Monday, 27 October 2014

Falling Out Of Love With Social Media

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In the summer of 2007, shortly after I had joined this wondrous new thing called Facebook, I had friends over for dinner and clearly remember us wondering how long this fascinating new form of communication would last. It was amazing that you could keep in touch with your friends at the click of a button without spending any money and at any time of day. This was when you added friends by the day, raced to post your Christmas/holiday/friend's wedding photos, poking was the done thing and your name always had to be follow by 'is'.

FB was a lovely thing and for several years I enjoyed watching the changes in family and friends' lives (and some random acquaintances as well) as they married, had children and I was happy to be part of these changes by commenting, liking and tagging.

Then Twitter arrived. How innovative it was to make statement to the world in just 140 characters! It provided a new insight into celebrities' lives and if Her Majesty was tweeting then I was missing out if I wasn't joining in. So I set up a Twitter account and would spend silly amounts of time pondering how to say something important and amusing within the word limit.

Not long after that I discovered Instagram: creating a statement in an image, sometimes carefully constructed, sometimes just a click in the moment. I grew to love editing apps and started my own Project365 to document 2014 in pictures. I even learnt how to do hashtags. Instagram seemed a beautiful thing, full of prettiness with minimal effort.

As I write this, I'm reminded that this isn't the first time I've fallen out of love with social media. I've had periods before where it's made me worry that my life isn't full of enough exotic holidays, new clothes and evenings out. As life has evolved I've had routine declutters of friends, unfriending long gone work colleagues and acquaintances and for a month I trialled living without Facebook. I've done the same with Twitter, clearing out celebrities whom I'd added when their was profile high and teaching organisations that filled my mind with guilt that I'm not working every minute of the day. But I kept thinking I wouldn't bother deleting accounts as it will probably come to a natural end sooner or later, recently I've realised that they are here to stay.

In September it dawned on me how social media had taken over my life. Whenever I was out and about, at work during my lunchbreak, waiting for someone/something to happen or even visiting my Mum and Dad, I was attached to my phone or iPad finding out what was going on in people's lives. Yes, I was being nosy about people I did and didn't know and getting frustrated if the signal or WIFI was poor. I no longer people watched or saw the world go by from a window; I didn't just sit and read; I tapped and swiped hours away. When I sat down and thought about it, I realised that life was being taken up with these meaningless moments and it was time for me to firmly take action.

I chatted to Mr P and my lovely colleague and threw my ideas around: Could I live without it completely? Would I be sad to miss out on the special moments in other peoples' lives? Would being virtually friendless make me a loner in real life too? I think deep inside I had already made up my mind but it was good to talk it through with others who had mixed feelings about the usefulness of such things.

So I started by positing my last Tweet and clicked 'goodbye' to Twitter. It was the easiest thing to delete first as I had realised that I never had time to actual read the feed and didn't really ever use it to stay in touch with others. Have I missed it in the week since I deleted my account? No, not really. Actually no, not in the slightest - it has actually made me feel good that I don't feel guilty about not looking at it. (Although I'm now annoyed that I can't delete the little Twitter button from this blog - grrr!)

Facebook has been slightly trickier to eradicate as I started to think about all the family members it had brought me closer to. You know, those people you send Christmas Cards to but have no idea what they're actually doing because you'd never think to pick up the phone and talk to them. It's made conversations at parties easier because you don't have to start from the point when you last saw them a year ago and you can actually talk to those (male) cousins who you never would have spoken to because they still had you in their mind as an awkward, geeky teenager.

Going cold turkey was never going to happen, so I decided that if I wasn't going to abandon FB I needed to make it more compact and manageable. I started by removing it from my mobile which stopped the constant checking to see if something important happened and only discovering that someone had put a chicken in the oven for their tea. I had a spring-clean of friends, leaving only people I had actual contact with or those who I would like to stay in contact with by sorting them using the statement: "I would stop in Oxford Street and cross the road to talk to you if I saw you." There were some people who I decided I'd probably not recognise, some whom I would be too shy to speak to and others where I'd struggle to find anything worthwhile to say beyond 'hello'. These were the ones who were unfriended. It hs left me with list of 101 friends who are mostly much loved family or people I genuinely value as true friends.

I also made FB less time-consuming by deleting the majority of 'likes'. You know shops, TV programmes and organisations who sent constant updates which I skipped through and never properly read. I realised that I was no longer actually reading any websites in detail but got all my information by skimming these, especially true of all the teaching ideas pages. So I bookmarked the things I was really interested in and vowed to look at a proper website once in a while. So far so good; it's made FB quicker and easier to digest and meant that I actually look at and use ideas from other teachers rather than thinking I'd go back and have a proper look at another time.

I'm keeping Instagram as it's something I really do value having. In the same way as keeping a blog it's more of a creative experience. I like selecting and refining images as it helps me to reflect on what's happened and what has got me excited. It's made me see the beauty and joy in every day and if there is no beauty or joy then there's no pressure to post. I check my feed as and when I like but won't feel guilty if life moves on and I've not seen every minute of it.

And as for Blogger, well I'm certainly still here. As always feeling guilty about not posting often enough and having picture-minimal posts but deciding to just keep at it. Not worrying what others think or what the viewer count is but using it as a voice for me. A diary of my little life that is public and one that I would not keep if it was just for me. I love the connections I've made with other Bloggers that have strengthened as they've moved to Instagram and the little community of like-minded people who I genuinely think I'd like like to sit down and have a cup of tea with.

I'm sure my relationship with social media will continue to evolve and change with fads that come and go but now I feel in control and not socially obliged to be part of it 24:7. I will use it for the good things, like seeing pictures of our friends' newborn baby last night, and make more time for having a life, enjoying real experiences in the moment without having to jump to writing a witty line about what I'm doing or where I am.

Oh, and I will ever feel important or grown up enough to sign up to LinkedIn. That will just not ever happen!

6 comments:

  1. You scared me for a moment - I thought you were announcing that you were leaving all forms of social media, and I would miss you very much!

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    1. No, I couldn't leave everything behind but I'm finding I have far more time to enjoy the things that I do follow. x

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  2. I am very sad. Its like the end of an era. Still, the enhanced hot chocolate looks most appealing. I need an enhanced hot chocolate right now to go with my Fortnums catalogue that was waiting for me when I got home...Page 58 pencil sharpener £395. Yes please!

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  3. I applied the same criteria to my facebook account and that has made it much more manageable. Am tempted to delete it from my phone though - but I couldn't cope without twitter and instagram!

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    1. It's great feeling not to be constantly checking your phone when you're out and just finding out random nonsense. It also means my battery lasts longer! x

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  4. I love Facebook for keeping up with family and friends, hate it for all the self promotion and pouty pictures. I hardly ever post on FB but like you I love by blog which is very much a personal diary that I often look back on. That's as far as I go into social media, its enough.

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