I attempted that route over a decade ago when I was directing the marketing efforts at a college. The school's audience were on Facebook, Twitter was blossoming as a real-time dialogue tool and LinkedIn was finally seen as a credible way to network. I joined Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and quite a lot of other social channels, all to test and learn if and how these platforms would help me achieve my business goals. It was shiny new and if you weren’t along for the ride, your judgment would be questioned.
However I started to realize I couldn’t keep pace with the proliferation. Foursquare, Instagram, and many, many more just kept coming. There was no way, even with management tools like Hootsuite, I could join the new platforms and still deliver a sound, holistic marketing approach. Aligning the strategy with our goals was still my best bet, and understanding the return on investment with these new technologies, like other channels, was critical so I could explain why we couldn’t just “go viral” with our efforts.
But I really don’t want to talk about or debate the value of social media within a capitalist and commerce context, I am more rapt with the sanctity of my own personal attention. And let me acknowledge my own privilege in being able to choose how my attention gets directed—it’s not lost on me that a great many don’t have this luxury.
In his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl writes: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This timelessly relevant passage is oft quoted these days to support many a topic, including social media.
And that’s why I bring it up, because I’ve been grappling with how to create a life where I’m aware of my choices, not just operating on autopilot. And social media became one of the primary areas I realized I needed to address.
It seems with the Facebook Cambridge Analytica news, the outcry against social media is coming to a head. The idea of getting off of or deleting any social platform isn’t new, but the volume seems to have increased. And so has the thoughtful and salient commentary around the question.
And I’ve been soaking it up like a sponge, in an effort to determine my own path. Which, as you may have guessed, includes quitting or at least deactivating almost all my personal social accounts (with the exception of LinkedIn.) Note the caveat: my personal accounts. I still have access to social media accounts through my job, and won’t extend my personal preference to that arena for reasons I’d hope you’d see as self evident.
Honestly, I’ve probably made quitting social a bigger deal in my life than it needs to be. But there are consequences to any decision, and those are always worth weighing—the trick is determining the proportion of energy and investment to the matter. Which is to say, I likely overextended myself in arriving at my conclusion.
I don’t strongly advocate #deletefacebook—it’s a personal choice, and there are pros and cons to it all. Quartz published a piece basically stating, if we all abandon [insert social channel here], then who will fix the problem? The article's authors make a compelling case for staying on social media.
Yet as compelling as they were, I realized I needed to understand why I wanted to leave social media, and make the decision based on that, otherwise I’d be stuck a weather vane swaying to and fro in the prevailing winds.
So I’m choosing slow, and in some cases going analog. I love technology, I love things about social media, its benefits, but like everything there is a cost. And the cost became too much for me to pay personally these days. It isn’t solely about my privacy or my time, it’s about my attention. I found I wasn’t becoming the person I wish to be because I was spending my attention seeking, looking and mulling over how best to achieve it versus taking action. I was spending time liking, sharing and posting the random bits and scenes versus crafting and living my story.
I still reach for my phone and look for social apps to pass the time. I still lean over my husband while he’s on Facebook and see what I might have “missed.” But the absence of social has made me consider different choices. It has made my moments and how I spend them feel more intentional. And I’m really digging that.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. There is choice outside the algorithm. Whatever that looks like for you, claim it.
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