MY RESPONSES TO COMMON "PROBLEMS" CITED BY SOCIAL MEDIA DETRACTORS
PROBLEM 1: It has pulled our focus away from daily living, from enjoying the small details of life when you’re quiet with your thoughts and being mindful.
“All good things in moderation” is a motto that I try to live by. Anything, including Social Media, can only pull your “focus away from daily living” if you allow it to. Up to a few months ago, I had never used Twitter. I had an account, but I literally had never Tweeted. Now that I have started, I do it regularly and check it often. However, it has not become something that dominates my life. I still find time to exercise, go outside, play my guitar, and hang out with my family and friends. Really, this argument characterizes Social Media as a compulsion. The psychological definition of compulsion is “an uncontrollable impulse to perform an act, often repetitively, as an unconscious mechanism to avoid unacceptable ideas and desires which, by themselves, arouse anxiety.” Though people can get sucked into the Social Media “world,” I have not met many for whose use of it would fit this definition. I most certainly include myself as someone whose use of Social Media does not.
PROBLEM 2: It wastes precious time and energy.
Really, I find this statement to be a value judgment bordering on arrogance. Who can really claim that they spend all of their time in a productive manner? Human beings waste time. It’s an important, necessary part of our lives. Between the demands of work, family, and home ownership, among other things, we need to unplug from life to maintain our balance. We need to “waste” time. How one chooses to waste their time, whether through Social Media or aimless daydreaming, is their own business.
In fact, I would argue that the very idea of “wasting time” is tied to a mindset that values tangible products above all else. If one’s actions do not produce a good, than it is seen as a waste of time. This is a reinforcement of the capitalist ideal that we must be working and productive all of the time. Actually, when one uses Social Media to Tweet or post on Facebook or Instagram, they are creating a product, an artifact that can be accessed by a large amount of people. So, when viewed through a capitalist lens, utilizing Social Media is a valuable use of time and energy.
PROBLEM 3: It has artificially made what other people think and vague social acceptance too important.
Social acceptance and the gathering of the tribes have always been an important part of human existence. Take the performing arts, for instance. The artists, whether they be musicians, actors, or dancers, ply their trades for an audience. They seek acceptance, a validation of their skill. The audience, or tribe, gathers around the performance, which acts as the fulcrum that brings everyone together. And, for the duration of the performance at least, a society is created. Everyone implicitly understands the rules. Don’t talk during the act; turn your cellphones off; clap when the performance is over. Social Media functions in a similar manner. It creates a “scene” around which people can gather. There are rules, sometimes stated, other times not. Those who violate the rules are ostracized. There is nothing artificial about this. Social Media’s “realness” is not bankrupt just because its interactions do not take place in a formalized location full of bodies in close proximity.
PROBLEM 4: It causes grief and anxiety when we compare the lives of our social acquaintances to our own life.
Comparing one’s life to another’s is a futile enterprise. If someone really feels this way, than they should seek out therapy.
PROBLEM 5: It does not begin to represent the whole picture of a person’s life. It only represents a small, controlled, socially acceptable glimpse.
Is this really a bad thing? Social Media should only represent “a small controlled, socially acceptable glimpse” of one’s life. Not to mention, the control of content that Social Media gives the individual is very liberating. Before Social Media and the Internet, one had to utilize the traditional media to disseminate information. This action ceded control over the information to the media outlet. Obviously, this is fraught with peril; opportunities abounded for misrepresentation of the intended message. Now, individuals have 100% control over their message. This is a powerful tool. It levels the playing field. If competently used, one can push out the purest distillation of their message to a potentially large audience.
As always, I would love to hear your opinion. Please leave a comment below.
Social Media Users Beware
In her presentation, The Future of Privacy in Social Media, Danah Boyd asserts that the Internet and Social Media is “public by default." She draws an important picture of internet privacy, or lack thereof, that all Social Media users should be aware of. This is especially true of our newest generation, Generation Z, the first Generation to come of age in a world where Social Media has always existed.
As a teacher, I often talk to my students about the ills that could befall them if they post any and every detail about themselves. When Boyd speaks of the young man, Hunter, whose defense (strategy) against others commenting on his posts, posts that were not intended for them, is to basically say that they should know that these posts are not aimed at them and that they should not comment, I almost gagged at his naiveté. Boyd characterizes this strategic defense as being “highly technical.” I don’t really see anything technical about this at all. It is just the Social Media version of telling someone to mind their own business. Yet, it is a sentiment that my own students have echoed many times and, quite frankly, it alarms me.
Teenagers are allowed to harbor an overly idealistic view of the world. They have the liberty to worry about how things should be vs. how they actually are. I certainly did when I was a teenager. I made many statements, particularly in arguments with my father, that embarrass me to no end when I reflect upon them now. The difference is that my naive, overly emotional responses to what I perceived as horrible “injustices” were not preserved for posterity. My rants against the local police force targeting teenage drivers. The fights with my parents over curfew. Teachers assigning homework! None of this exists outside of my, my family’s, or my friends’ memories. This generation, where many post about every life event, no matter how inconsequential, has created a permanent memory book that documents what many consider the most awkward time of their lives: their teenage years. Quite frankly, I am very thankful that Social Media did not exist when I was young. I like Social Media; I use it regularly. But, I feel fortunate that I was an adult, that my judgment was fully mature, when it surfaced.
As always, opinions vary and I would love to hear yours. If you feel compelled, please leave a comment below.
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.