Here’s an ugly truth – A majority of the ‘content’ that we post on our social networks is meaningless. But here’s an even uglier truth – we don’t care. Everyday we consume mindless amounts of internet material. Information that we believe is important to us. But if we ever stopped and questioned our motives, our answers might scare us. At least that’s what happened to me.
It All Started With A Dirty T-Shirt
It all started about a month ago when I was in the middle of Spring cleaning. For most guys Spring cleaning comes once every five years, or whenever your tshirts begin to look like they would be better for washing cars than actually wearing under a shirt. It was in the midst of cleaning out old clothes when I thought it would be a good idea to clean up my digital presence as well. Social media is so commonplace that we sign up for services without a second thought. So you might not be surprised when I say I had to send a few emails requesting account deletion for old services and networks that I no longer used. As I sent those emails I had to ask – why? Why am I even on social media? How do these social networks truly benefit me in a positive way?
There is a point in a person’s life where they’ve lived long enough to look back on their life for reflection, but still young enough to dream about the future. For many of us this happens in our late 20s and early 30s. It’s at this crossroads where we try to improve our lot in life by learning from our past mistakes and focusing on things that give us value. Value being the things that make us better, cause us to think, or possibly see things differently. Value means more to us than it ever did before, because we are at an age where we understand the finite nature of time; up to this point we’ve either had a life well lived or, like many young people, we’ve squandered away most of that time on things that we now deem unimportant and wish we didn’t. Social media is one of those things I wish I didn’t spend much time on.
The Lies Of Social Media
Social norms would tell us that we need social networks to connect with others and share our life with the world. It is our understanding that our life matters to those around us. People dial in to hear our thoughts and opinions. They want to see what we ate for breakfast or see what jokes we have lined up for the next award show. In a digital world you must follow and be followed. Numbers matter in this digital rat race and he or she who has the most followers wins. Those who don’t join the digital revolution are deemed as outcasts to society. People who are out of touch with society and technology. Luddites as the popular tech phrase goes. But this is what “they” tell you. The people who run these social media companies that need your time and energy for their profit. Because when you measure the time you invest in social media compared to the value you get from it, things don’t add up.
Let me say this before I get started. For the people that I follow and unfollowed on social media, I actually care for your well-being. I wish nothing but happiness for you and the best life has to offer. That being said, what you post on social media provides little value to me. Which is funny because at one point it did. Facebook was how I kept up with people’s lives. It was how I was able to stay in contact without actually having contact with you. And when we moved to Instagram I followed. But when I really sit and think about it–I really don’t care about what you’re doing and you don’t really care about what I’m doing. How do I know this…I took a vacation and left social media at home.
Tons of Friends and Sharing
It’s amazing how social media has come to shape our lives. We feel like we have to share everything, but in reality we don’t. When I was on vacation at the beach I wanted to take a picture of the beach and write a witty caption to share with my followers, but I didn’t. Instead I enjoyed the beach in that moment. And you know what? It was fucking awesome. For the first time in a long time I felt the joys of being disconnected from social media. It was like getting my life back, and it felt good. It taught me that A) Enjoying the moment is more important than sharing it and B) Life will go on without you. When I was out at the beach you probably didn’t even realize I was gone. You didn’t stop to say “Hey how’s Moody doing?” Nor did I expect you to. We’re programmed to psuedo care, but when you disconnect, you realize what is important and who is important in your life.
The funny thing about social media is that the people you most want to connect with, you already do–outside of social media. You call, text, or like many people do, use Groupme. Groupme might be the greatest ‘social network’ as it allows me to talk to groups of people that I care about. I have a group for my line brothers, a group for my childhood friends, a group for professional friends, and even one for sneakerheads. Not one of those group has 20 people in them. I’m not in thousands of groups with people who I barely talk to. I’m in groups with people I consider close friends and colleagues, and anyone outside of that group I text or call. So if so many of us are using social media without any direct value, how do we use it to gain some type if value?
When I started this journey of Spring cleaning I decided to put together some sort of plan to make social media work for me. First I wrote out a few questions.
-Why do I use social media?
-What do I want to get out of social media?
-What do I create that is something of value to others?
-Who do I want to follow?
I had to answer each of these questions, the most important of these is what do I offer the world. I do believe that everyone has something to offer the world, we just don’t make that a priority. Working on something of value takes time and we are conditioned to publish content as quickly as possible. This isn’t to say that everything we put out into the world will be a masterpiece. Hell, sometimes that cat video IS funny and it should be shared. However, if we put more value into what we publish we can create a richer experience for those around us. We have to find balance, between posting that digital fast food and that digital soul food. Once we figure out our strengths and how we create a better experience for those around us, we can then begin to shape our own social experience.
They say you are a reflection of the people you hang with. If that’s the case then you are who you follow. It became very clear to me that I need to follow people and outlets that provide me with some type of value and begin to cut out those who don’t. I created a list of people, outlets, and types of people I would begin to follow. It was a small but flexible list that would allow my follow list to grow in the right way. It also means cutting a lot of people, which depending on the person is either okay or an insult. But it isn’t about them, it’s about me.
Time Well Spent
Social media has shaped and continues to shape our lives. If we aren’t aware of the changes, we could be affected in ways that we wouldn’t agree with. We can already see this with people’s obsession to post things for likes and follows; The consistent boasting and envy that is created by social media superstars and those who follow them. The waves and waves of fast food content, and the small of ‘real’, personal sharing. I once wrote that the love movement would be the next wave of social media. And while I still believe that more meaningful experiences are the key to social media evolution, I must also add that we as digital citizens must take into account our own needs and values. We must buck the trend and make the unpopular choices to give our digital existence more meaning…because when we look back on all the time we spent on social media, we will want it to count for something, not time wasted.