Though I try to keep the topics on this site strictly limited to development of all things WordPress (and related technologies) that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes venture out into more personal things (such as taking time off of social media).
Usually, I find taking time off of these services helps me to focus on some different things, reflect on whether or not I like them, what they offer us as a whole, or simply take a break from the things social media brings with it.
But one of the things I’ve found myself thinking about over the last month – and not necessarily on purpose, but it’s something that’s emerged the longer I’ve spent offline – is the place social media holds in our society (I guess western society, as I’d categorize it for this post), and the role in plays in each of our lives.
This post is going to run down a list of thoughts I’ve had about it, though they don’t necessarily have a firm conclusion or even a place I’m trying to get everyone to agree on (which would be a fools’ errand, anyway).
Instead, this is my general thoughts, observations, and considerations on social media as it exists at the time of writing this post.
Maybe it resonates with you, maybe not.
Social Media is Good (Or Is It?)
First, it’s important to define what I mean by “social media” in this post. Google simply defines it as:
websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
I think that’s fair enough but when you define a phrase like “social media” regarding “social networking,” feels a bit like it has a flair of circular logic. I recognize it’s not, but it still doesn’t read as accurate as it perhaps it could be.
So for all intents and purposes, I’m using the working definition as:
Platforms and services that allows us to communicate with one another either directly (such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Messages, and so on) and indirectly (where we simply broadcast our material out for others to see be it tweets, status updates, images, videos, and so on).
I don’t have the most elegant definition, but at least you know where I’m coming from with the points I’m going to make.
With that said, here’s what I’ve observed, how I’m beginning to think about it, and how I may be using it in the future.
Something will often rise to replace what once was (or even still is).
- I first began subscribing to a lot of news online using RSS. I still use Feedly as was one of the initial backers of the project that received a lifetime subscription to the service because of it. I still like RSS as the way to subscribe to the material that I want to read.
- People are using other services, namely Twitter, as a means by which they are finding links to material they want to read. This doesn’t mean that RSS is dead, but it’s being usurped by other services. Such is the nature of technology.
It seems silly. And sad.
- Twitter is almost wholly malleable. That is to say Twitter is whatever you make it out to be shaped by whatever organizes and whoever you opt to follow. My version of Twitter is likely different than your version of Twitter.
- Twitter seems to promote more negativity on all sides of a given issue. People tend to complain more, offer fewer solutions, and chastise one another more than they offer any alternative course of action. I don’t see how this can be a Good Thing.
- World leaders are using Twitter to promote their messages which I call into question as to whether or not this is a Good Thing. I haven’t thoroughly thought this one out, though. On the one hand, it would seem to be a manner by which these people are reaching where people are. On the other hand, Twitter is often silly and looks more to be a fire by which people are interested in pouring gasoline into it rather than aiming to find a way to contain it and perhaps even put it out.
- Look at it this way: Grown adults are bickering with one another over divisive messages limited to concise forms of communication by design that will have zero consequence to those who are throwing out the said message. This nets zero consequence in either direction. Doesn’t that seem silly?
Perhaps it’s just better to say it’s procrastination, at best. Not all the time, but often.
- This appears to be a mixed bag where people often gather in groups and subcommunities (much like subreddits) where they can share their concerns, questions, and comments on a given issue. Being able to gather in a group with individuals aiming to help one another is a Good Thing.
- Facebook’s general feed of sharing status updates, pictures, advertisements, seems to offer more in the realm of procrastination both from those sharing updates and reading updates that it does offering any type of productivity or positivity. I don’t know if this is a Good Thing, but I’d venture to say this aspect of it is much more divisive that uniting.
Maybe we should be judicious as to how we utilize it? Maybe that’s a rule for all services? I don’t know right now.
- Instagram is a place, much like Twitter, where you can make it whatever you want it to be by following the people and organizations that you want.
- It seems to me, though, that people are more interested in sharing the positive aspects of their lives than the negative (this isn’t to say that sharing a challenge is a negative because its ultimate goal, as far as I’ve noticed, is so showing others they aren’t alone in what they are going through, and it’s also a mode to reach out to others to help them).
- Sharing fun images and videos of families, photos that you take while out in the world, and videos of all of the above are fun to see especially when it’s from people that you like but don’t frequently see.
- This results in a comparison game, which I do not think is a Good Thing, but it also allows us to see some positive things. And if you simply take one person’s positive for what it is then trying to rate it against something of your own, you end up with something nice. That’s a Good Thing, I think. Otherwise, the results are something like “you’re not good enough.” That’s not a Good Thing.
What About Other Forms of Social Media?
Sure, there are other places people go like Snapchat or Google+ (just kidding about Google+ 🙃), but they aren’t the ones I see dominating the space in which I work. This isn’t to say they aren’t dominating another demographic (namely, Snapchat and teenagers), but that it’s not relevant to what it is I’m discussing here.
Instead, if the ultimate goal of what we’re doing as a society is to maximize the good we’re putting into the world (which is nothing something some people care to do, I know) and maximize the productivity we are achieving throughout the day, I call into question the utility of the networks above.
And I do so independently of one another.
That is, if I want to see something genuinely Good which is to say that I want to read something
- intellectually challenging (which means that it may not align with my beliefs about something),
- and that ultimately help me grow as a person (which has many dimensions to it, right?)
Then I’m not sure I see the utility of these services as they were once saved for RSS. And here’s a brief rundown of what I mean:
- RSS is a protocol, nothing more, by which we can subscribe to whatever publications we want. There’s no social interaction. This is a Neutral Thing.
- Twitter is a service that allows us to connect with one another and with organizations a well as broadcast our material, whatever said material might be, for better or worse but it seems far more replete with complaints and hatred from all sides than anything positive. This has the potential to be a Good Thing but appears to be less so because even those who are trying to put Good into the universe of Twitter are faced with vitriol. That’s not productive. I don’t know how this is a Good Thing.
- Facebook seems to offer more value in its communities and groups than it does in its news feed. This is a Good Thing. Status updates seem to offer more in line with that of Twitter. Thus, I don’t see how this can be a Good Thing.
- Instagram, though potentially negative in many ways, seems to tilt more towards good rather than not. That’s a Good Thing for now, but it may end up tilting the other way.
But what’s to make of all of this?
The Bottom Line (As of Today)
I used to hold the idea that I needed to follow a variety of people and organizations across a variety of platforms for the sake of:
- keeping up with technology so I can properly raise my kids in a world that’s ripe with it,
- holding myself well-educated as to what all sides of a given issue are saying,
- furthering the reach of my business,
- meeting new people,
- staying in touch with people that are not nearby (however you may define that).
To quote Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changing’.” And that is to say:
- the technology we have available today is going to be obsolete, replaced, or modified by the time our children are of a certain age,
- I can continue to educate myself through the use of RSS and Apple News,
- there are other means by which one can grow their business,
- meeting new people can be done by the same channels but may require a higher degree of paying attention to what they are sharing and how they speak than how they once did,
- the way in which we keep up with one another might be fine to go back to classic texting or private groups using other services.
So here I am at 1500 words, roughly speaking, with no consensus other than trying to determine what I deem to be a Good Thing or a not and the role it plays in my life.
Furthermore, I find this to be highly relevant to those of us involved in technology in some degree because it seems to be a significantly larger part of our day-to-day.
Ultimately, I can definitively say that though I think social media has offered some good in this world, I’m not convinced that the net good it’s provided is greater than that net bad. And to that end, I have to view this as a social experiment for lack of a better term.
I know many disagree (as I’ve asked on different mediums and to different people). Many see it as fixed. And in the general sense, it likely is. But in the forms in which we’re viewing it right now, I’m not convinced this to be true.
What Should We Do?
And what’s to be done about this at least as far as a personal level is concerned? I have my thoughts on that, as well. But this post is already long. Longer than I anticipated.
So if you read this far, thanks 🙂. And I know I’ll have more to say about all of this in a future post. This is enough to throw out there for now, though.