It’s a new year, and after a several week hiatus from social media, I wish I had more to share. I’ve spent the last month and a half doing nothing. The only photography I have managed to produce are snapshots of random things and scenes I’ve come upon, most of them in Hamilton.
Despite my idleness, I did make one interesting observation during this time. I noticed just how unaware people are in their use of social media. I was surprised by the number of people who commented on my sabbatical from social media. Most just told me they saw it while sporting a playful smile. I never knew how to interpret the obvious but undecipherable subtext. Some followed up their observation with the quip, “I never use it myself.” This is where I started to realise just how out of touch people’s actions were with their perception.
One example is someone who, after remarking to me they don’t use it, took a photo and then shared in on Facebook. A second example is of someone who emphatically stated they only use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, but has a long standing habit of sharing and commenting on socially charged articles.
Another person asked a group of us who were gathered socially, whether or not we had all seen some recent meme on Facebook. This time, I decided to challenge him by asking, “I thought you said you don’t use Facebook?”
He replied, “I said I just saw it on Facebook.” Emphasis on “saw”, as if absorbing social media is different from using it.
What all of this amounts to, in my opinion, is that most people are not mindful in their usage – including the consumption of – social media. This is why an annual, or even weekly (read the tech “Sabbath Manifesto”), sabbatical is important.
If I had to describe how my six weeks unplugged felt in one word, that word would be “quiet.” It was quiet. I also found that I had a lot more free time as well. It wasn’t not posting content, as that was always the minority in my social media usage, but the consumption of it. Even just not paying attention to what my favourite photographers were posting freed up so much time. Everything felt so much more relaxed, and I had little knowledge (or care) of what was going on in the world outside my immediate world.
This latter point is something many would want to argue, I suppose. After all, we’re raised to believe the news is somehow important. It’s not. Nearly all of the news is sensationalized, over exaggerated, light on factual information, and rarely impacts life for most. A Toronto female teenager was due in court for a Christmas Day stabbing of another teen girl; that was one of the first news stories I saw upon turning social media back on. Why do I need to know this?
On the other hand, social media does serve the useful purpose of spreading information that is useful. The second thing I saw was Joe Aguirre’s post about his new zine, which I promptly ordered (and you should too).
I guess what I am trying to get at, is that I feel everyone would be best served by taking time to unplug. It helps enable us to be far more mindful about the role of social media in our lives. Its ubiquity and omnipresence is its greatest camouflage. It hides in plain site, it works its way into every aspect of our lives, and assimilates us without us ever realising just how much influence it has on our lives.