For the past year, I have deactivated and stayed off of my social media accounts. No Facebook, no Instagram. I made this choice in response to the Bad of social media. Often, I left my experiences with these platforms feeling worse about myself, getting lost in the endless scroll. I wasted hours of my life hooked on the scroll, in fact. (There are even studies on the psychological effect of the scroll, like this one here.) And on top of the personal distaste for this media, the companies controlling it (namely Facebook; looking at you Zucks) continually make unethical and greedy decisions that jeopardize the safety, well being, and very foundation that our country sits upon. Time and again these companies are summoned before congress, disputed on news outlets, and called to change by the public, and ultimately meet these demands with a shrug of the shoulders, furrowed brow and a "we promise to do better" (as if they didn't know exactly what they were doing the whole time), making little to no meaningful alterations.
Ok, ok. I'm off my soap box now. (But dang, it feels so good.)
Being off of social media for a year taught me a lot about connection, truth, and the good that social media has to offer. As the Community Partnership Coordinator at a regional theatre this past year, my work was centralized around building meaningful connections and harvesting relationships with the folx of the community that the theater served. I saw the power of social media to galvanize interest in community, expanding access to people who may not have been included by more "traditional" means of outreach. During this time of coronavirus, the power of social media has also been highlighted as a tool to connect communities when being physically gathered isn't an option. (There is still so much left unfulfilled without human contact, but at least it has offered some semblance of normalcy and connection.)
There's no getting around it; we live in a moment in time in which these tools of social media are omnipresent, and whether we like it or not, are a main source of connection. Whether it be to know what events are happening in our community or when our friends and family have major milestones and accomplishments, these platforms help to make staying connected, plugged-in if you will, much easier and more efficient.
There are so many people who rely upon Facebook and similar platforms to be their main form of communication, and thus make it necessary for anyone with the goal of connection to engage with the tool of the platform itself. But what must be remembered is that it is just that, a tool.
A tool must not be relied upon as technique, as the wholistic approach. While a car mechanic may use his power drill quite often, if his power drill is all that he has, your car will likely not be getting fixed. Similarly, if social media and only social media is what we rely on to connect us, our unique abilities of empathy, community building and compassion will atrophy, and our individual and collective worlds will suffer greatly. Though there are so many nuanced layers, I feel confident asserting that an over-reliance on social media has been a contributing factor to the social and political divide in our country, leading to an epidemic of othering and many in-compassionate decisions and actions.
What would a world look like where we reaped the benefits of these platforms, and at the same time subdued our reliance upon them? What would be possible if instead of just clicking "going" on an event, we actually took the effort to show up and be present with each other?
In such a dark time as is the moment we find ourselves in, in a heightened moment of awareness and protest against racism in our country, we are seeing the power of using social media as a tool to organize and galvanize, and the power of our physical presence, voices, and actions to ultimately be the agents for meaning.
If silence is violence, then so is staying comfortably distanced behind social media. Armchair activism is not effective, and is, as is silence, an indicator of resting on privilege.
As I re-open my social media accounts, I will be constantly checking in with these questions; How can this tool be used to help me lean into my values and toward my goals?, Is my engagement on this platform enhancing or replacing my encounters with connection, empathy, compassion, and action?, Is what I am taking in inspiring and filling me up, or discouraging and emptying me out?, and Who am I sharing this content for, and is this platform an effective way to do so?. If we can stay in integrity with our own values as they manifest on social media, perhaps we can be the vehicles for change to use social media for good.
Do you have any qualms with social media? What strategies have helped you navigate these issues? What is something awesome that you have seen on social media recently?