So Long Social Media
I picked up a copy of New Scientist the other day, partly because of a misleading headline but mostly because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. The headline in question was ‘The You Delusion’ and the image, to my failing eyes, showed a woman looking into a phone. (It wasn’t – see the cover at the bottom of the post). It seemed an interesting coincidence that tied in with a few thoughts I’ve been having about social media and pieces I’ve been reading in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits…”.
First of all I should say that I am no longer on social media. I deactivated my Twitter account, I’ve unfriended everyone on Facebook and left all the groups (I keep the account so I can acccess a page I have for my business ). I’ve deleted my LinkedIn account as well. I still occasionally post on Instagram though – about once a quarter.
My reason for this abstinence from social media — mental health. Unlike the vast majority of people, I struggle to cope with the deluge of opinions pouring into my timeline. I had tweaked Twitter to a point where I only followed people who were sharing things I had an interest in or who I had known for a long time through other online communities. This didn’t stop the red mist from descending and me wading into debates with out fore thought or concern as to who I was addressing or how my opinion might be construed. But what I found most challenging was the continual outpouring of hate and loathing from various groups around politics, social justice and human rights and so on. I have no right to comment on any of this either. Twitter is American and the vast majority of active accounts (72.9 million) are American. Who am I to comment on their country, it’s politics or belief systems. American is a foreign entity and really none of my business. So I let it go.
This was shortly followed by removing all my friends from Facebook – but for a slightly different reason. I haven’t fallen out with any of my family, but Facebook was acting like a depressant as I scrolled through the imaginary lives that my friends and family portrayed to the world.
Now I should point out that there is a lot of good on social media, whether it is keeping up with old friends or getting new perspectives on the news of the second and I am by no means downing the technology. But for me, connected to everyone, everywhere, 24/7 was having a noticeable affect on my state of mind. So I gave it all up.
In Covey’s book (The 7 Habits…) he writes about the circle’s of concern and of influence. The latter being a subset of the former. Our circle of concern covers all the things that we worry about. Global warming, political tensions, terrorisim as well as the more mundane like paying bills, doing the shopping, the price of fuel etc. Clearly some of these things are not just within our circle of concern but also within our circle of influence. The vast majority of us can do nothing to influence political tension in the Middle East say, but we can pay our bills on time (hopefully).
Social media skews our understanding of the limit of our sphere of influence. It gives us a platform whereby our ability to offfer our unasked for opinion or shout digital obsenities at anyone in that commnunity is untethered from what I would consider to be the social norms. The increase from 140 characters to 280 characters means we can really go to town with this – rather than as I had hoped, provide more context to our arguments. FYI, the average tweet length is 28 characters. That’s about 7 one syllable words. This post is over 720 words and I’m still not sure I’m getting my point across. I feel better for not being on Social Media, I really do. I do miss some of the people there but they are the sort of people who would value my own personal health over my limited wit. Anyway, here is the image I misinterpreted from New Scientist last week – it looked a lot like someone staring into a phone which reflected an image of themselves.