My leap into blogging and engaging on social media is a very new thing. I’ve been on the top three platforms of social media for many years. It’s interesting to go back to the first posts to see what I was putting out. A lot of it seems cringeworthy as it’s certainly not how I interact now. Back when social media little more than a trivial fancy, I think lots of people made the same missteps. Now that it’s ubiquitous and inseparable from our real lives, we’ve fallen into our personal patterns of use. But we’ve traded that innocence for something closer to dependence. While its creators may have started with the best intentions, the truth has been revealed. Facebook just wants to access to all our info for more nefarious reasons than advertising. Twitter’s regarding the type of posts it allows and bans are unusual, to say the least. And Instagram has become an altar to worship fantasies that are unattainable or impossible to live.

We once loved social media because it gave us access never know previously – access to the lives of our loved ones who live far away, access to interactions with celebrities and access to a world of real life strangers that became virtual friends due to shared interests.
Today, I would venture that most people find themselves saying from time to time something near “I’d delete Facebook right now if my people didn’t live out of town”. Or “All the news I follow is on Twitter and it saves me a lot of time”. Or for me, “Where else can I put my photography in front of so many people outside of Instagram?” The excuses are myriad, and some may even be accurate. Yet before social media, we made phone calls to stay connected to family. We read newspapers. We joined in-real-life photography clubs. Now, social media makes many of these things easy. So easy that we moan when the slightest bit of effort, effort we used to expend without thinking, is required just to maintain baseline relationships.

A Different Approach

With all my new social media accounts attached to my dad blogging, I’m taking a different approach. Where I grew my street photo Instagram account with what I think is lots of good photography, it’s very static. I post a pic, people like, some comment, I say thanks. The glow of appreciation fades and I do it again the next day. There’s nothing social about it. There’s little interaction and I’m certainly not engaging with people or asking them questions about what they do. It’s disturbingly passive. So what I’m doing with these new accounts, for now, really just Instagram, is my best to respond to comments, post first on an account I like, search hashtags and follow more people than before and spend time to look into their lives and comment positively on what I find. Letting them know they’re not alone and what I think. If they ask. That to me is what I should’ve been doing all along. I’ve started, and I have to say, it’s a bit overwhelming.
I always thought that the social media work I was putting in was dedicated to shooting and editing my street photos. That’s still a lot of work, but the reward is only a number of followers in the thousands. I’m not booking photography clients, getting awards or any other recognition or even being a daily part of a community. Hitting that magic 10k, when the velvet rope is pulled back from the stanchion and the burly gatekeeper beckons me to enter the Sapphire Lounge with all the other Blue Checks and the wonders are revealed, what then? What’s next? Will I be happy?

What I’ll Do This #unplugruary

So with this intertwinement that feels impossible to unweave from the fabric of our lives, what are we to do? How can we reclaim a fragment of our real pre-social media selves ? Here’s what I’m going to do. Starting in #unplugruary (rolls off the tongue like a snack of glass, no?):

  1. Put ‘social’ before ‘media’. Stop be passive and inactive. Don’t let social media drive what you do. Take charge of your use. Write more than read. Be social, comment, explore, meet new people. Learn new things instead of visiting the same places for your info. Read an English language newspaper from Doha. Pick your passion and see how your peers in Laos do it. Search for what photographers in Gambia like to shoot. See the world through other eyes. That’s what the internet is supposed to offer.
  2. Follow a strict daily allowance. Use an app like Screen Time to give you an allowance of time for pissing around mindlessly. When it says move along, do it. Before you even start down the inane road of memes and gifs (which we all love), first know what you must go back to doing that isn’t an importantly silly waste of time. Otherwise it’s just too easy to keep throwing time out the window and avoiding what must be done.
  3. Take a 24 hour break from all social media. I’m going to start doing this. I’ll schedule my posts on my favourite Instagram planning app, Planoly and in WordPress. I’ll post this meme and then logout of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for the day.

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I’ll plan what to do in those moments where I need to tune out. I’ll take 15 minutes and use the Waking Up app or go out for a walk instead of endlessly scrolling.

Social media ISN’T bad.

But our behaviours may be.
The fact is, few of us were born into it. We don’t have generations of knowledge to pass down regarding if it’s appropriate or not to post a photo of a weird red bump on your back or if your grandmother told you when you were little to never post a photo of someone else you’d not want posted of yourself. Social media is less than 15 years old (using the start of Facebook as the inception). With that number, we’re all just teenagers with social media, and many adults use social media just as a young teenager would – without proper limits when unchecked, to the detriment of responsibilities and without enough thought to reaction or result. What is more disconcerting is that ACTUAL teenagers and even pre-teens are jumping onboard with even less diligence and scrutiny.
Social media ISN’T bad, humans just haven’t evolved at the speed that the technology has. We’re catching up slow. Social media is one of the largest impacts on society in the 21st century. And that’s not an exaggeration. We take it for granted without realizing its enormous impact.

This is why I feel that a step back to gaze WAY up in awe at what it is, what it can be and what it could become, for me right now is more valuable than scrolling down for the next piece of cheese.

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