Since I’ve been pushing people to subscribe to the blog via email and RSS, I am loathe to make more than one post per day. I don’t want anyone to feel as if they’re being spammed or overwhelmed. Once in a while, though, there will be special cases where I feel it’s appropriate or even necessary to jump in and not wait until the next day to say something. I think the need to address why I’ve closed all of my social media accounts on the spur of the moment qualifies as a special situation.
Yes, I’ve closed all of my social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter, the whole shebang. I expect some people to disagree with my logic and my reasons, and you can sound off in the comments, but I want to point out that there are no absolute truths to how we manage our lives; what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. At the moment, social media is not working for me.
Who Are You Talking To?
Social media is rarely targeted conversation. It’s akin to standing on your roof with a megaphone, shouting out to the world, and hoping someone is listening. If you want to make friends, there are better ways. If you’re seeking to get the word out about something, there are more effective ways. Do you know these people? Do they know you? Is your social media presence about connecting with real human beings, or are your followers just a meaningless number?
Even if you restrict who can see your social media output, in most cases people who follow the people who follow you can get access. you don’t know who they are, what they think of your opinions, or what they’ll choose to do with your information.
What Are You Saying?
If you had to wait 24 hours to say what’s on your mind, would you still say it? Is it something that could come back to haunt you later? Is it really what you want to put out into the world? Are you saying something meaningful, or are you struggling to come up with pithy things to say and interesting links to post just to maintain and grow the number of followers you have? If you have something important to express, social media is probably the best venue to make a thoughtful, reasoned argument or impassioned pitch.
What’s the Value Add?
For me, social media has been a way to keep in touch with friends and publicize my blog and my projects. On the first count, I’ve increasingly found myself sending private messages or participating in closed groups, yet I still make public posts out of some sense of obligation to followers I rarely, if ever, interact with — how is that social? I click “like” and retweet posts and occasionally comment on cool updates, but that’s neither building a relationship with the other person or making the world a better place. In tracking traffic and sales, only a negligible amount is generated from social media; my time and effort is more productively spent elsewhere.
Can You Make Better Use of That Time?
Very few people would dispute that the answer is anything other than “yes”. The internet itself is a great tool, but it’s a series of tubes filled with cats and pornography perfectly designed to make you waste time. Social media is fun, but for the most part, it’s trivial. I could be working, reading, studying, volunteering, or spending time with family and friends. I could be writing a substantive blog post about my opinion on a subject rather than spamming out links and one-liners, or I could be composing an email to a close friend rather than giving virtual thumbs-ups to acquaintances and strangers.
Control Your Privacy
The world is a scary place. On the internet, you need to monitor what you say, and who you say it to. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy, and everything lasts forever. The only way to control how what you write will be used is to control what you write and limit the venues where said writing appears. With employers increasingly looking at your social media more closely than they look at your resume, you need to control your “personal brand”. The easiest way to lock all of this down is to stay off of social media entirely.
Your Life is Not a Reality Show
All of the above are things I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and taken together make it clear that stepping away from social media has more benefits for me than it has drawbacks. That doesn’t explain my timing and the sudden sense of urgency that drove me to do it immediately. So here, as much as I am able to discuss, is what happened.
Last night, I watched several people I care about get hurt through a combination of what they posted being taken out of context, their privacy being violated, and people they don’t really know engaging in bullying by casually involving themselves in things that weren’t their business. There will be long-lasting repercussions for everyone involved, including folks who did no more than click “like” or chime in with a simple “me too!”. No one did anything illegal. No one did anything objectively “wrong”. Yet it still got very ugly, very quickly. It all happened because the nature of social media is to share, to express our thoughts openly, and to do it in a manner that leaves us wide open and unprotected against the crazy, the bureaucratic, and the flat-out evil forces in the world.
For several years, I’ve witnessed situations where people have been negatively impacted by social media. I have seen people struggle with trolls, stalkers, and bullies. I have watched people damage their careers, lose their jobs, and ruin relationships. The event last night was frightening to behold as it unfolded before me. I realized exactly how often I have seen this, and how close I have come to being in the same sort of peril. In a strict cost/benefit analysis, the risks of social media no longer seem worth the rewards.
Connect with Me: Send Me Email
Rather than trying to manage multiple accounts for private messages, I’m reducing things down to one: my firstname.lastname@example.org email address. I would rather have a personal, one-on-one conversation with you so that we can really get to know one another than resort to 140-character drive-by connections or meaninglessly clicking a “like’ button. Real relationships aren’t build on convenience, they’re built through effort. It may take a while, but I do try to answer every email personally. I consider that a better use of my time than surfing social media.
Connect with Me: Follow My Blog
If you want to know what’s going on with me, subscribe to the blog. I am considering adding a weekly post that’s nothing but the things I would have said on social media, including fun and informative links. I suspect that by the time a week has gone by and I sit down to compile such a post, I’ll ask myself “why did I want to say that?” and edit heavily. I think there will be more value, for you and for me, in my mulling over what I’d like to say and composing a thoughtful, well reasoned blog post.