I started my Social Media Adventures in 2003. A friend introduced me to Friendster. It was interesting. The concept was that you had a virtual space online to hang out with your friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very popular and no one was using it.
Around this time, the same friend introduced me to LiveJournal. LJ was an online virtual microphone. I finally had a public forum for my thoughts. Brilliant! Many people in my circle of friends at the time got into LiveJournal. The results were, as you might expect, mixed. We ended up posting online every sad sack thought that popped into our heads; thoughts that, under normal circumstances, would be put into a private diary. At times, it appeared to the casual observer that we were having a competition for “Saddest Entry”.
In the end, my friends and I turned LiveJournal into a giant circle jerk of sadness.
(Editorial Note: The Starry Wisdom Institute apologizes for the vulgarity displayed in the previous statement. Our esteemed director insists that the description is accurate.)
Thankfully, the LiveJournal craze did not last long and everyone moved onto other things.
In 2005, MySpace came along. Friends from college and high school started getting in touch with me. Some of this was good. There were many people that I wanted to catch up with. There were also people that I would rather have stayed in dim memories of the past. Thankfully, MySpace made it easy to ignore people that you didn’t want to talk to.
Twitter was introduced to the public in 2006. I was intrigued by the concept: express yourself in 140 characters or less. It was fun…at first. Over the years, I started following musicians, filmmakers, journalists and writers. It appeared that I had a direct link to the minds of people that I admired. At first, this seemed like a great thing. I thought that I could learn all of their tricks and secrets. However, over time, as the news of the day got more intense, my Twitter feed blew up. I was getting outraged over everything. And the worse the news got, the deeper I fell into the rabbit hole.
In 2007, I joined Facebook. This was a social media supernova. It combined the blogging of LiveJournal and the stream of consciousness of Twitter. The algorithms that it uses are rather impressive. Enter all of your personal data (i.e. college, high school, place of work, hometown, etc.) and it finds people that you might know (even people that you don’t want to get back in touch with). Everyone is on Facebook. It has become a mainstream utility…a living journal where we can post anything and everything in real time.
In 2010, Instagram came onto the scene. This was a nice simple photo-centric social media tool. Again, many of my friends joined Instagram and we posted random photos. It was fun.
In 2011, Google got into the social media game and created GooglePlus. I don’t have much to say about GooglePlus because I honestly forgot that it exists. No one uses it.
In 2012, I got into the habit of relaxing on the couch with the TV on and my iPad in hand. The TV was background noise and my attention would be focused on refreshing my Twitter and Facebook feeds.
This is a terrible habit for me because, after awhile, everything became background noise.
It reached critical mass in 2015. Twitter was becoming a cesspool. I justified staying with it by telling myself that I was staying informed. This bled into Facebook. A few people on my friends list had some…interesting opinions. As a result, I learned how to keep people on my friends list and remove them from my news feed.
By 2016, people started weaponizing social media. You can get onto Google and look into this yourself. I am not going into it here. Let’s just say that living in constant anxiety and anger is not healthy and I got exhausted. So, I tried an experiment. I deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps from my devices. In order to use them, I had to log in on the web. Because I make my passwords impossible to remember, logging in takes effort. After some time away, I started feeling better.
In April of 2017, I deleted my Twitter and Instagram accounts.
On the afternoon of August 23, 2018, I deleted my Facebook profile.
It is September 21, 2018, and I am officially out of the social media business. I feel better. A lot better. Everyone doesn’t need to know what I’m thinking all of the time. Conversely, I don’t need to know what everyone is thinking all of the time. My thinking is clearer. I have regained my ability to concentrate. I am finally reading F. Paul Wilson’s Secret History of the World series (which might be the subject of a future entry).
I am also writing again.
If you enjoy Social Media, then by all means keep using it. Just know what you are signing up for. Even though you pay nothing for the services, you should understand that nothing in life is free.
This leads us, in a circuitous way, to the point of today’s post:
When social media is involved, you are not the customer. You are the product.
In the real and digital worlds, always mind your surroundings.