29 September 2014

Antisocial behaviour

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Social media is something I came to late, only joining Twitter two years ago and Facebook last summer. For a long time afterwards, I approached both in a completely unsustainable way, as a result of my 'all or nothing' attitude to every aspect of life.

I resolved to read all of the posts and Tweets from those I was friends with or following, for fear of missing something important. As I don't have mobile online access, this activity was restricted to once a day and, initially, I kept the number of connections low, so that I could scrutinise everything.

At lunchtime, I would log on and work my way backwards through my timelines until I reached the last post and Tweet I'd read the day before. Needless to say, this became quite a chore, even though I only had about 30 Facebook friends and was following fewer than 60 people on Twitter. 

I marvelled at those who followed hundreds, or thousands, of people on Twitter. How did they do it? Feeling a bit foolish, I asked one of them. She assured me that she only went online once or twice a day, too, but saw social media as akin to dipping in and out of conversations at a party - you can't be involved in all of them, or see them all through to the end. 

It took a while to change my perspective and to accept that I couldn't possibly review all of the material coming into my social media accounts. Now, however, I follow 329 people on Twitter, have doubled my friends on Facebook, and have mastered the art of skimming messages - and of knowing when to stop.

I do, though, like to respond to all direct messages and notifications, yet no matter how often, or how quickly, I check, there is always something new requiring a response. Click, click, click, I go, zipping in and out accounts, around and around again, hoping to achieve the holy grail of being entirely up-to-date with all personal messages.

Duplicates of these feed into a dedicated Gmail account, which has helped a little: at least I can read everything in one place, even if it's a never-ending race to keep that Inbox empty. By the time I've double deleted messages from the Bin, another has usually arrived, which leaves me feeling like Sisyphus repeatedly pushing his rock uphill.

And, each time I empty the Bin, Google challenges me 'Who needs to delete when you have so much storage?!' I do, Google, because there is something immensely satisfying, to an ordered soul like mine, in reading the words '0 GB (0%) of 15 GB used'.

Of course, many people without my type of personality find themselves addicted to social media. That need to know and to share everything, that fear of missing out and of not making our own presence felt in the world; it's a modern ailment. In fact, I'd say there's a little bit of the obsessive in almost everybody caught in the social media web.


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I have problems sometimes too with the feeling that I have to keep up with everything and everyone, including the news. I can't keep up with everything, of course. And I tired of the stress it was causing me. So I've tried to keep things more manageable.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can really relate to this. At some point, however, I just realized I couldn't keep up with it all. But those rare times when I do get through everything, it sure feels great :)!

Helen Barbour said...

Tina and ocdtalk, thanks for your comments. It's the classic first world problem of information overload, isn't it? Seems that sometimes modern technology makes more problems for us than it solves...