I took a week off of social media to get more time to study for a big midterm I had at school. That sabbatical provided me with several more hours in the week as well as a little space to reflect on my social media practices.
I hesitated to join Facebook when I was in college. I just didn’t see the point and didn’t think I had the time. Eventually my roommate talked me into signing up, and there went many hours of my life for the next 10 years. I’m “friends” with people on Facebook I took a class with 15 years ago, met at a conference, or traveled with at one point in my life. These are great folks, but they just aren’t people I maintain relationships with. Yet, I spend hours interloping on their Facebook pages or posts. Yes, interloping, meddling, intruding. That’s really what it is most of the time. It doesn’t build relationships, and it does nothing more than wasting my time and taking attention from things that matter far more.
I didn’t know anyone on Twitter for a long time and really saw no point in it. Then I had a terrible year teaching. I joined Twitter my second year out of pure desperation. I NEEDED to connect with other teachers outside of my school and district. Building my professional learning community was a life-saver that year. I “met” other teachers in many other states and started to gain resources to get me through that difficult time. That first year or two, Twitter was a very productive use of my time. Then more and more people joined Twitter and I started following people I didn’t know. More interloping, but really more celebrity stalking and snooping. Aside from this inconsequential interest in lives of people I will never meet, Twitter is actually the most productive form of social media for me. I maintain communication with some really close friends and also still engage in some intellectual/professional discussion on occasion. I’ve recently fallen out of the latter, but after some encouragement from an avid Twitter user, I’m going to work on this again.
I joined Google+ as soon as it came out because I was frustrated with Facebook, and I really wanted it to win. It clearly hasn’t, but it’s a great space where I keep in contact with about 8 people. No time suck there because of the few people in my circles, and all of my interactions there are in authentic relationships.
I ignored Instagram for a long time because I hardly ever take pictures. Really, I just stalk people there as well. I’ve never posted a picture to Instagram. There’s no reason really. I simply never think of it and just Tweet any pictures I care to share. I wonder if this will change when we get pregnant. I imagine I’ll take a bajillion more pictures, but I’m not sure why I would use Instagram instead of Twitter. Anyone want to fill me in on the purpose?
Not using social media for a week really caused me to pause and think about my purpose in using these things and the amount of time it was taking. It’s consuming too much of my time with no positive purpose. Because of this, I’m working to refine some of my social media practices.
I’m slowly but surely working to weed out what gets posted to my Facebook timeline. I simply don’t have the time or energy, nor do I care about all of the posts of my 400+ friends. No offense. Similarly, I’m sure a whole lot of them don’t care about my dog or grad school posts. Working to streamline that feed down to people I actually want to maintain relationships with will hopefully make it more what I want it to be. Frankly, I’d just leave Facebook altogether except for maybe 20 people I would never talk to otherwise.
Similarly, I’ve organized Twitter a little better and now have a list of real-life people I actually communicate with separate from the more serious/work/news/political stuff I follow. That way I can decide if I’m maintaining relationships or doing something more “professional”.
We moved about 1000 miles away from our closest friends and family for me to work on my PhD. While I am blessed with new friends in Boulder, the people closest to my heart are still very far away. For this reason, I am ever grateful for the power of the internet and social media. Giving it up completely is not what I want, but using it more intelligently for productive purposes rather than empty consumption of ever-valuable time seems wise.