Think about it, how much of your life nowadays revolves around being on the internet in some way other? Waiting for the next status update from somebody you hardly know? Waiting for an email which you immediately pounce upon, as if it were the solution to something life-threatening? Perhaps waiting for a message from someone, just so you can be reminded that you exist and that you are at least important to somebody.
While many of us know not to open letters from banks or ex-partners’ lawyers when we arrive home tired after a hard day's work, it doesn't occur to us not to apply the same principle to e-mail or social media. When travelling, when trains or planes have arrived at their destinations, BlackBerrys and mobiles are fired up almost as fast as a cigarette and laptops open for a new shot of internet bliss. For some reason there's a kind of light panic involved in the possibility that an email, Twitter update or Facebook status might be missed or not reacted upon quickly enough, for whatever reason.
I like social media. I like social media... too much. I like social media so much that I try to refrain from using them whenever possible nowadays. They're quick, easy and so damned time-consuming, it's just not funny any more. At the moment, when I'm trying to do some serious writing or want to work out a photo project, one of the first things I need to do is close everything off which might possibly distract me. Facebook for starters, then Twitter, then email, followed by Yahoo Messenger and Skype. Finally I'm down to the bare bones, depending on what I'm doing I'll be thumping away on my word processor, Blogger or Lightroom.
It's extraordinary though, how little I actually do miss the fuss and noise of my social media after a while of concentrated activity though. When I'm writing or engaged in a new photo project, I usually work for three quarters of an hour straight and then give myself fifteen minutes break. Two things happen then, I can go get myself something to eat and drink or do a quick bit of housework, or I could get any or all Social Media back within reach in the shortest time possible. It's usually the first, but from experience I've noticed that the temptation, the subtle attraction, to sink back into the Facebook trap or satisfy the desperate need to read all the latest Twitter updates, can be overwhelming at moments. Which nowadays usually means that my Social Media (SM) curfew lasts longer than I'd occasionally prefer.
Experience shows that my fifteen minutes break could balloon out into a thirty, forty or sixty minute variation, depending what's going on and what's most "important" for me at that moment. After that, the remorse follows about time frittered away and the total lack of result in the intervening time, in the same way an addict will berate him-/herself and make (almost unkeepable) promises not to do it again.
For many people social media has become a form of validation, to shout out something, anything, to anybody who might be willing to listen. For some it's a way of escaping the loneliness of a perceived empty life, for others a way of bolstering damaged self-esteem, for others again a form of distraction so that lingering and fundamental issues in life can be avoided or deflected. Social media, as with any tool or activity, are extremely useful in moderation but aren't an end in themselves. They are tools for connection to an outside world which has become too large to easily embrace, which in effect perpetuates and exacerbates the isolation one might find oneself in.
Humans exist in social groups, which seem to function best in reasonably closed, direct settings. The further out the connection, the less direct importance it will have on your daily doings. To my mind, time is better spent maintaining the links to members of the immediate community, to achieve common goals which directly affect them all. Perhaps this is the old anarchist in me playing up again, I see little value in a social consciousness which is stretched out beyond the local setting, into a provincial, national or global realm which ultimately is of little relevance to us on an immediate basis.
This subject isn't closed for me by any means. Just the fact that I'm blogging this is a slight contradiction in what I'm saying, so let's just say the topic is still a work in progress. Would you like to share with me how your online life intersects with your daily life, and the pitfalls/pleasures it brings with it?
Enjoy your day, make it a worthwhile one. Keep well...