Social Media: I’ve lost that Loving Feeling

Some of you knew from my previous blog post that two weeks ago I gave up social media cold turkey as a 14-day experiment to see how it affected me as a person highly active on Twitter and Facebook. (Initially I had included texting in my cleanse as well, but gigs and family dictated my hesitant and abbreviated return to this medium in about four days). So at midnight, Sunday, March 17th I logged out of my Facebook and Twitter accounts and did not log in again for the whole duration of my planned absence. For the first few days after I logged out, I kept a brief journal of my thoughts and feelings being away from social networking; however, I soon lost my desire to write about it. In fact, this two-week break practically eradicated my desire to participate in social media in general – at least to the extent I’d been previously using it.

Since my prescribed return yesterday, March 31st, I’ve logged on to Twitter and Facebook several times – only to log back out again minutes later out of complete and utter disinterest. I felt no desire to comment, reply, favourite, like, or retweet anything. In fact, my Twitter and FB feeds felt overwhelming to me, as if I had been in a small outport community for two weeks and all of a sudden been dropped right in the heart of Manhattan. It’s like I’ve lost the mental capacity to negotiate the endless scroll of information.

Of course I was a willing and active participant in this pursuit just a few weeks ago, tweeting and posting all the time. But my two-week break caused me to lose the faculties I needed to process the sheer amount of material being presented to me as I made my way down the Twitter and FB feeds with my mouse.

During my time away from social media, I became a voracious reader of conventional news. I replaced the Twitter and FB icons on my iPhone with CBC and The Globe and Mail. So I ended up becoming more interested in politics and current events than ever before. As a result, the only thing I looked for on social media yesterday when I logged back in was information relating to the controversial 2013 Newfoundland provincial budget, which was passed down last week. I found a FB protest page called “Down with Dunderdale” that had funny memes of our provincial leaders along with denouncements of them (in bad grammar, I must add – which removes all credibility from their protests). I clicked on a few of the local journalists’ Twitter feeds to see if anyone was asking the MHAs any tough questions. I didn’t find much, although I didn’t spend too much time looking. I found a link to CBC Television’s On Point with David Cochrane, and he did a good job of making bad news messenger Jerome Kennedy sweat in the hot seat.

The truth is, however, I don’t really need Twitter or FB for this info. I can find on news websites anything I need to know about current events, both regionally and internationally. As far as the armchair quarterback comments that litter the social media landscape concerning current events, I can do without 95% of the uninformed and cringe-worthy snipes. Regarding real-time weather reports, I’m simply indifferent to what’s happening weather-wise every second of the day. Roads are slick this morning? Good to know. I don’t need all this information. It’s overload. And this is just the factual, informational stuff. I won’t even bother to expound upon the animal lover’s obsessive need to splatter feeds with SCPA posters of sad-faced orphan dogs, or the conspiracy theorist’s unending links to articles that are either outdated or have been refuted by Snopes.com.

I can’t say for sure if I will fall back into step with social media. After two weeks away from it, I feel like I’m jinxing myself by tweeting, commenting, or posting now. It’s like when I gave up cigarettes back in 2007. I knew that even one puff would put me right back on them. Something about this dynamic feels strangely similar. I have a newfound sense of freedom and privacy by not commenting and participating in conversations and threads that are there for so many voyeurs to digest, decipher, and judge at will. I’m enjoying real-life conversations these past few weeks, with the electronic versions feeling more and more shallow to me all the time. Many people I know rather well in real life and converse with regularly on tweets and posts did not contact me outside of social networking in the two weeks I was gone. Simply put, a lot of people just do not want to put the effort into stepping outside this quick, instant medium. In fact, I’ve come to believe that some people actually prefer to have an audience when they’re corresponding. They like the knowledge that a third party is following along. After a break from this sort of correspondence, it now seems somewhat shallow to conduct conversations with good friends in this manner. On the other side of the coin, a few old friends did touch base by email and we ended up heading out for lunch. And we didn’t talk about social networking at all. We didn’t need to. We were social networking, right there in person. There was no “you should tweet that” or “that would be a funny FB post,” thankfully.

All in all, what I’ve taken from this break is the following: social media is a tool that’s valuable to businesses, artists, organizations, and other causes that wish to increase or maintain a public profile. It’s also a place for people to unwind and have a few laughs. I’ve used it for both. But I think I was overusing it and spending too much time interacting with it. And most importantly, too much useless information was making its way into my mind from people who simply cannot censor or limit their emotionally-fueled and neurotic contributions.

During my two weeks away, I found myself constantly coming up with little phrases and seemingly “witty” observations and then immediately realizing I had nowhere to “announce” them. And initially it felt hollow to only share it with “me” and not my “friends and followers.” After a while, however, I started to enjoy the notion of analyzing things around me, forming opinions about them, and simply internalizing these thoughts as solely my own. In essence I created my own little FB and Twitter in my mind where I had only one follower and one friend: Me. So by the time I logged back on yesterday I realized I’d replaced the external feeds with my own internal feed that I fill with my own experiences and things I discover. And it’s way more interesting than an external feed that ultimately does not contribute in any meaningful way to who I am as an evolving individual. Sure, some links are informative, and it’s fun to quip sarcastically with friends. But beyond that, what is the true value in it?

As I mentioned in my first piece on this experiment, many people use social media as a place to gather when they can’t gather in person. But are people really meant to gather virtually in this way, and for such prolonged periods? That’s for every individual to decide, perhaps. For me, I have enjoyed two weeks of real contact with a much smaller group of people. It feels more natural. After all, if you’re real friends with someone, you’ll email, call, and eventually see each other in person.

I don’t wish to knock social media. I had a great time on it for a number of years. Heck, I’m using it to post this article. But the spell’s been broken for me. I’ve lost that loving feeling, so to speak. I’m sure I’ll remain friends with FB and Twitter on a casual basis, but the love affair is called off.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Social Media: I’ve lost that Loving Feeling

  1. I was wondering how this experiment ended, thanks for the “results post”. By the way, I don’t think I called you during that period:)

  2. Ron LeDrew

    Good read Chris. Since I’m not on Facebook or Twitter (and quite content I may add) it’s amazing I even found this blog to begin with! I’ll just pick up the telephone and contact you tonight….the “old-fashioned way”

    Ronnie

  3. Glen Collins

    Hey Chris…..thought I should drop back in here to offer you an apology…actually two: one for the name calling and the second for the judgment call I made. My comment to your blog post came from a really good place…but over the past few days I have been thinking about how I presented my feelings to you.

    My ‘judgemental self’ is something I have been working to improve for the better for quite sometime…and to be honest….it’s easy to let go of, given the anonymity of being online. It has become easy for anyone to observe, and comment on…AND project personality traits on other people…where they shouldn’t. It’s possible that my perception of someone’s negative energy is perhaps my own, or my sensitivity to it. Following people’s posts in that regard has it’s own sense of weirdness that has the same effect of watching a car crash…you can’t look away sometimes. And….sometimes the same folks offer you a gem of knowledge now and then.

    Regarding your post, I did perceive a struggle, and was agreeing with you and attempting to be supportive, but didn’t make a respectful connection between my thoughts and how I actually expressed them in your blog.

    Would love to have a beer with you to discuss in person sometime.

    Now….as for Ralphie’s post…..don’t get me started!! Lol

    • Hey Glen,

      The internet can be a bit of an emotional minefield with regard to correspondence. As much as we think it represents real life, it’s farther removed than we think. In a way it gives us more flexibility in what we’d like to say, yet it makes things we do say linger longer in our minds.
      No hard feelings on this end. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’m sure I will see you around eventually and we can have a real discussion which will no doubt have an easier and more natural flow, as it always does.

      All the best to you,

      Chris

  4. Wayne Over

    Great article Chris… I really feel that a lot of this social media stuff will eventually level off as people become more aware and more educated on the fact that when you are online and putting it all out there , there has to be a cut off point. As the users mature, so too will the media being used and a lot of the frivolousness will disappear. Social media used the right way is a mighty powerful tool.

  5. tommorrissey@shaw.ca

    I also did this Chris. I still us it but have cut online time to almost nil. Good article always enjoy your writing. Maybe do an article on song writing and how to generate passion in a song or something like that (just a suggestion) anything on music is good.
    Cheers
    Tom Morrissey
    Sent from my BlackBerry® powered by Virgin Mobile.

  6. Robert

    Chris I couldn’t agree more with everything you have said….”social media” will no doubt evolve into something else more tangible in the not so distant future, because I believe there is no longevity and little true value on a personal level. And, being cut-off from this stuff is part of the reason I like flying so much, which will be ruined once they get wifi and phone service on planes…

  7. Ally

    I too met you through a social media site, though I’ve known your lovely wife for quite some time. I’ve actually met some wonderful people via Twitter and Facebook that I’m now happy to call real friends (people that I see on a regular basis…in real life). For that reason alone I doubt that I’ll give up FB & Twitter completely.
    However, at your influence I took a much needed break from my daily rounds on social media. The first morning of my own “cleanse” I stepped in cat vomit and my first thought (after “Ewww”) was “Dammit! I can’t post about this!”. At that moment I realized how often I formulate thoughts as status updates and tweets.
    I admit that I did miss the hilarious antics of some friends and family, especially those people that could be described using the term curmudgeon (such a great word). I enjoy the jackassery and ridiculousness of social media and I take it for what it is. I’m not keen on all the motivational/religious memes that are posted daily but there’s a lovely “Hide…” option that I find quite handy. “Block” and “Unfriend” are also options if you really don’t like the posts/opinions of someone you know, or don’t know…whatever the case may be.
    I’ll continue to limit my activity and keep my damn phone in my purse while out and about unless it’s needed.
    Really enjoy the blog, Chris…looking forward to the next post 🙂

  8. Wendy

    This saddens me but I understand everything you mention. I myself notice the lack of friendship outside of the social media lately. I blamed moving from Ontario, but none of these social medias existed when I lived up there.
    I was wondering where you have been on twitter…LOL. Enjoy your new found freedom from Facebook and Twitter…:-)

  9. Well Chris, you’ve flushed them out now. Which is the full fuction of a effective writer/blogger. You have people making personal attacks and then back peddling. You have some replying with an overuse of complicated wording that most readers won’t understand. You have newely joined FB people joining in and you have me offering my 2 cents. Which, for those interested, hasn’t been done yet! Goes to show all you have to do is say “Boo” and every closet Peirce Morgan jumps to the rooftop! haha (the haha is my way of softening up my sarchasim). The write was good, the read interesting, the responses is what really counts. so, today … we agree. that likely wont happen everytime. Gotta Go now and look up Curmudgen … probably can use that in the board room tomorrow to impress a few clients! You can see my blog coming up soon called RELAX: it’s an opinion!

  10. Chad Murphy

    It seems pretty pointless for me to tweet or repost this on fb, but it makes a lot of sense. Once again, cogent and valid points all around. Can’t wait to hear the next.

  11. Glenn Simmons

    As you know Chris, I only joined Facebook 3-4 months ago. The music business and it’s marketing had evolved and I was still operating old school. My music never got heard. Never got a chance to be liked or disliked. So it made sense for me to come into the 21st century. I’m still not much of a “Facebooker”, but I was enjoying the posts of my seasoned Facebook friends who ploughed through the internet to find interesting and
    forward thinking information. With you gone i have cut my minimal participation to miniscule. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, Glenn! It’s great that you’ve decided to join FB. I could never see you becoming an “oversharing” type of person on social networking, but it’s good to be somewhat connected.

      I don’t plan on deleting my account, but I also don’t see myself being that active a participant anymore either. As one of the comments on this page suggests, sometimes a quirky sense of humour or attempt at satire can be misunderstood as “negativity.” And this perhaps the most annoying aspect of social networking for me. People decide to follow or friend someone, then complain about the nature of that person’s posts. It’s completely illogical to follow or friend someone with whom you don’t “get.” I’ve had to block two or three people who actually attacked my FB posts because they disagreed with something I said. They don’t see the ridiculousness of that. It’s just not worth the mental energy to deal with people like that. They should save it for the public, anonymous forums and comment sections of the internet.

      On the upside, when you do connect with people who have the same sense of humor as you, it can be a complete joy! And these are the moments I enjoy most on social networking – people connecting over a common vision or attitude.

  12. Glen Collins

    An interesting post Chris. Since this is a blog, I take it you have initiated a dialog of sorts…you have even linked it from your FB page. So I will respond in the positive spirit of open dialog:

    For me, the only way I really know you is through FB…sure…we all know the same folks in musical circles…but we don’t know each other in the real world. It was pretty clear that for quite some time you were unhappy with your FB experiences…to be honest, I nicknamed you (in my mind, not publicly)..as the curmudgeon of Facebook. Most of your posts had a sarcastic or negative bent…even to the point of making fun of grammatically poor Kijiji ads. I guess the question I was asking was, “Why bother?”

    This is not a personal attack….I think that your comments/insights on your own blog space are well thought out, intelligent, and have deep meaning…I enjoy reading them…and I enjoy responding occasionally. I am also not knocking social media.

    To me, social media is a distraction…a form of entertainment. However…the whole smart-phone-take-your-media-with-you type of lifestyle is…well…a bit dangerous…. it’s like living entirely on junk food….which…in my opinion…will make people susceptible to existing in a perpetually unhealthy state..in spirit as well as body. Too much of it and all anyone will be able to put into the world is negative energy. It may or may not be proven, it’s just what I believe.

    Sure…when I make comments or post pics on FB I want my audience to respond…especially when promoting gigs or posting a funny article. It’s fun, and keeps my ‘friends’ in the loop. It’s never a substitute for connections I maintain in the real world. In fact, when dinner invitees are at my table, conversing, interacting etc…if they check their phones or FB status, I will shame them into turning it off…in front of my other guests.

    Before I get on too much of a rant I want to say bravo to you for questioning all of this…and for turning it off….and then turning it back on to reveal how much you have reflected on it all. Truly, it’s something I wish more of us would do from time to time when dealing with social media.

    Best,
    Glen

  13. Randy

    Amen….I think it’s out of control for most people. I become nauseated the longer I spend on facebook. I’m convinced that if I just closed my account altogether, that I would be happier – or maybe have greater peace of mind? Still, it is hard to shut out all those people in the knowledge that facebook is my only means of contact with those individuals….as superficial as it may be. The point you make about it being a valuable tool for artists, etc. is an important one.

    I too have gone sometimes months without facebook…..life is better during those times. Great writing Chris!

    • Hey Randy,

      Thanks for reading! There is a feeling of nausea that comes with FB. This is usually the time to take a break. I agree that it’s important to stay plugged in, but a balance is necessary. I also feel a lot better when I’m not engaged with it.

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