The social media landscape is more confusing now than it has ever been. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. TikTok. YouTube. Tumblr. I’ve got an account on every single one of these platforms. I think I even still have a MySpace account that’s out there languishing somewhere. I’ve downloaded every app, filled out every sign-up form, meticulously completed every profile.
And the sad truth is that I’m not even sure what any of it is for anymore.
It used to be so simple. Everyone was on Facebook, the one place for self-expression, life updates, and mindless chit-chat online. It was wonderful. I had all of my friends, loved ones, and people I admired on a single platform where I could see their posts and interact with them whenever I wanted. Life was good.
Then Twitter came along with its simplified take on sharing, and I became intrigued with it. Over time, I curated a feed of friends, acquaintances, creators, and news sources that became my go-to place to quickly find out what was happening in the world. I still had Facebook for personal relationships, and that was enough for me to handle.
But then the new networks kept coming. Instagram for photos. Vine for videos. (R.I.P.) Snapchat for stories and silly, self-deleting messages. And I tried to keep up. I even had a long-running series of videos that earned me the accolade “most likely to do it for the Vine” in college. Social media was important to me because I wanted to be where my friends were.
Over time, though, it’s just become too much to keep up with. In their efforts to dominate each other, every platform has expanded to the point that their features and purposes overlap and become muddled. Some have joined forces while others are engaged in years-long feuds that make interacting across them difficult. It’s a messy, messy space right now, which has made it difficult for me to stay on top of.
All of this has mostly led to disengagement. I still tweet random thoughts from time to time, and I always make sure to share these articles everywhere I can, but that’s about it. My Instagram feed gets updated once every few months when I have a major life update or a new Apple product to show off. All of my snap streaks have gone cold. I can barely even look at Facebook with all the hate, garbage, and downright lies being spread on there.
I’ve become a bit of a digital hermit over the past couple of years, and that’s not something I’m particularly happy about. The desire to connect authentically with other people online is still there; I’m just not sure what that’s supposed to look like in 2019.
The more time we spend with social media, the more we learn about its flaws and pitfalls. We see the way free speech has been abused by Nazis and foreign powers to spread hate and lies. We see the way digital addiction harms mental health and gets in the way of real-world interactions. We see the way the internet can bring out the worst in us, leading us to say things to others that we’d never say in person. Even for people who are successful on social media, it’s still a tricky thing to navigate.
But I believe that there has to be some good that can come out of it. Social media can still achieve its original goals of connecting people, nurturing relationships, and helping us become more well-rounded, informed individuals. We just have to choose to use them in ways that actually serve those purposes.
Which brings me back to my original question: What are all of these platforms for? And more questions: Do I really need all of them? Should I prioritize one or two over the others? How can I best use these tools to share my life and connect with others without suffering from any of their downsides?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. I’m still working through them. But I don’t think the answer is to disengage. This is the way the world works now, and if I want to be a part of it, I need to meet people where they are.
That being said, I don’t have to go about it the same old way, either, following the treads and mindlessly seeking likes and comments. There’s a better way, a more intentional way, to engage, and I’m committed to finding it somehow, even if it takes time.
In writing this article, I’ve been thinking about principles that might make up this better way of engaging with social media. While I don’t have a complete list or a perfect definition for each of these, I’ve come up with a few that I’m going to start with:
These aren’t attributes we usually associate with social media, but I think that we might benefit from practicing them more when we log on and start scrolling. I’m sure this list will change over time, but this is what I’m starting with as my guidelines for social media use going forward.
I wish I had a more concrete answer to give you now, but truthfully, this article is the beginning of my thinking process, not the end of it. So I’ll keep working on it and give you an update once I’ve figured something out.
Or you can follow me, add me, subscribe to me, or whatever else it is these platforms have us doing these days and join me on this journey to finding a better way to use social media. I think we could all benefit from a little more intentionality in the way we engage. My username is devondundee on pretty much everything if you want to connect.
And if you have any advice, I’d love to hear from you. How do you use social media? What tips do you have for engaging in healthy, meaningful ways online? Do you have a set of principles you adhere to online? Any feedback you have would be much appreciated, because these are questions I’m pondering a lot lately, and I sincerely want to learn.
Thank you for reading this week’s article. I hope you’ll come back next week for another one. Until then!