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Current Thoughts on Social Media

yesterday i read a beautiful email-list-type email from lorde, a musician i love a lot, who’s also in (and from) new zealand. a few years ago, she left social media completely and now just sends a mass email a few times a year. that’s it. in it, she talks about kicking her social media addiction.

i wonder, a lot, about the difference between being addicted to social media, and just needing people.

That’s an excerpt from Amanda Palmer’s recent newsletter/blog. I wouldn’t usually comment on somebody else’s blog, but well. As someone who has been intentionally pulling away from Twitter and trying to critically examine the ways in which I use social media, I guess I have something to say about that.

I think social media use can be healthy, but it isn’t always (and I might be tempted to say that it usually isn’t). I think even unhealthy social media use is probably a form of "just needing people," which is entirely normal and human.

I’d say the way in which we get human interaction matters. Some types of engagement are healthier than others. I’m going to talk about my own experience with social media because y’know, I’m stuck in my own head like everyone else. I only really have my own experience to draw from.

Twitter feels like a total crapshoot. Will I see some cool art? A thread about an important topic that makes me think? An update I want to know about a friend’s life? Maybe! And the times it works like that, I love Twitter! I love when I can have cool conversations, look at great art, learn something, or get book and fic recs.

Is that what’s necessarily what’s going to happen when I log on to Twitter? Ahahahaha. FUCK NO. I’m just as likely to get smacked in the face by something that’s going to make my day worse—by a bit of fannish wank or bigotry that I’d have avoided if people on "my side" weren’t arguing back, by the anger of people I barely know, by bad takes that I don’t like, by exposure to the attention economy that I don’t consent to participate in but which nevertheless finds us all one way or another.

I have a psychologist friend who shared a technique she uses in her practice. When trying to help patients clarify their values, especially when they find themselves in situations that don’t suit them, she asks "what were your good intentions?" What were your good intentions when marrying this person, choosing this job, making this decision?

My intentions are good, when I log onto Twitter, when I engage in any form of social media. I’m trying to find happiness. I’m trying to connect. I’m trying to talk with friends, share the beauty I see around me, make people laugh, and hopefully find some people who want to read the stories I write. Sometimes I get those things. But usually even when I do, they come with a side of everything I don’t want.

I’m happier after mostly disengaging from Twitter. Sometimes I’m lonelier? It’s only been around two weeks, but I feel more disconnected from the fandom I spent a year loving these days. But Twitter isn’t the place for my good intentions. It’s not a place where I think I’ll find the types of human connection that are going to make me truly happy.

So I don’t know. I can’t speak for other people, but I always get the feeling that social media doesn’t make a lot of people very happy. I think there’s a reason that "mental health breaks" from social media are so prevalent. And especially in these times of social distancing, maybe social media is the best we can do some days, but I’m kind of unwilling to give it a pass as a basically harmless outlet for people needing people. "Harmless" feels like giving it too much credit.

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