Using digital tools is really about practice. Not the kind of practice where you spend hours perfecting your backhand. Or the kind of practice where you get really good at landing a particular kickflip, but the sort of practice where you adapt your usage and habits to work with your life. Valerie Heruska’s post about her own fatigue at the endless stream of friend selfies and exhaustion at people using social media as a proxy for real professionals is well taken.
Especially if you work in this field day to day, you can’t help but log countless examples of seemingly silly questions you get asked from week to week. Whether it’s friends posting about seemingly mundane things going on in their lives or an instagram full of food pictures; I don’t really think it matters what other people do online. Where the practice comes in, is understand what I’m doing online and what my purpose is for using it. Then it’s less about passive consumption and more about interacting with folks from disparate places that I’d never have met if it weren’t for amazing tools that make it so possible for me to reach out and connect with my friends and family on a daily basis.
I don’t understand why it matters what other people think. I wake up, do my hair, get dressed and function without anyone else’s opinion. I don’t need someone on the internet to tell me what looks good or what I should or should not be doing with my physical activities.
The beautiful thing about a critical mass is having different people using the same tools in different ways. For someone relatively well-connected digitally, I know a lot of people who don’t use social tools at all. Or struggle with their usage. I can’t count the numbers of times someone has told me how “stupid” Twitter is. (Full disclosure: Five years ago, I wrote about how Twitter was too much like High school”) I usually proceed to tell the people who hate Twitter how much it’s helped me. I’ve met good friends, been offered consulting and speaking opportunities and even jobs thanks to Twitter.
If you get to a point where you’re not enjoying what you’re reading, what’s wrong with unfollowing? Are the hurt feelings worth more than your sanity? I went through Facebook recently and purged people who I hadn’t talked to in years. A lot of them were people from college who I never talk to, barely talked to then but added back when it might be plausible that I’d run into them on campus. Now? Those connections seem far less useful.
I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that social media composed right, is a way to expand your network and influence beyond your local borders. My career in higher ed started in Wyoming, without good timing and people who appreciated my work, I’d still be in that same job I started with. We often want the good with the bad. We want the good information, links and “usefulness” without the out-of-context tweets or the gratification that comes from knowing exactly how many followers you have.
I think we have to take the good with the bad, if we want the positives that arise from participating. When you want a break, you take a break. If your needs aren’t being met, reach beyond your network and find ways to connect with people you don’t know. If you’ve been doing the social thing a while, you start to close to certain communities of people who used to be strangers but become something else. I like pushing myself out of that comfort zone every so often, because I remember what it’s like being new and having good ideas. (Or at least what I thought were good ideas…)
You can’t help but measure when it’s otherwise part of your life. I don’t think it makes us self-absorbed. It’s not our friends job to curate for us, we just have to find ways to filter. On Facebook, I employ a diverse array of filters just for my sanity’s sake. On Twitter, lists never worked for me really. Instead, I employ the use of hashtags when I’m really trying to follow a particular thing. Otherwise, I only engage when 1) I have something to say and 2) I see things that are of interest to me.
Our friends have always had things to say. Maybe our definition of what that means has been extended a bit. In a world where breakups are no longer breakups, we’ve got lots of ways that things can slip through the crack.s
The selfie has always existed, we just finally came up with a name for it.