Is social media giving you value?
This is a question that has been floating around in my head this year.
Ever since reducing my time on it, not because of anything as exotic as “digital detoxing” or anger over how our private data is used by companies like Facebook, I have started to question what value it has provided me in recent times.
Value means different things to different people. For me it’s:
- Stimulating conversations with a broad range of people across the world who come from diverse cultures, industries and professions whose interactions provide me with unique and delightful moments of insight, humility and awe.
- Moments of delights that include shared interests and passions that we can share our ideas for how to improve ourselves and our lives
- Building new networks into areas and topics I would never have come across in my normal everyday life
- Continual learning and inspiration by being in awe of talent that is expressed in ways I haven’t seen before
- New collaborations generated with individuals or groups that could be anything such as creating a project, a piece of work or art together
- Interactions that when you leave them, you want more because they inspire bursts of creativity and new ideas that you must talk and share with others – and which interactions leave you feeling so good about yourself, pumped with energy and inspired with a renewed sense of self and push you towards doing something new to get you out of your comfort zone.
I’m not feeling that anymore on social media. Or, the times of these happening are long between them.
Why Am I Feeling This Way?
Over the last year, I have focused on my day-to-day work which takes up three days a week where I’m responsible for helping organisations help their people use and adopt Microsoft products and services such as O365. Much of my thinking time was taken up by active learning of these. It’s been slow going but the experience has been delightful because it’s all new for me. I love to be learning all the time and this job has allowed me to do this. However, in that time, I made a decision not to show and share my work and learning because I didn’t feel it would have provided any value to people – I had to learn the basic functions first before I could experiment and apply different ways to use what I learned for work contexts. Otherwise, I would have been adding noise.
My preference for personal learning is to do this for myself first, play, test, and experiment in my own quiet time – make sense of it through reflection and writing about what I learned and then sharing that. If any conversations come out of this, then it’s a wonderful bonus!
Out of hours, I have also been spending more hours on reclaiming my time back so that I can focus more on reflection and sense-making. Recently, I was given some feedback some time back that made me think deeply.
In effect, I “put my own needs behind others because I prefer to share the work and success of others” and in so doing, I “don’t give myself any credit for the work I’ve built up myself over the years which isn’t helped by my self-deprecating manner“.
This was an eye-opener for me but it was important that I listen to it. Deep down, I knew it anyway. Being faced with it, it was a signal to sit up and take note to take some personal action such as a refocus on tasks and projects that nurtured me and my talents; of not following the crowd or feeling as if I’m missing out information on social networks if I’m not contributing or engaging in every conversation online.
It made sense to me that in the early years of social media, my natural style of openness, generosity and helpfulness seemed to align with what social media was about. I was getting immense value from it because I was doing everything I mentioned above.
However, over the years, I have felt at odds with it.
It hasn’t been “sitting right in my gut” because what I was seeing is that it started to become competition for attention, a channel for trolls and spambots, a broadcast channel of people boasting and marketing their business.
In recent times, I’ve been struggling to find and connect with a broader range of people and topics because it seems harder to find where these are happening across the multiple social networks and online communities. Despite continual tweaking and filtering, I’m not getting the same ‘buzz’ as I did before and indeed the entire experience of using social media has left me a bit….flat.
What Have I Been Doing Instead?
A few conversations online with others who have been feeling the same way made me think about my own actions. Posts and podcasts such as the interview with Roger McNamee on The Trouble with Facebook on the Sam Harris Making Sense podcasts revealed all the frustrations that I was feeling but were unexpressed.
Recently, a video by Casy Niestat, YouTuber working and living in New York, also shared his frustrations.
It made me realise that social media is not giving me any value anymore and I’m not alone.
However, I’m also stuck between a rock and a hard place because I know that there can be – and are – valuable conversations happening online.
Many of them are behind closed communities around interests but these are not what I’m talking about. These are valuable themselves but they can also be an echo chamber.
I’m talking about building new networks of people who bring new ideas and insights to you. It’s become harder to find where these are happening and it means that you have to be continually filtering and sifting. There is now so much noise online that it’s become cognitive overload and I need to take my ‘filtering’ to a whole new level.
In the last year, I’ve decided to reclaim my time back from social media. This is what I’ve done:
- Deleted some apps off the phone and access these on the desktop if need be.
- Turned off all notifications and will only respond to direct family members.
- Gone back to ‘old school’ communication methods such as texting and email (trust me, email is not dead. I see email like our house address. We don’t give our house address away to anyone so if you get my email address, you’re special).
- Created more unstructured time in my days that allow for more slow reading and more creative pursuits
- Leisure time now receives far more focus than my work time which I leave for periods of time in the week
- Leisure = Personal learning time and social ‘in person’ experiences meaning that I will focus on learning something new online, getting better at my craft (knitting more difficult projects) and attending events where I am with other people in person
- Continually tweaking my Twitter lists, blocking and muting people who don’t provide me with any value
- Not participating in online conversations as often as I did in the past; nor responding to every @mention on LinkedIn; deleting invitations to connect on LinkedIn without any context
- Using Instagram as my ‘online’ creativity canvas for my video projects (although I can see a day soon where I will delete this too)
- Focus more on creating my own daily stories that I create on Snapchat that I upload on YouTube that I use as my own online video album (in the near future, I will make the channel private as my intent is not to build followings
- Attending more in-person local experiences such as community events, libraries, exhibitions, art shows and sharing these experiences with my friends
- More one-to-one conversations with friends on social media (there’s more chatter behind the scenes on LinkedIn, Snapchat and Twitter DMs) now than ever before so the focus now is away from the news feed and into the private spaces of direct messaging.
So where does this leave me with social media?
I’ve decided that for now, I’ll continue to use it when I need to but the FOMO is gone – in fact, I really don’t care much about it. The death knell came when the social platforms overtook the conversations that were happening through blog posts. Similarly, spammers and bots made comment moderation on our blogs more difficult and not worth the effort. Social media now has become such a free for all that you need to continually maintain your “filtering gene” to have valuable information come to you. It’s getting harder to do this and you start to ask, “what’s the value and benefit to me in doing this?”
If it’s not giving you value then consider:
- What can you change (tweaks to behaviour, mindset or habits) to hone your filtering skills?
- What are the conversations and communities that you enjoy and give you personal satisfaction in participating? Do more of those and delete the rest.
- Do you have FOMO? Don’t. Trust me, you’re not missing out on anything. Use that time you scrolled your feed to feed your mind with something else.
- Do you feel the pressure to show and share everything in the spirit of “working out loud”? Don’t. You really don’t need to. If it’s going to make you feel resentment or unacknowledged, think of what is important to YOU and share that to communities who value your work and who will support, credit and acknowledge it. Much of “working out loud” actually happens in closed ‘safe’ online communities as many people are not comfortable with doing this on the open networks. Seek out those spaces instead.
I can also see that in the future, I will more than likely, go back to some form of online writing such as blogging I did on my own personal blog called Ramblings that I started in 2005 however, more and more, this is quickly overtaken by my daily video stories I create on Snapchat and upload to YouTube.
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Have you had the same experiences or reflections with social media?