I've been slowly going through the Headspace meditation pack on anxiety, and one of the things it emphasizes is not trying to get rid of anxiety but trying to change one's relationship with it.
Similarly, I think I need to change my relationship with social media. And that requires me to think about what that relationship has looked like and currently looks like, and what I would want it to look like in an ideal world.
-----Needs that social media currently meets really well:
1. Fun. I read a handful of comics through DW; I follow a number of really wonderful weird, funny, cute, and random Twitter accounts that brighten my day. Even if I stopped using social media for actual socializing, I'd still employ it as an aggregator of niftiness.
2. Chronicling my life. Most of this has been happening on Twitter of late, but I'm finding that increasingly unsatisfying, and drifting back toward more long-form (searchable, taggable) journaling. Either way, though, public online autobiographical narration works far far better for me than any private diary ever has.
Hilariously, neither of these things is actually social
. One is almost pure input, and the other is almost pure output (with occasional replies/comments on both sides). But social media coincidentally does them really well!Needs that social media meets but with some problems:
3. Keeping up with news and gossip. The news is almost always bad news, and there's a lot of it, and I'm finding bad news especially taxing right now--but I also don't want to be totally out of the loop, and if a close friend is personally having a hard time I want to know about it and be able to support them. I think I want a weekly newsletter/digest version of my social media feeds, where I can mostly not think about it and just check in occasionally to find out what's going on. Alas, no such thing exists.Needs that social media no longer meets well:
4. Building and maintaining connections with people I know. A lot of people have abandoned LJ/DW, despite periodic attempts to revive them. Twitter's signal-to-noise ratio is increasingly poor. And I've already, with no particular agenda in mind, started finding other ways to stay in touch with people. I have biweekly Skype dates with Miriam and karenbynight
sent me a random email a few weeks ago that's turned into a lovely leisurely back-and-forth chat about whatever's on our minds. grahamsleight
often IMs me. I hang out on IRC with J and X. Perhaps it's time to actively seek similar alternative routes of direct connection with the people I would miss most if I were to step away from social media altogether (which I don't plan to do, but it's a useful way of prioritizing).Needs I used to meet with social media but don't currently have:
5. Getting to know people I don't already know. I have very little room in my life for new people, and I'm okay with that.
6. Social activism, i.e., advocating for change within my communities (as opposed to local/regional/national/global politics). It frankly feels too scary to be a loudmouth right now. I know that drinking from the firehose of bad news is influencing that feeling, so once I'm no longer swimming in other people's misery I might be able to regroup and figure out new ways to be an activist, but at the moment I'm not inclined to try.
Looking at that list, I think the major clash is between items 3 and 4. Twitter's biggest problem by far is that news and personal chatter all happen in the same place, almost inextricably. And if I can't handle the news, I don't get the personal chatter. (LJ/DW doesn't have this problem because I don't hang out on it the way I do on Twitter. I used to, but no one updates that much anymore. Plus the balance on LJ/DW is tilted much more toward the personal than toward the news, and I find it much easier to scroll past things I don't want to read.)
Fortunately, there are some technological solutions to some of these problems. Here's my plan for getting social Twitter without newsy Twitter:
* Switching from Hootsuite to Tweetdeck so that I can mute keywords, combine columns, and mute RTs on entire columns.
* Creating a "people I read regularly" list on @rosefox. Right now I use my @rjfprivate follow list for this, but I think I want the option of expanding my reading without giving more people access to my locked account.
* Only following people who mostly tweet about their personal lives and chat with other people I follow.
I've made the switch to Tweetdeck, and turned off RTs and image previews on my @rjfprivate home feed. The rest I can do when looking at unfiltered Twitter (so as to pick out the people I want to move to the daily-read list) doesn't make my heart pound.
As for getting the news and gossip I'm now going to be missing out on... honestly, I think I'll be okay. Anything huge and can't-miss will be discussed by and among the people I follow, and I'll see it there. I have some friends who occasionally email or IM me with "Have you heard?", and I can encourage those friends to do so more often if there's something they think I'll really want to know. And otherwise I'll just be somewhat less wired in than I have been, and that's okay.
I have hit the stage of dizzy exhaustion where I have to keep telling myself that it's tiredness and anxiety, not vertigo, so I'm going to wrap this up, take taurine, and go to bed while it's still dark out for a change.