Are you using social media, or is social media using you?
If you’re not sure or have never asked yourself this question, read on.
The Decline and Fall of Twitter
What started as an unpopular and wonderful communication medium has turned into a popular and dangerous propaganda platform. In the beginning, Twitter was a way to exchange ideas. It has become a way to influence, sell, manipulate, mislead, indoctrinate, undermine and attack. If you’re interested, you can read my slant on how this transpired.
But this is a more personal post. After more than 10 years of actively using (and for the most part, enjoying) Twitter, I quit. And it won’t be easy laying off the social sauce, let me tell you. I used Twitter just about every day. I made great friends on Twitter. I learned a lot about what’s going on in my profession. I engaged with hundreds of well-meaning, generous, and smart individuals who helped me work through scores of business and personal challenges. I hope I did the same for some of my Twitter friends over the years.
As positive as these positives were, they weren’t enough to overcome the negatives. These are my big four.
- Anonymity. If Twitter content represents “what’s happening in the world,” then a verbal World War III is well underway. Users hiding behind fake IDs say things they’d never put their name to. The overall effect turns constructive conversation into combat. Yes, you can try to ignore the ugliness or filter it out to some extent, but it gets harder to do all the time. It seems to me anonymous media is not social media at all. And while some people have valid reasons for remaining anonymous, those reasons in themselves are telling, and worrisome. When people stay anonymous out of fear of intimidation or fear of losing their job, then tell me: Where did the “social” go?
- Diminishing engagement. On the business communication front, genuine interaction has steadily declined over the years. For a while I thought the problem was me, and I’m sure it was to some extent. But I’ve talked to many colleagues who’ve experienced the same thing and seen the decline of retweets and replies on hundreds of user accounts. What’s the point of tweeting into a vacuum? High profile users still attract a great deal of replies, but a healthy percentage of them are self-promotional, snarky, and/or pointless. Without thoughtful, relevant conversation, Twitter loses its luster as a source of professional news and insight — I can get these things more efficiently through news feeds and real (i.e., face-to-face or phone) conversations.
- Censorship. I prefer to make my own decisions about whom to follow and what constitutes constructive content. I don’t want restrictions imposed on me based on the platform owner’s bias or algorithm. Traditional news media has every right to incorporate bias into their content (although I think media outlets should clearly identify opinion pieces as such), but social media is, or is supposed to be, a different animal. Social media platforms consist of user-generated content. Social media became popular because it enabled regular folks to escape the bias of MSM. Now that Twitter is cutting off our escape routes, we are simply trapped in a more subtle prison.
- Excessive screen time. When I think — really think — about how much time I spend on my cell phone, it makes me sick. Letting go of Twitter is a step I must take to get myself back into reality, and in my case, a mighty big step. Twitter is addictive. If you can update yourself on the news every 10 seconds, why settle for every 10 minutes? But in the vast scheme of things, my awareness of tweets, of “what’s happening in the world,” doesn’t matter much at all. Neither the news itself nor my reaction to it has any affect on anything. What I have to say about a particular issue can wait, and probably go unsaid without doing any damage to the fate of humanity. In the real world I can make a real difference. So can you.
The bottom line to all this: I feel worse rather than better after experiencing Twitter. A survey of “what’s happening in the world” leaves me frustrated, confused, depressed, and angry. If there were good reasons to expose myself to these negative emotions on Twitter, then by all means, I would soldier on. But there aren’t. Not really.
There are many who believe the body is a temple — a healthy philosophy. But the mind and the soul are also temples. If I feed my mind and soul a steady diet of unhealthy thoughts and emotions, it is no different than feeding my body a steady diet of a slow-working poison.
Consume with care.