At some point in recent time, we all got swept under the assumption that we need to have social media as an integral part of our daily lives. Someone somewhere decided that this was good for us, and this mentality became viral.
Nowadays, it is perfectly normal to constantly check how many likes you have on Facebook and to post endless selfies on Instagram and Snapchat.
Does the qualification of being “normal” necessarily make it right? Does the convenience of social media make it absolutely imperative to engage with it all of the time?
At this point, my answer to both questions is no. I have reached this conclusion only because I have found that the disadvantages of your forum of choice (whether it is Twitter, Instagram, FB, or something else) far outweigh the advantages.
Let’s make a couple of lists.
Advantages of Social Media
- Constant interaction with friends near and far
- Sharing one’s life with friends, family, and colleagues through posting pictures, stories, and other content
- Free and unlimited usage
- It’s funDisadvantages of Social Media
- Highly addictive
- Personal information is used by companies for marketing purposes and other nefarious intentions such as influencing voter behavior
- Encourages disingenuous posts by users that are misleading and present a false reality
- Cultivates online stalking behavior
- Provides exposure to news and media content that is fake or unsubstantiated
- Creates a false sense of worth through likes and comments
- Distracts from more important work in one’s life that involve creativity and deeper focus
Obviously, these are my own perceptions, but all of the points included in these lists are the most significant to me. We all drank the water and somehow, have become convinced that social media is not only okay but also essential to our connection with the world and our sense of personal identity.
I am not going to drink this water anymore, and I am formulating my own strategy of how to achieve a healthy distance from social media in ways that magnify its benefits and significantly minimize its risks.
Here are some of the new social media practices I will try out:
1. No more hashtags.
Hashtags are supposed to attract attention to your posts, and to some degree, they do. The problem I find is the kind of attention they attract. Hashtags seem to create a paper trail that maps out what you value and what your interests are. These are exactly the kinds of things that advertisers are looking for. I am basically advertising my own sensibilities out to the world for companies to exploit. Why would I do that? From now on, no more hashtags
2. Limit likes on Facebook to close family members and friends
Again, one’s likes create a map of one’s preferences and inclinations. By limiting them to the activities of a small handful of people, this map ought to be deemed useless. I will not be liking any products, services, and content that gives companies more insight into my wallet and time.
3. Only post content that adds value to others or has meaning to me.
I generally do this anyway, but you won’t find me posting a bunch of selfies. I’ll showcase my photography, blog posts, music and shows, creative work, and anything that involves thought, depth, and hard work on my part.
4. Limit my time on social media.
At this point, the only social media app I have on my phone is Instagram, and I use it to distribute all my content to FB, Twitter, and Tumblr. Facebook is only accessed on my laptop. This is still a work in progress, but my usage has decreased since I’ve unloaded my cell phone of all that stuff. Eventually, I want to get to a place in which I only access FB once every two or three days.
These four practices are what I have so far, but I plan on initiating more strategies that refine and limit my social media usage in the future. From now on, I proceed knowing that the most important part of my life are the actual face-to-face interactions and relationships that I cultivate every day. Social media cannot be more important than this, even though it certainly wants to be.
I will write more about how this is going and the progress I am making.