Saturday, September 3, 2011

In Defense of Social Media

I realized the other day that the blogosphere--at least the niche that I find myself in, anyway--is a lot like summer camp for the following reasons:

1. You spend most of your time around other girls.
2. When one person catches something, everyone catches something.

The "something" in my metaphor is not a cold or your period because your cycles sync up (I was a camper and a counselor at summer camp for years, it happens), but rather ideas, trends, thoughts, and feelings. And vintage clothes, but that's not really pertinent here.

I've noticed lately that a lot of bloggers that I subscribe to are talking about Internet detox, the stressful aspects of social networking, and self-doubt when it comes to blogs.  In fact, this is hardly a recent phenomenon--it seems like as far back as I can remember bloggers have been blogging and tweeting about how stressful it is to keep blogging and tweetin, or completely eliminating accounts to avoid absent-minded surfing.  

It's something that I have never really been able to fully relate to.

I am on the internet a lot.  My job requires me to be on a computer for the entire 10-12 hours I'm usually working.  As a result I usually have about 4 tabs open with Bloglovin, Twitter, my blog, and maybe Facebook. Even after work when Rob and I are sitting around watching TV we're usually on our computers--not avoiding each other, but sharing and communicating while we share and communicate with others.

A few weeks ago I was feeling kind of stressed about various things in my life and my therapist suggested that some of the stress might be coming from interactions with people on Facebook.  So at her suggestion, I gave it up for a week.  During that week I realized that there were a lot of things about Facebook I really enjoyed (getting to communicate with people I can't usually talk to easily, planning get-togethers) and that the source of all my stress came from the fact that I lacked the self-control to block or avoid those of my "friends" with toxic statuses or stressful interactions.  Knowing full well that viewing their profiles could or would upset me, I still stalked their profiles and gave them the power to stress me out.  I also realized that the benefits of social networking in this case far outweighed the probability of it stressing me out or upsetting me. 

To me the internet, like anything else, isn't all or nothing.  When I want to use the internet and tweet and blog, I do. When I don't want to, I don't.  It's a big part of my life, but it's not my life. And if I stopped enjoying it, it's something that I could easily not do. Honestly, I think completely deleting an account or refusing to tweet or blog because I feel like I'm doing something wrong only gives it even greater control over me and my actions.  Just like with anything in life, social media in moderation isn't in and of itself toxic;  it's up to each of us to manage the power it has in our lives, whether that power be for good or for evil.

And isn't this true of "real" life, too? We don't have to completely avoid social interaction simply because these toxic influences exist, and  it's up to each of us to take the initiative to clear our lives of toxic influences and friendships.

I hope, as usual, that nobody takes this as offensive.  I understand that people have a variety of reasons for choosing to abstain from social networking, from crazy family members (I've had my share) to privacy concerns;  I only sought to explain why I personally enjoy social networking  and choose not to abstain, rather than to pass any judgement on any of my wonderful readers or to suggest that bloggers shouldn't write about these feelings. I pride myself on being pretty honest on here and I thought I would throw in my two cents on this particular issue.

I hope you all are having a great Labor Day weekend so far.  Get out and enjoy the fresh air, but don't feel too guilty for catching up on blogs, tweets, and Facebook!

23 comments:

  1. Very well said. I personally have been having some doubts with my blog - how funny that you mentioned it today! As far as Facebook goes I have been off Facebook for about a month now - maybe a bit longer - and it feels good. I used to use it to stay in touch with people who I already see and talk to on a regular basis. Basically, it was my lazy way of communicating. Also - I allowed drama to infiltrate my life. I am so happy without it. I am reading more and getting outside. Good for you that you can maintain a healthy balance - I learned that I can't. Love your blog - have a great Labor day!

    Kelsey

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  2. love that i'm not the only one who sees a therapist! i struggle with anxiety too. i still am on twitter, but i did delete my facebook! and i've been much happier. not only am i not focusing on other people's drama, i have more time! and, the people who i want to communicate with, I DO! I call them, or make plans to see them. We have better/more conversations than we would on facebook because i learn so much from what they write on there! i'd definitely encourage it :)

    http://pleasebreatheandhush.blogspot.com/

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  3. For me, I find that most people these days are in need of instant gratification through communication. A lot of my family and friends (about 90% of the people I talk to weekly) seem to think that because I have a cell phone and a Facebook, it is my job to answer them within an hour TOPS, and it's almost NEVER for anything important. I got rid of Facebook for a while because I found that so frustrating but then found that the same people would start texting, e-mailing and leaving voicemails about the same topic within a few hours. In regards to your thoughts on us having to choose to to let things like that bother us, I agree.
    I ended up having to tell everyone that I have a life outside of them and I will respond when I get around to it IF I feel it warrants a response. Texting me "What's up?" while you're bored before a class or on your lunch break is not the same as needing to get a hold of me. A few people were offended at first or didn't seem to get the memo, but when I chose to stick to my decision and not drop everything for irrelevant "conversations," my life got a lot less stressful in that aspect.

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  4. I really like what you said about deleting a blog or twitter etc. in a way takes away the control that you have. Thanks for this post!

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  5. AMEN!! This is exactly what I was trying to say yesterday! It's an outlet, artistic expression, but it should never feel "stressful". If I have nothing to write about, I don't stress, I just don't write that day! I've loved reading everyone's posts on this just to get the different perspectives, to reflect on my own place in this blogging world. But you pretty much hit the nail on the head: everything in moderation. If social media is keeping someone from truly LIVING, then yeah, they are probably doing it too much. It's all about the balance and remembering to enjoy your hobbies, not feel obligated towards them. Have an awesome weekend!

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  6. This is such a great post! I believe that social media enriches my life- it gives me an outlet to write, inspires me, keeps me in contact with people, etc, but every once in a while I just need to take a break. I've never been too attached to Facebook, but since I do like to check it briefly on a daily basis, I've started blocking certain friends' statuses from showing up on my newsfeed. I like seeing what people are up to, but I don't need to see the petty drama that goes on.

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  7. I totally agree with you on this. I'm a huge social media junkie and a lot of my friends bug me about it because I do more of it than any of them do. I mean, my blog alone (and my Google Reader) could be a full time job, but I keep up with these things because I WANT to. Last year I went through a phase where I just couldn't blog anymore, so I stopped for nearly 2 months where I only wrote 2-3 posts in those months. When I wanted to blog again, I did. I do these things because I choose to and because I love to do them, and if ever I'm feeling like it's too much stress or like I shouldn't be doing it, then I don't. I did the same thing with Twitter and gave it up for nearly 4 months last Christmas and unfollowed all the accounts I was following except fave bands. When I was ready, I went back to it. I don't disagree with bloggers who feel that it's "toxic" but that's a hint that they need to take a step back, or change something in their online routine. You just need to learn how much you want to be a part of the online community, and you need to know when is a good time to take a break.

    Okay sorry I'm done ranting about that now haha. Clearly I really liked this post. :)

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  8. I really enjoyed your thoughts on this subject. While I sometimes grow tired of trying to keep up with the blog world- everyone else's posts plus my own -I miss it when I'm away. I miss sharing my thoughts, and I miss the people I've come to think of as far away friends. I think social networking is beneficial on many levels. We are able to learn so much about our human brothers and sisters that we would never have known before, and we are able to befriend people we would have otherwise never had the chance of meeting. Its really a beautiful thing. Sure, sometimes we need a break. But we need a break from everything once in a while. Even amazing things - like...Chipotle. ;-)

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  9. Beautiful insight! The internet truly enriches our lives and like you said, social media is only part of our lives, not OUR lives. I hope you can find your balance!

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  10. I completely agree. I LOVE THE INTERNET and social media lol. Very very rarely do i feel the need to "cleanse" or whatever. It's a source for almost everything ;)

    Belly B :)

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  11. I as a whole think social networking online is great.

    My family lives all over the country, so I really enjoy getting updates on my niece via instagram photos my sister posts, and I love bouncing ideas off of friends on FB and chatting with random people I went to HS with..

    BUT on the other hand, I feel like FB especially can cheapen human interaction. When you hang out with people, you usually know everything that is happening in their life because they have diarrhea of the hand on their status updates. When I got engaged last week, I felt like I had to hurry up and call all of my family so our friends didn't leak news on facebook. My Fiance and I actually had a long conversation about how facebook could play a negative role in the "good news" by hurting our friends and families feelings by not telling them in person.

    You are right though, as a whole the internet is a beautiful thing and for the most part makes us more knowledgeable and connected to friends, strangers, and techy things.

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  12. I enjoyed your post. I went on a week long cruise earlier this summer. I think that the best part of the trip (including the delicious food, sun, turquoise water, etc etc) was being unconnected from the phone, texts and computer for seven whole days. I'm going to blog about it soon.

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  13. Absolutely agree. I was super stressed back in the winter and realized it was that I couldn't handle the family issues that were made public on facebook. I have it up for a full 6 weeks and in a lot of ways it was wonderful. But, I had no intention of giving it up forever because there are just as many positives about social media as negatives. I just changed the way I used it. Sometimes it's still tempting and stressful but it's been a lot easier since I've just had some selfcontrol and made hard but good changes.

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  14. I love blogs...the blogosphere is one of the most inspirational places in my world. Facebook? Not so much. I am truly over it. Information OVERLOAD. Probably going to give it up soon!

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  15. I appreciated you post, Caitlin. I personally have found social media to be liberating and inspiring. I've connected with folks I wouldn't have otherwise, and have even met some of them! I feel like it's helped make my world bigger, and for me that is a good thing.

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  16. i can completely relate...
    i decided to stop participating in online outlets that made me frustrated/upset.
    i deleted my personal profile on FB, but kept my blog fan page. it has made a huge difference for me. and i'm really happy i did it.

    i've thought about deleting my blog a couple of times... but when it comes down to it i really really love the friendships & connections i've made with people...
    so leaving my blog without updates doesn't bother me as much as it used to.
    i've also made it a priority to only post things because i want to & not out of obligation.

    post when you want to. talk to people when you want to. nobody is going to be offended if you go missing for a few days (or more), but they'll sure be excited when you come back :)

    thanks for writing this!

    ♥elisabeth

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  17. I completely agree... Blogging has far from stressed me out...and the other blogs I read really inspire me in other areas of life.

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  18. I've thought so many times of just getting rid of Facebook because of different reasons, but instead I've just blocked certain people who I do want to keep in touch with but can't stand their negativity or their constant posting. Blogging is really different for me, and I usually look at that as I read only what I want to and nothing had to be thrown in my face if I don't want to. But this post is great and it's a great reminder to us all to not get stressed about this stuff!

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  19. I completely related with this post.

    Particularly this paragraph:
    To me the internet, like anything else, isn't all or nothing. When I want to use the internet and tweet and blog, I do. When I don't want to, I don't. It's a big part of my life, but it's not my life. And if I stopped enjoying it, it's something that I could easily not do. Honestly, I think completely deleting an account or refusing to tweet or blog because I feel like I'm doing something wrong only gives it even greater control over me and my actions. Just like with anything in life, social media in moderation isn't in and of itself toxic; it's up to each of us to manage the power it has in our lives, whether that power be for good or for evil.

    I SO KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!
    Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my blog and therefore I give myself a break until I'm ready and/or inspired to come back to it with fresh eyes.

    ~Andrea

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  20. Such and interesting and insightful post. I think we can all benefit from taking a little break from the internet everyone once in a while!

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  21. well said! I agree that things like facebook & blogging are what you make them-- who you choose to follow or friend, the discussions you decide to chime in on, the discussions you choose to start.

    and YOU sure start some really good discussions : )

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