The growth of social media, especially in the last decade, has detrimentally affected the way that humans with internet access interact with one another. As mentioned here, the negative effects of the normalization of social media are far reaching, and include the trivialization of human relationships, the collection and publication of private information, the increase in reliance on social media for entertainment and distraction, an increase in vapid and vain self-interest, and an overall loss of meaning and purpose in everyday life. This is the result of the destruction of the meaning of social media over time, much in the same way that Weber described the protestant work ethic lost its god and replaced it with money over the course of several generations. Whereas social media was originally created to bring people together and keep them connected, over time it has resulted in the inhibition of real life interaction, leaving a meaningless structure that many people feel incapable of escaping. How many times have you walked down the street and seen people of all ages staring silently at their screens, not looking where they’re going, and not being present in the world around them?
Although I myself am sometimes guilty of the act that I just described, I aim to combat these negative effects in my life without abandoning the social media on which I rely. To do so, I have decided to follow a set of rules that I’ve come up with to dictate how I act on and in what capacity I will use the social media platforms of Instagram and Facebook.
To start with, Instagram: I have only one account which is set to private mode. This means that everyone who wishes to see my content must request my permission in order to see and comment on what I post. I allow anyone that I know in real life to follow me if they so choose, but no one else; there are countless spam accounts littering Instagram that will try to follow me in order to collect my information. I am very picky with whom I follow on Instagram; I only follow close friends or acquaintances with which I feel that I share a particular artistic aesthetic. To that end, I also am very particular with what I post. It must fit in with my personal brand image (my labor is a commodity after all) and it must be somewhat professional as a matter of personal taste and safety.
As far as Facebook goes, I am very strict. I have ‘unfollowed’ the vast majority of the 800-some ‘friends’ that I have on Facebook, (a lengthy process that ended up being worth it) as well as all of the pages that I’ve ‘liked.’ I choose only to follow the few people who are closest to me, as they are the only people that I genuinely care about hearing what they have to say on a regular basis. If I feel the urge to check up on a distant acquaintance that I met in Wisconsin in 2009, I can do so by simply searching their name and seeing their profile, but I don’t need to know their boring intimate details in real time on a daily basis. As for the content that I post, I try to keep it as professional and relevant as possible. I use Facebook nowadays primarily as a professional networking tool and also as a way for my family to keep tabs on me when I am away from home. This means that if I wouldn’t say it to my grandmother or to a professor, (or to a potential employer) I definitely wouldn’t say it on Facebook.
I find that these methods have allowed me to regain some semblance of control over how much I rely on social media by allowing me to separate my private life from my public online persona. In other words, I don’t feel that I must use my phone in order to connect with others. Although I am still very much reliant on social media, it is now for maintaining professional contacts and interactions (in conjunction with good old fashioned email) and keeping in touch with geographically distant family members, rather than providing for the bulk of all of my social interactions. Call me a traditionalist, but I believe that real human interactions are more valuable than artificial cyber ones.