Thursday, August 21, 2014

Social Media Taper - For Now

Over the past little while I've taken some self assessments (no, not the silly quizzes on Facebook where it says I'm 33% controlling) and I've discovered some attributes about my character with which I'm not thrilled. One of said character flaws is a tendency to be socially obsessive and there are some tools out there that feed on this weakness. Facebook is the biggest culprit and I'll address how I'm currently dealing with it.

Some friends may understand this reference
For those that have "friended" me over the past few years, you'll know that Facebook has been an obsession of mine. Early on, I was concerned with spreading my sphere of influence, garnering friends that really weren't and were more like distant associates with whom I had made vague connections. I justified my growing base of friends and the efforts I put into it by telling myself the posts I created were uplifting, insightful and faith oriented. That may have been true of a percentage of the posts, but there were certainly some lame posts that make me question, "What was I thinking?" But the argument of narcissism always lingered in the back of my mind and looking back I'm positive that played into the obsession.

Over the last couple of years, however, connections became deeper, more meaningful and shared with a few friends. Inside jokes could be shared with others likely wondering what it all meant while I laughed in the background and chuckled at some perceptions. While the connections remained close, I also became aware that the content shared was also so insubstantial, shallow and lacking any deeper meaning. Opinions on faith, politics, family circumstances and struggles, if shared on Facebook, could only be done so on a cursory level as either public criticism mocked the poster or comment threads spiraled out of control. The desired connections were replaced with opaque vinettes and left me wanting for more.

On vacation this summer Rebecca challenged me to take a social media fast, lay off what others were doing and live in the moment. Sure, I was encouraged to take pictures to allow my aging mind to recall the fun we had, but leave Instagram and Facebook alone for the two weeks. She didn't believe I could do it. She had challenged me the same way the previous summer and I just had no desire to do it then. This summer I didn't want to either but just to prove her wrong I took the challenge.

What did I learn at the end of the two weeks? Well, the world kept spinning. I kept breathing. Facebook kept on going on without me. Unless someone tagged me in a post or a comment, I was more or less disconnected and few had qualms over my absence. While some complained of not receiving vacation updates, pictures and some birthday wishes, overall, no one really cared. "How odd," I thought to myself. If I'm not on Facebook, won't my friends miss me?

So what's the truth, or perceived truth? If no one tags or comments to me, does anyone really care? Do I hold value on a platform meant to generate more interaction? Will my own obsession and lust for insight into people's lives and a perception that they care about my life be  starved if I leave the social media world?

A couple of days ago I read an article that outlined how I've been feeling on this topic. Basically, my brain has been on social media overload and my obsessions have run a muck. I need to reset, even after the two week fast, and live with humans, not the tendrils of their social musings. I actually deleted Facebook from my iPhone (and it's stupid companion Messenger app - what a mess that split was). And how do I feel?

Well, at first it completely sucked. My spidey senses kept tingling as I thought about the likes and comments I was missing. After about 24 hours with no one having tagged me in a post or comment, disappointment hit as I realized no one really missed me. Then relief came. Until I got tagged. Yep, you guessed it. ALS Ice Challenge - ugh. Sorry folks, I'm not participating, regardless of so unenforceable rule around donating to a charity I'm not associating myself to for various reasons. Don't get me wrong, people are having fun and for the most part it can be a good way of changing things, but for the bulk of participants, how many have paid the $10 "did it" donation as opposed to the "suck it" $100 donation for not participating. I digress - different topic.

Do I have moments of yearnings where I want to go and check my feed? Absolutely. But it's waning and curing and healing. I'm not looking ever couple of minutes to see if I have notifications on my homescreen. Do I get the little badge that says I have 55 notifications and then I get to sift through a pile of "likes" on one post? Nope. And it's liberating.

The downside is I'm missing out on some things in people's lives. I have friends that do awesome volunteer work, real humanitarian type stuff and self promote for good. I'm missing out on my church's uplifting messages that come through my feed (gratefully I see these on Instagram as well). I'm missing out on flavorful anecdotes from friends who's kids say strange things, mark themselves up with washable markers or post cool action pics of wake boarding and hopefully motocross (can't wait).

But most of these friends are actual friends and I can catch up in real life with them. They text me or see me at parties. We talk. Really talk. We actually have a friendship. And beyond the friends, I have a family that I live with, with whom I can sit in the same room and actually talk rather than have our noses in mindless devices (we're not there yet - but I'm hopeful).

So do I need Facebook to facilitate these relationships? Nope. And I don't need it to skewer it either.

Will I return to Facebook? For those keeping score, I just logged in a few minutes ago to grab the URL of the article I posted to include here, so yep. But I did it via the web interface and not the app. I refuse to be notified and let myself be directed back into the suck hole of social media. I'll look at it when I feel like it and right now, I'm just not that interested.

This post will hit Facebook, and while there may be varying degrees of opinions, especially for those that recently appreciated Elder Bednar's address on flooding social media with positive and uplifting messages, this isn't a call for a boycott on Facebook or any other social media network. Hopefully you'll assess, like I've been doing, what matters to you, what you hope to gain by your thoughts and actions, and you'll seek joy, peace and happiness. I'm not there yet, but I can see some of it returning and it feels pretty good.

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