Social media is everywhere these days. You can’t escape it; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, the list goes on and on.
It’s on your TV’s, your game consoles and your smart phones. It’s seemingly unescapable…or is it?
Keiran Fuller, a YouTuber and videographer, based in Birmingham, England is currently undertaking a social experiment to cut himself off from all forms of social media for the month of August. It is his attempt to try and reconnect with real life, become happier and more productive.
As the video states, there’s no form of social media including text messages or emails (apart from his work email as he needs to keep himself in well… work). So to communicate it must be either via phone calls or face-to-face. That’s a tough trial when he is a self proclaimed addict.
But he’s not the only one, I too would say I am addicted to social media, namely Facebook. I am constantly checking it even though I know there will be nothing interesting happening on there apart from drama and some pictures of someone’s cat.
As part of #ProjectBlackout Keiran urges people to try it too, even just for 24 hours, and then send in video clips based on your experiences or thoughts and feelings regarding social media.
Yesterday at 8:30am I logged out of my Facebook application on my phone and on my PC and tried to get on with my day. At first I was sat at my computer just staring at Google not knowing what to do with myself, I found myself clicking up onto my bookmark bar where the Facebook bookmark used to be, but as it was no longer there obviously that got me nowhere. Eventually I realised I was just wasting time literally doing nothing so I started to get ready as I had to go to my new workplace to pick up some paperwork.
This included a short bus journey. Usually when I am on a bus, even though I have a Kindle, I will get my phone out and read through Twitter or scroll up and down Facebook looking at the content one of the many pages post to my news feed. This time however I didn’t have that. What I did have was my freedom, freedom to observe people going about their lives, as I went about mine.
Arriving at work I sat down at one of the tables and waited for the store owner to arrive and there was another girl there who is starting work with me. We didn’t speak. She was just transfixed to her phone, either really interested in Facebook or whatever she was on, or using it as a defense mechanism like many of us do. We find ourselves in a social situation where we may have to communicate so our go to defense is to get our phone out, like somehow that shields us from the necessity to meet someones eyes and communicate on a level that most of us have forgotten. I’m guilty of this crime. But not yesterday, yesterday my phone stayed in my pocket and that was a very difficult thing to achieve.
But it made me realise, I do this around friends too. Upon entering a friends house one of the first questions is “what’s your Wi-Fi password” and heaven forbid you enter a bar with free Wi-Fi access. We will arrange, via social media, to meet up with our friends. We meet up with them face to face and then sit on our phones just grunting at each other. That is mental.
Eventually the manager turned up, we got the forms and then left not a word spoken to each other. That is extremely sad on so many levels. I know it’s daunting to start a new job, and meet new people, but at the end of the day me and the other new staff are all in the same boat together, we have common ground there waiting for us to start a conversation, a proper human conversation, but it just didn’t happen.
Getting back home after this I sat at my computer and found my mouse slowly wandering up to the bookmark bar again, so I decided to try something. I put a button on my bookmark bar that, when clicked, loads a random article on Wikipedia. I figured if I’m going to click up there and waste my time, I may as well be learning something. This allowed me to skim the first few lines and if it wasn’t interesting to me I would be able to click off, whereas on Facebook you would just scroll till you found something interesting, if there was anything at all. Try it yourself, click here for a random Wikipedia article.
Good isn’t it? Click as many times as you like (but make sure you come back to finish this article!)
So, back at home I was very productive, I tidied up, I spent hours doing the paperwork and online training for my new job (which I still have to complete, hours worth of content that is just common sense but that I need to be retold in an extremely patronising way). I worked away researching film-making techniques for the mini documentary I am currently planning. I found out some shocking facts and figures relating to self-harm for the documentary and a project I am working on with a local charity.
Basically, I was productive, very productive, and I did miss Facebook but as the day went on I became aware that this social media detox was a very good thing. I wasn’t absorbing putrescent nonsense, I was instead learning useful things. At the end of the day, the important people in my life all have my mobile number so if there was some information that I desperately needed to know they’d either text or call me right? So yes the detox was good.
But then something happened.
I had a left a comment on a YouTube video that I came across after the uploader subscribed to my channel.
She replied a couple of hours later and it really touched me.
It touched me because without social media (in this case YouTube) I would never have made that connection, I would never have ‘made her day’. With the power of the internet I directly affected someones life, no matter how small a way it was, I did that. Me.
Later that evening, I made a blog post on my new website, freshinkproductions.com relating to the facts and figures about self-harm that I had compiled and as it is a new website not many people know about it yet. I wanted to share that with my Facebook and Twitter friends, but I couldn’t because of the blackout. Tools and avenues of exposure that I have grown used to where no longer there when I relied on them to get my content seen.
So social media is good for that too, spreading the message or sharing photographs with your family that you found at the bottom of a box and let’s face it, are really embarrassing.
The question is then, is social media bad for society, and more importantly you? I believe the answer is yes…and no.
Social media in most cases hinders our creativity, our productivity and our happiness. It stops us connecting and communicating in a really human way. Social media opens up new ways of cyber-bullying, and hurting people that way (especially with services like Ask.fm that allow you to post messages to someones account anonymously).
But used correctly and most importantly in moderation, I believe social media is one of the great technological advancements that will be necessary to share information and news, reach an audience you would never be able to reach in your day to day life. Put a smile on a strangers face with a few kind words. Share a video of a cat.
I think the answer lies in how much time we spend on these various platforms, in moderation, say an hour or so a day, it can be used to catch up with certain friends, upload those holiday photo’s and share anything you’ve made. Freeing up the rest of your day to live your life in the real world.
Social media then is both a tool and a weapon. It just depends who is holding it.