Social Media Feelings

In my previous post, I wrote about the social media experiment I did during Lent. In the comments on that post, I was asked:

How did you feel after the experiment? Would you maintain across all platforms and channels a sustained social media presence for longer or have discerned your preferences? How do you think it benefitted you and your loved ones? Did you have a disciplined set time each day devoted to social media work? What were your thoughts on it for your future – in your own life and your career?

That’s a lot to answer in a comment so I’ve turned my responses into this post.

I didn’t have especially strong feelings about the experiment. Afterwards, I was pleased I’d done it, and interested in the results, and happy that it produced some more connections and encouraged me to do more of things I wanted to do anyway.

I probably will stay active across a range of social media platforms. It suits me to have a range of different spaces in which to connect with people in different ways. In the past, there have definitely been platforms which came and went in my life (for example, LiveJournal and Tumblr are places where I’m no longer active) – some of that is personal preferences changing, some of it is communities moving, and some of it is my interests changing. To some extent, the communities I’m involved in vary across the platforms – for example, when I say I’m on TikTok, I’m really mostly talking about BookTok, the community of TikTok users who mostly talk about books. On Facebook, I’m much less active in general book-themed conversation and more involved in Quaker groups. There’s often a natural ebb and flow to this as the people, platforms, and resultant communities all change.

It benefited me by prompting me to do something I wanted to do anyway. I’m not sure most of my loved ones would have noticed much! I asked my wife, who is at least as active on social media as I am, and she said that it was nice when I posted about her a bit more than usual, but otherwise it didn’t make any difference. In general, I think social media benefits us both by helping us to connect with people with similar interests – to share ideas, explore hobbies, learn new skills, hear different perspectives, engage in conversations…

I didn’t set aside a specific time for social media. I normally find some time to look at social media on my phone anyway – downtime, waiting for something, a quick break between other activities – and I was usually able to include posting in that space. I also split up the steps, so I might play with an idea in Canva one day, download the finished image the next day, and post it to Instagram when I happen to be looking at my feed anyway the day after. I think if I did have a set time every day for social media I’d probably find it difficult to use unless I also had a much more detailed task list. Instead, my approach is to be playful and responsive, picking up trends (like Twitter memes) and sharing things I’m doing anyway (like reviewing books I would have been reading whether or not I was going to post about them).

In the future, I hope that social media will continue to provide spaces for sharing, learning, and connecting with people. I hope we’ll continues to develop ways to prevent the abusive, bullying, and hurtful behaviour which is common both on social media and in lots of other social spaces, and focus on using technology positively. In my experience, social media can help reduce loneliness, entertain and inform. In particular, the internet in general and social media in particular has a unique power to enable us to connect with others who are interested in the same thing. Sometimes this creates communities around dangerous or mistaken ideas, and I wouldn’t want to restrict myself to one platform or one topic for that reason. Sometimes, though, it can be extremely positive, and enables in-depth discussions and sharing of knowledge in a way that’s difficult to achieve offline unless people are able to commit to travel etc.

It’s that power to reach people interested in a specific topic which makes social media relevant to my career. It makes possible different approaches to networking, to finding out about potential contacts, to sharing information about my work, to inviting people to attend events or courses. It supports communities of Quakers, of readers, of writers, of religious people from many traditions, of people who are interested in editing or prayer or language or LGBTQ+ stories… Like any powerful tool, it has risks, but I find it extremely useful.

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