting to feel like a lot of wasted time. Like a virus slowly invading its victim, social media has methodically started to consume every hour of my day. Morning coffees, lunchtime breaks, time before bed, was once cordoned off for books, or even just quiet moments of reflection.

Take a minute to think about that. It’s hard to take in. I use social media as a crutch for those uncomfortable moments I have to sit alone. I want to look busy and important, so I whip out my phone. I do my best to keep it those to solitary moments, though. As soon as I’m with another person, I put it away — and prod my friends to put theirs away, too.

Bilton’s cure is something I failed to do today: Read a book rather than social media first thing in the morning. It’s always the first thing in listicles about how to make your day better, but I never manage to do it. Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow.

* * *

I Left Facebook, and You Can, Yoo by Jessica Ferris at Medium
Jessica Ferris opens by mapping out a lot of the privacy issues on Facebook, going through a timeline of the problems that have come up, often without users’ awareness. For her, this led to monsters from her past coming back to haunt her. In real life. Rather than blaming the platform’s ever-changing privacy settings, though, she attacked a family member for breaching her privacy and trust. We’re loyal to Facebook, because it shares so much with us and asks for nothing in return. Except for our time.

I was talking with a woman in her 50s this weekend, who said to me, “I wish I could quit Facebook but it’s so addictive: ‘Oh, this person said this, that person said that, and oh, this person is taking boating lessons, let’s look at all the pictures of the boat,’ and then before I know it two hours have passed and I don’t even KNOW the person taking boating lessons!” This is what it feels like when your connections with a platform are being strengthened, as opposed to the connections with the people you love: you can spend two hours on Facebook looking at the boating lessons of people you don’t even know. This is very convenient for Facebook.

That’s kind of the moral of this piece: we’re bonding with Facebook, not our friends. We feel like we need to keep it around to stay connected to these people — people we wouldn’t ordinarily care about, people who would have otherwise fallen out of our lives completely — and that without it, we’re Tom Hanks in Castaway.

* * *

If neither of those do anything for you, have a really powerful tweet from one of my Internet pals that sums it all up:

Oh, or in case you missed it when it went viral a few months ago: Look Up.

Have a happy day, friends. Take a moment to silence your phone and listen to the world around you. It’s beautiful out there.

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