Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Social(ly Avoidant) Media

Do you ever get the feeling that you're consuming too much?

This question could apply to a handful of things: too much food, too many resources, too much awful news whenever you happen to stop on CNN while flipping through channels. But in this case, I'm talking about consuming too much social media.

A few days ago, I was cruising through Instagram when I realized there was someone I wanted to follow but hadn't found yet. Looking her up was simple, and with a single click, I was subscribed to her feed. During this process, I noticed a striking number: 99.

This woman followed only 99 other Instagram accounts. I, meanwhile, was following over 600. 

The difference in these two figures spurred me to action. I realized that those 600+ accounts would live without me. Although I didn't shut down my Instagram account--I love it far too much to let go--I did unfollow just under a third of the people or businesses on the list, clearing out anyone I had clicked on for truly specious reasons. It was satisfying to see their names go from green to gray.

We live in an increasingly digital world, and every time we open up a device with an Internet connection, the amount of content we are likely to see skyrockets. That can't be good for us, operating as we are in an environment that bounds from one topic to another in mere seconds, and that's taking only television or online news into account. Add in Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, among others, and you have endless ways to suck time away from your family, friends, or projects. 

While my account is still active, I have quit using Twitter for this very reason. The number of links offered up in the span of only a minute is dizzying; the Twitter feed is in constant motion. Even if I could speed-read, I doubt that I could get through all of the content available for my amusement before a new day began and the process started all over again. That's some Sisyphean shit right there.

I've even stopped paying close attention to the links available to me on Facebook. I may be interested in a wide variety of topics, but trying to read every article about each of them means giving up other things, like writing time. And I'm not about that life.

But more than anything I've mentioned, I'm curious about how we got to this point. Even though we have more news available than ever, which helps marginalized groups make themselves heard, there's a paradox at work: it's difficult to discover those voices precisely because there is such an abundance of media at our disposal. When did we decide that we must play into the hands of distraction in such a way? And what can we do to scale it back to the point where various media and social media outlets bring us together rather than contributing to the fractiousness we're experiencing right now, both in America and around the world?

These are the questions I'd like answered. Meanwhile, I'm happy that I axed so many accounts on Instagram. This way, I get to see more content that actually means something to me or might prove inspirational.


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