I’ve learnt a lot about social networking over the past few months. I’ve learnt how Twitter and Facebook are two very different beasts; that Twitter is of course public, but also how easy it is to forget who is or isn’t watching; how Facebook can leak like a knackered old Land Rover, and how utterly, hopelessly distracted we can become by both of them.
Due to reasons known by a lot of you, I’ve taken a step back from Twitter recently. Don’t get me wrong, this step back still means leaving my iPad with TweetBot open on my desk for nine hours a day, endlessly scrolling with the tweets of fellow journalists, news agencies and friends.
But I’m tweeting less. I’d amassed 20,000 of the damn things since I was at college and it was all mostly hot air, bad jokes, shouting at the TV and conversations that didn’t quite fit into a single tw...
I, as do millions of others on Twitter, thought I was genuinely contributing to something worthwhile, that I was helping in some way. And I suppose being a journalist who sits in a newsroom day in, day out, I am in a position to spread news, and provide something of value to 600 or so followers, and generally be of value, but I’m hardly a Reuters wire service am I?
Taking a step back, looking at the deafening noise and mess I’d left behind reminded me of that photo of taken from the moon with the Earth a distant spec in the distance. I wanted to get back, but at the same time I quite liked where I was, as more of an observer than a contributor. I figured my follower count would stop growing but so be it, I had real friends who I met often, so if I lost those I tweet about delayed trains and rubbish TV then I’d get over it - no offense to you guys, delayed train tweets are fun.
The first few days without Twitter - or at least without tweeting - were a bit strange. As I imagine the sight of a pub or the taste of beer makes a quitting smoker crave a cigarette, I would instinctively think to tweet whenever I saw something amusing or thought of a terrible pun on the day’s news.
It struck me just how engrained tweeting had become in my subconscious that my brain was instinctively offering up things to tweet about. I didn’t feel so much like I’d broken free from the shackles of Twitter, but it was startling to think how distracted by it I had become.
Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and probably Facebook too, turn us into show-offs, but more than that, they make us constantly tweet and check-in and whatever else as a way of proving our existence. Perhaps this is just an evolution of telling your mates a story in the pub, but take a step back and it just seems a bit strange, like those annoying family members who used to show off their holiday videos for hour after dull hour when no one really cared.
Author and filmmaker James Victore writes in the book ‘Manage your day-to-day’:
“To ‘know thyself’ is hard work. Harder still is to believe that you, with all your flaws, are enough - without checking in, tweeting an update, sharing a photo as proof of your existence for the approval of your followers.”
So while sharing creative photos and funny remarks no doubt entertains your followers and subscribers, I’m starting to doubt that this entertainment is our primary reason for posting to social networks. That, I fear, is for proving to ourselves that we and our lives are going as we’d planned; that we’re contributing, and if we don’t then we’re somehow missing out.
Perhaps I’ve gone mad, and perhaps this is all a load of bollocks, but taking a step back from the endless, deafening noise of social networks has made me realise just how much time and effort they can take up, while giving very little in return.
Please agree/disagree/troll in the comments below.