I’m going off the grid! I’ve temporarily disabled by instagram and facebook accounts for an indefinite period of time. No, I’m not quite going back to the 1800s. I have kept my snapchat as a messaging platform and my email accounts because I’m not insane. I’ve got the messenger and sms capabilities of my phone, and weirdly I have yet to delete facebook messenger from my phone. Part of me thinks that while it’s off little use without my facebook account, I may want to go back to my conversations at some point for any pertinent information. Of course, that’s highly unlikely to happen. In combination with events in my extra-curricular life, this class has granted me cause to continually reflect upon my own social media use, which had begun to pick up in pace significantly. I want to use winter break as a chance to experiment. My hiatus from social media will expand to include my twitter account after our last class, as well as my wordpress. I found a special enjoyment in the irony as I tweeted #OffTheGrid after deleting some but not all social media accounts. At the end of winter break, I will reflect upon my experience once again and decide whether or not these platforms are necessary to include as a part of my life.
First, there’s the fun and playful side of the internet. This is the place where cute dog videos and silly memes making fun of celebrities are shared in an inclusive, light hearted environment. Our POTUS will put up a silly video or take a funny photo with a celebrity and it’ll be passed around. There might be an outrageous or hilarious GIF that begins to trend on facebook or twitter. This is a place I missed very quickly. Within hours, I received a text from my best friend studying in DC saying, “was gonna tag you in a cute puppy video but you deleted fb :(“ Already, the lack of facebook in my life has cost me a smile. Social media: 1 – real life: 0.
One of the most interesting facets of this playful side of social media is its ability to help two unrelated parties communicate from afar. In particular, twitter has created a safe and fun environment in which celebrities can interact with their fans. Just last week two of my friends saw NBA player DeMarcus Cousins in a movie theater and tweeted at him about the movie. Minutes later they had a favorite and a reply from one of their favorite athletes. Instagram allows TV personalities and athletes to offer fans an intimate look into their lives in a safe and controlled environment (the recent Kim Kardashian robbery aside … we all know that was an inside job). Until this class, I had not really reflected on how powerful of a tool this can be. Perhaps the most important use of this interaction is between companies and their customers. One of my favorite blog posts from earlier in the semester, Lebron James Drives a Kia? Yea, Right, explored this intimate and fun interaction between companies, celebrities, fans, and customers. This gives an otherwise impersonal organization, like Kia, a young lighthearted personality.
After only a day or two, I miss the sharing and laugh inducing interactions on the web, but that was hardly my inspiration for leaving. Having observed the echo chambers and fake news channels over the past few months, I wanted to escape from them and have a more intentional interaction with my news sources. I have fallen into the pattern of either scrolling my facebook newsfeed for information or glancing down the list of trending topics on the facebook sidebar. Don’t misunderstand, I usually enjoy these mediums of information relay, but I have grown skeptical of how much I really need them. The content of my newsfeed and sidebar has begun to resemble that of a tabloid magazine cover at a grocery store checkout. It can be enjoyable to glance at, but leaves a sort of shameful aftertaste to dwell on. Like anyone else, I was watching the videos about increased clown sittings and related acts of violence all over the country. This ‘news’ was very obviously total garbage, but that didn’t keep me from clicking on it and indulging in the sensational nature of it all. Entertaining as it was, I don’t exactly miss this aspect of my newsfeed.
By contrast, I have quickly realized that facebook is not only a real news source, it’s an incredibly clever news source. When I log into the Wall Street Journal, I know what I’m looking for. I’m looking for news. I have pretty much no other reason to go on wsj.com than to very deliberatly read professionally written news articles. By contrast, I go to facebook for all kinds of reasons. I might want to stalk an old friend or post a picture online. Incidentally, while doing this I will be simultaneously exposed to news stories (real and fake). At the very least, I will glance a few headlines. At no point did I think, “I’m going to read the news” or “I want to go see if there’s a new Star Wars trailer out.” These little nuggets of information found there way to me! Now if there’s a new trailer for Star Wars, I won’t find out unless someone texts me the link, or I happen across it on a deliberate search for news. It might be days before that trailer crosses my path. Heck, I might not ever see it now. Without facebook, I’ve come to the realization that if I want to be up to date with current events, I have to be very deliberate in acquiring the knowledge that otherwise found me.
By contrast to this realization about facebook, instagram has not been missed. Yes, I do like checking out my friends’ pics and tagging friends in funny memes, but there were very little news or current events I picked up on instagram. This platform is very simple: see and be seen. Post photos and acquire likes. Part of my inspiration for deleting instagram was a growing compulsion to take photos for the internet rather than myself. With our first snowfall of the winter, I found myself taking pictures of my 1991 Jeep Grand Wagoner (wood panel siding…it’s pretty cool) because I wanted to put a pic up on instagram. I think I will enjoy some separation from this culture. I’d rather do things and take photos for the enjoyment of doing so than to post and show other people.
I have an idea of what to expect from the coming month and change without social media. Part of me hopes I will like it and want to stay away indefinitely. However, having spent time in Professor Kane’s class all semester, I know that social media has a lot to offer. The speed and natural integration of information being shared is something of great value. But for now however, IM OFF THE GRID!