The following reflections will not seem original or even insightful. They are just 4 things that I learned in my year off of social media that I would love to compare notes about.
In July 2016 I found out that I got a 1 year appointment to teach theology at a seminary in Portland. I would be applying for several permanent positions, so I decided to go quiet on social media. This was both to focus and to be safe with any of my possible employers.
Facebook cannot get you a job … but it can cost you a job. This is especially true at Christian schools.
I picked a good year to be off. It was an election year and both my students and my fellow faculty let me know that I was wise to get off when I did.
In August 2017, I returned and I noticed 4 really clear things:
- It is really addictive.
- Things have really changed in the past 3 years.
- Twitter is nearly unrecognizable.
- Volume is at 11.
It is really addictive. I was shocked, that as an adult who knows better and has a good amount of self-control, how often I wanted to log in. I went a whole year without thinking about it or looking at it even once, but now 4-10 times a day I wanted to look.
I’m never on for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time but I can see how people lose whole hours and evenings to it. It is a rare mix of intoxicating and unsatisfying at the same time.
That being said, I really enjoy seeing pictures of old friends and connecting with people across the miles. I really did miss it.
Things have really changed in the past 3 years. In 2016 I was still a co-host on a popular podcast and website. My online engagement was really extensive and very intense. In 2018 I no longer have a large platform and have really noticed how difficult things can be.
This will seem overly simplistic but it really seems that anything you put out there now is going to get 1 of 3 (and only 3) responses:
- Endless circular debate
Silence, snark, or heated yelling. I understand why people are getting tired, frazzled, and even giving it up. Personally, I love being part of the larger conversation and I really miss the broad appeal of a big platform, but I can understand why some people shrink down their circle to just those they know as friends and family.
The atmosphere has gotten quite contentious – and the intensity has become more amped-up.
Twitter is nearly unrecognizable. Facebook and Twitter have completely switched for me. I used to love Twitter and think that Facebook was too preachy. I now find comfort in Facebook being actual people I know, it is safer. Twitter has become a very aggressive and critical place. It seems uniquely built for outrage.
Now, in fairness, there are many things to be outraged at and critical of. I applaud that. My only point is that Twitter used to be more of a fun and flippant place. It is no longer like that. I actually tell church leaders and seminary students that if you are not already on Twitter, don’t start.
I still like both Twitter and Facebook, my point is that they have flipped functions for me.
The volume is at 11 and surges every 3 or 4 days. You really notice this when you have something thoughtful to share and just as your about to post it there is another:
- Mass shooting
- Police assault
- Bomb attack
- White House scandal
- Trump tweet
- Weather storm
- Famous person exposed or fired
So you decide to wait a couple of days until the frantic calms down. Then 3 or 4 days later something else goes wrong. Repeat this cycle for 3 to 6 weeks and you realize you might be waiting a while. So you just go ahead and post it. It gets 1 like, no shares, and no comments.
A thoughtful, measured, and temperate post struggles to get a hearing when things are this loud and this agitated. I really do wonder if a generous and irenic approach is just invisible in this atmosphere. To be clear: I don’t plan on changing … I might need to adjust my expectations.
I would love to hear about your experience.
Have you ever taken a break from social media?
Do you ‘sabbath’ from time to time?
Have you noticed the same changes I have?
March 20, 2018 at 5:01 pm
Fascinating, Bo. Yes, I do notice the same changes — but I restrict use, don’t give it up entirely, just because I don’t always feel like sitting in front of a screen. I notice a distinct difference as I get older. I’m 71 now, and in many ways I feel like a younger person — until technology rears its ugly head. It’s not that I can’t get into it, or won’t, but I don’t rush to buy or install the latest gadget because of a comfort level with current amount of communication. People probably complained about smoke signals, and definitely about the first phones. I think I have too much curiosity (Thank God!!!) to fall into the trap of saying, “If it was good enough for Granny, it’s good enough for me.” Interesting post, and I look forward to hearing from you again. Anyone who also knows the definition of “irenic” is my kind of person! Take care of yourself!
March 24, 2018 at 10:51 am
I’m a few days behind on my follow-through of email, so I saw this yesterday – the day when I finally installed a connection to facebook messenger on my mobile phone – to date, I’ve resisted using the phone for anything other than calls and texts. I used to work in a job which demanded constant phone contact, and on retiring hurt from that, wanted to avoid at all costs having a mobile glued to my ear for much of the day and night. And suddenly, there were people waving at me from all over the place and doing “how are you?” messages. They’ve been able to do that through messenger any time in the last 10 years, and I’d see it when at my computer, but not otherwise, and now, suddenly, they see I’m more connected, and I’m not just connected, I’m inundated. I’m thinking of turning off messenger on the mobile…
I don’t have a twitter account, and have no intention of getting one. I don’t tend to have thoughts which can be well expressed in the 500 word recommendation for blog posts, let alone 140/280 characters!
I used to moderate a very busy (1000+ messages a day) internet discussion forum, and in those days couldn’t bring myself not to log on at least twice a day, frequently more. Now – OK, I do generally log onto facebook daily at the very least, but I have been known to take a day off. I do miss the wide circle of discussion partners I had there, though. Actually, I’m technically still a moderator there, but the message volume is a pale shadow of what it used to be, and pretty lacking in content.
BTW, I really liked the fact that you could often slow Tripp down to something like human thinking speed…