Social media: hype or hassle

Lately I’ve become disillusioned with the whole social media thing. Though I’ve never understood Twitter, I’ve always liked Facebook as an easy way to “keep up” with what’s going on with the people around me. Until, that is, I noticed that it wasn’t really connecting me with anyone I really cared about.

That started me thinking, what is social media really good for? First of all, it makes one’s private thoughts and relationships very public. You have to behave yourself, refrain from saying inappropriate things, remember who is on your friends’ list before you type, etc. I go around saying inappropriate things all the time – in private, to friends, in the moment. Most of the things that come out of my mouth I wouldn’t say online. My friends and family might think I’m funny, but typewritten on the Internet, without context, it’ll look horrible. So there’s one reason to refrain from social media – the exhausting process of filtering my sassmouth.

That’s just me using social media on a resolutely personal level. I’ve taken a few courses in social media marketing and read innumerable articles on social media in business. Companies no longer want to just sell a product or a brand; they want to relate and engage with their customers and use Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. to do it. And great, good for them. But going back to what I said about questioning who social media connects me to – I personally would prefer not to friend companies or brands or even celebrities. I don’t want to engage with my breakfast cereal or grocery store to “deepen my brand experience.” I don’t want a relationship with my local morning news anchors, and I’d like as little to do with politicians as possible, please and thankyouverymuch – especially when they’re in oily campaign mode.

The biggest reason I have decided to take a break from the social media whirl, however, is the currency of its world: attention. The getting and giving of. The anxiety of posting a status update, photo, review – or blog post – and wondering what kind of feedback, if any will come back. (Lots of people claim they don’t care about this part. I don’t believe them. Why share otherwise?) And then there is also the process of filtering through all the noise on one’s feed, thinking about what to give attention to. And trying not to pay attention, too – especially to all those “celebrities” who seem only to exist to get attention.

Social media has become a prime way to interact online today, and it has introduced me to some lovely people I might not have met purely by fluke back in the real world. But it’s not the only way to connect, nor necessarily the most important or useful or satisfying. So I’ve decided to become less lazy about connecting to people that I want to talk to. I’m phoning them and talking to them. I’m making plans to see them. I’ve popped off a friendly email or two. I’ve started writing things longer than a status update, things other than a Yelp review, things that aren’t designed for feedback. I feel happier already.

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