(Not) On Social Media

I am, for the most part, absent from social media. This is an intentional choice, and has not always been the case for me. For a time I even worked as a director of social media and SEO. But I have been increasingly uncomfortable with how the internet in general, and social media in particular, has altered the culture of privacy and sharing. This goes beyond how social media companies track and sell an incredible amount of personal data about their users, even information you may not have agreed to give them, and even when you’re not on their site. And this isn’t the same thing as concern over the volume of people’s personal information easily accessible to anyone else who knows how to Google.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that the premise of a lot of social media is distasteful; the constant sharing of everything in the user’s life is (usually) an unconscious sacrifice of privacy. The sites are optimized to get people to share the most amount of personal data possible, and people do. There’s been a corresponding shift culturally where there is little to no distinction between private and public lives. Everything is on display and we have become voyeurs.

This has brought with it a sense of narcissism that permeates social media usage. Twitter is one of the stronger examples of how these tools become means of inflating the user’s ego. The selection of useful tweets by media companies instead of actual reporting has certainly exacerbated this. Of course all writing, and blogging especially, runs the risk of becoming navel-gazing and self important. But most social media platforms are designed to encourage this trend in ways that online journals are not, through the structurally incentivized encouragement of sharing and cross-platform posting. Our brains are being rewired by social media usage so we keep on sharing to earn validation. It’s no surprise then that social media creates an echo-chamber, where users reinforce their self perspective and become more narrow-minded.

Contentedness has been usurped with a marriage of an identity built online and the need for more retweets. And this display of narcissism and only the best of other user’s lives is why social media usage corresponds to increased loneliness.

Certainly social media has been a great tool for reconnecting people in older generations, and is a good way of organizing groups. But I have found that everything that I want to do with other people does not require social media. And often social media is a crutch to support relationships that would and should otherwise fade.

The countless careers and relationships ruined by spontaneous impudence or momentary foolishness is staggering. The connection between Facebook and divorce is discouraging.

I do not begrudge other people using social media, but this is why I do not. I will tend my plot on the internet without the need to cross-post.