"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Friday, April 24, 2015

I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong - Part 1: The Problem

I came to a realization recently; a realization as jarring as it was refreshing.

Was it a life-changing realization? Probably not. Earth-shattering? No. Did it change my social media paradigm a little bit? Absolutely.

When it comes to social media, I, along with millions of other 20- and 30- somethings, have grown up in a world dominated by constant interaction with our peers, friends, not-quite-friends friends, acquaintances, and family. We remember the days of chat rooms, AOL and MSN messenger, and sadly, many of us had MySpace profiles (don't be afraid to admit it). Those forums may be distant memories, thankfully. But now we have facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat, Yik Yak, blogs, websites with free-flowing comboxes, Words With Friends, other social apps, etc. All these applications have one thing in common: they make our interaction with one another easier.

This interaction is not altogether bad, but it has led to one undeniable truth: our interactions on social media have become in many ways essentially a rote habit, a mechanism, an ingrained response. Sharing a picture, link, or quote on social media is something we do without thinking, even need to, in very real cases of social media addiction.

Beyond that, I would argue, our interactions have become - in a word - cheapened. It's so easy now to communicate with a few dozen or your friends all at once, or even hundreds or thousands of people in your networks with a few keystrokes or swipes that we take it for granted. Rather than being valued, I believe, so much of our communication today is cheapened because it lacks the same degree of purpose and intention that makes communication so precious.

I for one, realize that I've been doing social media wrong.

Here's just an example: when I read something I really like - an article, blog, op-ed, etc. - my knee-jerk reaction is essentially: "I've gotta post this on facebook/twitter for everyone to see and I have to tell them how much I like it!" Most of the time, the same holds true for those articles that draw my ire:"I've gotta post this so everyone knows how outraged I am about this!"

Both of those thoughts are instant reactions, a kind of learned response from years of social media use, coupled with more-or-less genuine emotions swelling up inside.

Facebook, which is so often the main go-to social media site, can accurately be described, as one of my friends once put it, as "a near occassion of sin." (My "traddie Catholic" friends will definitely understand what I mean.) Never mind the potentially scandalous ads and the borderline-lewd pictures (yes, even from my friends in some cases). Let's not get started on the hours upon hours spent mindlessly scrolling through newsfeeds. Forget about the temptation towards narcissism. Sometimes the most tempting and sinful part can simply be the commentary on posts; commentary which begins when someone shares an opinionated, "stir-the-pot" kind of post.

My response at one point in life was to take these sorts of posts head-on. I had to comment to share my opinion. These are my friends after all. The friendly thing to do is to correct their error, right? Admit it. We've all been there. The reasoning is something along the lines of: "My poor, misguided friend needs my help... I'm just being a good friend by sharing the truth."  On the other side of the coin, while I may have claimed to post with the intent to simply "inform" those who disagreed, those posts of mine that were knowingly controversial were probably really posted with at least some intent to "stir the pot."

This was part of the problem with how I've been doing social media wrong. I intend to correct it.

In part two, I'll explain how I'm going to change.

Click here to read :I've Been Doing Social Media Wrong - Part 2: The Solution

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