I turned my back on social media

Facebook profile deleted. Twitter account deleted. LinkedIn has been spared for professional use.

I cannot deny that Twitter in particular has been a powerful tool. Every day the best minds in the UX/IA, Content Strategy, and Educational Technology fields shared their knowledge and invaluable learning resources. Following individuals from the iSchool at UW, I could learn about their varied interests: clean water initiatives, open government, social media trends.

Recently, a fellow Twit informed me that I had a too-long account handle: retweeting and crediting my thoughts or links took up a lot of space. This individual did not bother to follow me, either, as I was not adding much value with my tweets (and I am more or less obsessed with adding value).

Given those facts, I reconsidered my social media use. And once I began thinking, I concluded its use had also changed my information consumption in negative ways:

Sharing took precedence over creating. My Tweetstream or Facebook news feed always had some new tidbit or opinion on a current issue. I consumed these nuggets insatiably, rather than synthesizing a worldview. I became an increasingly lazy thinker.

These tools encourage reacting, not relating. Online posting feels safe, conducted from one’s home office, even when it is not anonymous. Discussions are unmoderated, have a low barrier to entry, and text conveys tone poorly. It is too easy to respond to a link with another link. I worried how that could be affecting my real-world discourse.

People online are so…human. Follow anyone for 24 hours a day on Twitter and he is bound to sound like a jerk at some point. I was surprised how many public figures throw Twitter tantrums (Twantrums?) about frustrations with air travel delays. I can now “follow” these figures through RSS feeds of their very smart blogs instead.

Privacy meant opting out. I was tired of reading about – then reviewing and managing – the privacy settings on the newest Facebook feature. Twitter was less worrisome, though it offers binary account settings: public or private are the two choices. Frankly, there is very little legal protection for the average person regarding the use of information shared online, though developments in Germany may point to legislative changes in the future.

Since this is a blog about managing information, I felt compelled to examine my failure to integrate social media into a personal information management strategy. At least for a time, I have to take a break from social media, which I perceived to negatively influence my information consumption. The costs of using Twitter or Facebook for personal reasons outweigh the benefits to me right now. It is back to Google Reader I go.

I would be grateful for others’ opinions about the uses of social media (in a personal capacity) in the comments.

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3 thoughts on “I turned my back on social media

  1. An interesting thing about your first point. The reason I initially had a Twitter account was first simply to follow interesting organizations. I began to then follow a few individuals, and retweeting interesting nuggets of information to the very small number of people who probably really didn’t even care. I wasn’t doing it for others as much as making a visible (to me) history of interesting links and resources.

    As I’ve begun to move into the realm of creating information via Twitter, I find it difficult because there’s not a way to speak to the variety of people that make up the 100 people/organizations or so that now “follow” my Tweets. I’m still not content-producing with the “audience” as my main concern, but it isn’t as easy to ignore the fact that there is now a small but apparently growing crowd.

    I think that sharing is sometime just as important as creating. It is one of my main arguments for why I like Twitter. You can lurk and stay silent, you can produce loads and digitally shout, or you can find whatever level of production versus consumption fits your information needs/wants.

    Re: Facebook. It’s this crazy, all-grey zone that has no good answer. I use it simply because there are people I have no other established means of communicating with them, though some days I’m not sure if you can call Facebook communicating. I think your reacting point and your privacy points are really key here for me.

  2. Jordan says:

    Thanks Emily – and you’re right, it’s an important point that on Twitter, it is not required that a user contribute at all. And yet I think the action of re-tweeting is such a great way to simultaneously give credit to good content creators AND share great information, I found it hard not to jump into the fray. I’m compromising on the Twitter thing by still sneaking a peek at public feeds of people I admire.

    As for Facebook – well, that was more of a no-brainer. Not because I had anything objectionable on there; I just felt it was a time waster. I’ve had conversations since with people I respect who said, ‘yes, I can see how Facebook was no good for you the way you were using it,’ which I thought was an interesting and telling statement.

  3. Hey Jordan,
    I have been following your posts for a while, and I like the discussion you got here.
    My take on Facebook as a social media platform is that it is a scalable tool. By which, I mean that its our choice to expend the resources provided by this medium. For example, I am currently using this popular tool to keep professional contact with a lot of key people from the corporate world. I keep in touch with potential recruiters and alumni. In fact, sometimes, I able to convey messages and get replies faster to these people than emails! (Although, its ironic that social media is becoming the “professional” way to communicate). But these are just my thoughts on this interesting topic, keep up the healthy discussions. Good Work!

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