I recently took an accidental “social media break”. There were no deadlines or rules involved. Instead, well, I rather fell into the rhythm of not checking apps and caring even less than usual to see photographs of what someone ate for breakfast.
You see, despite my profession, I’m quite anti social platforms. In the sense that I don’t like what they stand for, I don’t like the way they’ve changed the world and I certainly don’t like that I can no longer look around a room and see a single person without a phone in their hands. As for my profession, well herein lies the problem. Because I’ve been the graphic designer responsible for creating social marketing campaigns and graphics, because I’ve been the marketing manager looking after social accounts and planning engaging content for lead generation, and because as a combination of these things I know about social media’s real workings – its ins and outs – exactly what adverts allude to, how they are run, the nuts and bolts etc, well I think it puts me in a difficult position. Certainly in a different position to a “typical” user. Compare me to a prolific teenage user: they know a lot about social media these days, but what they know is, I’m sure, very surface level. It would be uncommon for the average user to understand business implications, the ways in which to work with an influencer, how algorithms are built. Do they see and feel the shallowness of social media? I bet they do. Because largely I imagine they are adding to it in almost a “keeping up with the Joneses” sense.
So when after a long day at work I decide how to spend an evening, I can honestly say that it’s never ever a consideration to curl up on the sofa and scroll through Instagram. I couldn’t think of anything worse.
I’ve embraced changes in technology because I have to. Not to say I don’t want to – I’m intrigued, believe me – but it’s part and parcel of my job. My own use of social platforms has always surrounded an element of work. Instagram to promote what I do, Twitter to keep an eye on industry news, LinkedIn to display a professional presence. It became a chore rather than a joy. I stopped wanting a quick flick though the latest pictures for travel destination or photography inspiration because I knew they’d all be filtered the same, be by the same groups of people in the same locations, and likely be sponsored in some way. It became apparent that, though I was trying to have a voice and share my own creative outlet, there was little to no room for me to do so because everyone already had their megaphones turned up to the max. The digital world is so saturated.
This blog, my ramblings, writings, designs and images, they are all part of me. Embedded into my DNA. I don’t know how not to create. Interestingly, I realise I don’t have to share it to be satisfied. Sure, it’s nice to know that your work is admired. It’s that pat on the head that everyone needs and likes that says “hey, you’re pretty good at this”. But not being the self-indulgent type, I didn’t want to continue in this domain of ego-stroking and showing off. In the past I’ve shared with integrity and genuine excitement for something I’ve created. This digital absence was actually more profoundly life changing than I first gave it credit for. I felt freed, travelled differently, and most importantly, held on to private moments.
I’m not of the era of tech and social media. I mean, I only missed it by a few years, but it feels so alien to me. My phone is predominantly used for writing lists, keeping appointments, banking, the camera – naturally – and directly chatting with my closest family and friends. I choose to go out into the world and see it through my eyes instead of through a device. I choose to sit across the table and have good food and conversation with good people. I choose to explore, create and still hone my craft and my passions because I want to, not because I have to or have to share it. Half of the social platforms talked about these days I’ve never even used. I’ve never had an interest. I got Facebook as a teenager because that was the done thing. Now, in my mid-twenties, realising I never opened it, I deleted it.
The digital world that society has created insights anxiety in people young and old. There’s a compelling feeling to check in with and be a part of this culture. But what happens if you don’t take part? You get a very significant portion of your life back. Easy for me to say, I remember winding cassettes with a pencil, even harder for the young people of today to do – it’s all they’ve ever known. I worry and I wonder what life will be like for future generations. Will they understand the importance of conversation, of having life experiences without recording them to relive later – the importance of a memory?
Slowly, very slowly, I’m resurfacing. Why? Well, now feels right. I’m the most casual of users, it won’t be every day, it may not be every week, but I’ll dip in and out of digital life when it feels right. The digital doesn’t control me, I control it. When I deem something to be particularly newsworthy, I’ll share it. Will I be setting reminders any more to make sure I make myself check my accounts? Definitely not. If life takes over, good. I’d rather be really living than living through my fingertips.