This year has seen a lot of bad news concerning Facebook and online privacy. The drum beat of anti-social media has grown louder. You’d think scrolling a newsfeed is like smoking cigarettes. Perish the thoughtcrime!
On some level I think that’s an apt description. Like maybe Brave New World is coming true. Or 1984. Or both. Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death? To some degree. But I don’t want to over-amplify suspicions of dystopia.
Social media does have some benefits, right? It’s not all bad. Convenience and connection come to mind. I know that’s debatable. And I think whether the good outweighs the bad is ultimately an individual decision. Yet when the anti-social drum beats loudly, it sounds like many agree the bad overshadows the good, if there is any at all. Personally, I go back and forth.
When I deleted Facebook and Instagram earlier this year, I kept Twitter.
Being the biggest and most influential of all, Facebook gets most of the heat. It’s well deserved based on the ill news reports of privacy disregard and misinformation campaigns. But Twitter also gets a fair share of backlash.
The tweeting bird icon is cute, but Twitter’s been described less favorably: cesspool of toxic human waste, vitriolic garbage fire, hellscape. Sounds harsh! And I think I can see why; I’ve heard pretty bad things about the negativity there: trolls, unfiltered comments, blocking people, and the like.
Maybe I’m a bit naive, but fortunately so far, my experience as a ‘nobody’ on Twitter has been far better than that. Maybe it’s because my follower/following counts are so low: just double digits. But that’s fine with me. I wouldn’t say I’m a heavy user of Twitter. But I like it. Why?
In general, Twitter’s design and function on the web and iOS app is simple, clean, and elegant when compared to Facebook. The user interaction is minimal. Only 140 (now 280) characters of text! A few buttons here and there, a few features. That’s it. On the surface, it seems easy to grasp.
The whole Twitter etiquette thing may be less easy to grasp as I’m sure I’ve broken it before; I try to not spam or overuse #hashtags or @replies. But I think this is due to my slow grokking rather than poor design of the service.
Even though I’ve had little engagement on Twitter with other users, it’s actually been nice. Quality over quantity. People have been polite, sincere and helpful or encouraging. So my guess is it depends largely on who you follow and how many people or brands you keep up with.
A specific insight I think I’ve had on why I like Twitter is this: it may be a place where introverts can feel like extroverts at the party. That might sound dopey, so I’ll try to explain.
Introverts like myself generally don’t do well at parties or other social gatherings of humans. I’ll speak for myself; I’m not good at saying witty, funny, or intelligent things on the fly. In fact, it’s hard to say those kinds of things even in writing where I have time to think before I speak!
On Twitter, I think introverts can sort of feel like they’re “part of the conversation.” They can throw in their two-cents worth of deep thoughts in a succinct-pithy-partial-paragraph. Or even just silly banter. We can be ourselves without worry because the awkwardness of close physical proximity is absent!
Granted, the lack of physical proximity, and worse, the ability to remain anonymous if one so chooses, both allow or enable all kinds of the bad behavior Twitter is infamous for.
Introverts can follow/be followed relatively easily, “hang-out” with peers or keep company with prominent figures and have a semblance of connection. (Of course I’m presupposing authenticity and all that.)
Where else can I easily express my fondness of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee with others? Well, I could blog about it here I guess, but I doubt Dunkin’ would notice. On Twitter, they’re likely to engage with me with a retweet supporting their brand. But I digress.
If it turns out that a majority of people agree social media is more trouble than its worth or is detrimental to our mental health enough to require a surgeon general’s warning, then I’ll probably quit not just Facebook but also Twitter. Like switching from Camel Wides to Marlboro Lights won’t cut it. You gotta quit smoking altogether.
As one can breath air without inhaling ciagarette smoke, one can communicate without social media.
Anyways, I couldn’t fit all that in a tweet. So I blogged it. And I’ll share the link on Twitter.
What are your thoughts?