I’m Quitting Social Media”

The only constant in your social presence is you.

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I’m quit­ting social media.”

The oth­er day, I stumbled upon the art­icle “Going Postal — A psy­cho­ana­lyt­ic read­ing of social media and the death drive.”

In the art­icle, the writer Max Read tells us about his rela­tion­ship with social media in light of read­ing “The Twittering Machine” by Richard Seymour. 

And yes, Read tells us that he’s quit­ting social media.

Here we go:

Why Read Is Quitting Social Media

Read’s art­icle is well-writ­ten, both poignant and enter­tain­ing. And he does a tre­mend­ous job of con­vey­ing his think­ing on the sub­ject. The trope “I’ve had enough, and here’s why I’m quit­ting social media” has been an inter­net staple for years, but Read’s take is a classy blend of wit and cool.

Despite dis­agree­ing with Read’s con­clu­sion, I enjoyed the style of the art­icle wholeheartedly:

I quit Twitter and Instagram in May, in the same man­ner I leave parties: abruptly, silently, and much later than would have been healthy. This was sev­er­al weeks into New York City’s lock­down, and for those of us not employed by insti­tu­tions deemed essen­tial — hos­pit­als, pris­ons, meat­pack­ing plants—social­ity was now entirely medi­ated by a hand­ful of tech giants, with no meat­space escape route, and the plat­forms felt par­tic­u­larly, grimly pathet­ic.

Instagram, cut off from a steady sup­ply of vaca­tions and parties and oth­er cov­etable exper­i­ences, had grown unset­tlingly bor­ing, its inhab­it­ants increas­ingly unkempt and wild-eyed, each one like the sole sur­viv­ing astro­naut from a doomed space-col­on­iz­a­tion mis­sion, broad­cast­ing deranged missives about yoga and cook­ing pro­jects into an uncar­ing void. Twitter, on the oth­er hand, felt more like a doomed space-col­on­iz­a­tion mis­sion where every­one had sur­vived but we had to decide who to eat.”

The Reversal of Read’s Argument

My ques­tion: Aren’t the neg­at­ives just as both­er­some for all types of media consumption?

For the sake of such an argu­ment, ima­gine repla­cing social media with tele­vi­sion in Read’s text:

I quit watch­ing tele­vi­sion in May, in the same man­ner I leave parties: abruptly, silently, and much later than would have been healthy. This was sev­er­al weeks into New York City’s lock­down, and for those of us not employed by insti­tu­tions deemed essen­tial — hos­pit­als, pris­ons, meat­pack­ing plants—real­ity was now entirely medi­ated by a hand­ful of broad­cast com­pan­ies, with no meat­space escape route, and the shows felt par­tic­u­larly, grimly pathet­ic.

Day-time tele­vi­sion, cut off from a steady sup­ply of real­ity celebrit­ies and cued stu­dio audi­ences and oth­er cov­etable exper­i­ences, had grown unset­tlingly bor­ing, its inhab­it­ants increas­ingly unkempt and wild-eyed, each one like the sole sur­viv­ing astro­naut from a doomed space-col­on­iz­a­tion mis­sion, broad­cast­ing deranged missives about yoga and cook­ing pro­jects into an uncar­ing void. Late-night tele­vi­sion, on the oth­er hand, felt more like a doomed space-col­on­iz­a­tion mis­sion where every­one had sur­vived but we had to decide who to eat.”

This type of media cri­tique stems from a proud tra­di­tion all the way back to Neil Postman and Pierre Bourdieu. Such an obser­va­tion doesn’t weak­en the cri­tique but hints that this isn’t a new phenomenon. 

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of reas­ons for cut­ting back on tele­vi­sion. My gosh, the amount of tele­vised crap is staggering.

However, con­text does mat­ter; if you think binge-watch­ing day­time tele­vi­sion instead of going to work and get­ting a healthy amount of exer­cise makes you worse, then you’re prob­ably right. 

There’s No Information Overload

If you’re unhappy with what you’re read­ing and see­ing on Instagram and Twitter, you’re simply mis­us­ing them. The same goes for YouTube, Twitch, Quora, Pinterest, and TikTok.

Even Google’s search engine has a social com­pon­ent; stop search­ing for (and click­ing on) crap, and the social media algorithm will bet­ter under­stand that you’re a ser­i­ous per­son who wants ser­i­ous search results.

There is no inform­a­tion over­load, only fil­ter fail­ure.”
— Clay Shirky

Quitting social media (or tele­vi­sion) cold tur­key isn’t neces­sar­ily the obvi­ous solu­tion to your problems.

I’m not act­ively try­ing to be an asshole here. There’s a case to be made that many people are ill-equipped to man­age their social media feeds. Many of us don’t have the sens­ib­il­it­ies to man­age these “new” tech­no­lo­gies — at least not yet. 

I agree that the eco­sys­tem with inter­con­nec­ted devices, big data, and dopam­ine-trig­ger­ing noti­fic­a­tions is more addict­ive and access­ible than tele­vi­sion ever. Just like tele­vi­sion was so much harder to res­ist than radio. 

You’re Not Supposed To React To Everything

In 1998, while play­ing around with my Nokia 1611 dur­ing class, my his­tory teach­er gently reminded me that the most sig­ni­fic­ant dis­ad­vant­age of being a slave was that they were always accessible. 

Maybe this is a cru­cial point. 

It might be that some gen­er­a­tions have yet to under­stand that you’re not sup­posed to reply to all emails, com­ments, phone calls, text mes­sages, and DMs. The mind­set, ”Oh, I got a DM; it might be import­ant,” will pull any­one into digit­al enslavement.

If you try to con­tact someone who isn’t paid to answer and you can­not pass through their fil­ters, it’s not on the recip­i­ent for “not pick­ing up”. It’s on you — the sender. If not, your inbox and your feeds will become every­one else’s agenda for your time — if you let it.

  • It’s a grow­ing social imbal­ance of loneli­ness. Influencers are in your social circles, but you’re not in theirs.

In our wired world, when any­one can so quickly con­tact any­one any­where and at scale, it’s just dif­fer­ent now. I even have a per­son­al phone policy to that effect.

If you’re a Fortnite stream­er using the Twitch social plat­form, there are built-in func­tions to allow the audi­ence to pay for a chance of get­ting the stream­er to notice your mes­sages. And oth­er social plat­forms (even Facebook) fol­low suit by imple­ment­ing new ways for influ­en­cers to get paid.

We’ve gone from “Thanks for call­ing” to “Thanks for replying.”

Who’s the Bigger Fool?

This reversal might seem absurd to some, but the under­ly­ing logic is evid­ent to most inter­net-savvy demographics.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t an older-people-just-don’t‑get-it rant. That would be unfair. Those who grew up without social media have no play­book and, more import­antly, no older gen­er­a­tions to learn from.

Max Read goes on to write:

These people, with their just-ask­ing ques­tions and vap­id open let­ters, are dullards and bores, pet­ti­fog­gers and casu­ists, cow­ards and dis­sem­blers, time-wasters of the worst sort.”

If this is true, and it might well be, what do we call those who allow time-wasters to invade their social feeds? I don’t have any big words, but fools come to mind.

We must man­age our social feeds, DMs, and inboxes. Otherwise, they will man­age us.

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PR Resource: Social Media Sharing

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Why We Share on Social Media

People want to be loved; fail­ing that admired; fail­ing that feared; fail­ing that hated and des­pised. They want to evoke some sort of sen­ti­ment. The soul shud­ders before obli­vi­on and seeks con­nec­tion at any price.”
— Hjalmar Söderberg (1869−1941), Swedish author

When we share on social media, we share for a reas­on. And that reas­on typ­ic­ally has some­thing to do with ourselves:

  • We share to make ourselves look smart.
  • We share to fit in and to stand out.
  • We share to express individuality.
  • We share to belong to our in-group.
  • We share to be loved.
  • We share to pro­voke reac­tions for atten­tion.
  • We share to extract sympathy.
  • We share to make us feel bet­ter about ourselves.
  • We share to get ahead.
  • We share to grow an audience.
  • We share to com­pensate for our shortcomings.
  • We share to get the respect we need.

If you can get social media to work for you, great. But you should also be mind­ful not to let the pres­sure get the bet­ter of you.

A status update with no likes (or a clev­er tweet without retweets) becomes the equi­val­ent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewrit­ten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to con­form to the opin­ions of those around us.”
— Neil Strauss, Wall Street Journal

Learn more: The Narcissistic Principle: Why We Share on Social Media

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PR Resource: Social Media Logic

Social Media Logic - Doctor Spin - Public Relations Blog
Social media logic is driv­en by algorithms.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Social Media Logic

Media logic is a set of the­or­ies describ­ing how the medi­um affects the media. Typically, the format (as the medi­um dic­tates) influ­ences the medi­ated message.

Media logic is defined as a form of com­mu­nic­a­tion, and the pro­cess through which media trans­mit and com­mu­nic­ate inform­a­tion. The logic and guidelines become taken for gran­ted, often insti­tu­tion­al­ized, and inform social inter­ac­tion. A basic prin­ciple is that media, inform­a­tion tech­no­lo­gies, and com­mu­nic­a­tion formats can affect events and social activ­it­ies.“
Source: The International Encyclopedia of Political Communication 1Altheide, D. L. (2016). Media Logic. The International Encyclopedia of Political Communication, 1 – 6. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​2​/​9​7​8​1​1​1​8​5​4​1​5​5​5​.​w​b​i​e​p​c​088

As fam­ously stip­u­lated by Marshall McLuhan, “The medi­um is the mes­sage.” What are the typ­ic­al media logic effects on medi­ated messages?

Classic Media Logic Effects

Media logic is hypo­thes­ised to influ­ence the news media in the fol­low­ing ways: 2Nord, L., & Strömbäck, J. (2002, January). Tio dagar som skakade världen. En stud­ie av medi­ernas beskrivningar av ter­ror­at­tack­erna mot USA och kri­get i Afghanistan hösten 2001. … Continue read­ing

  • Aggravation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will exag­ger­ate events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them seem more ser­i­ous and/​or dan­ger­ous than they are.
  • Simplification. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will dumb down events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them seem more under­stand­able than they are.
  • Polarisation. Because of media logic, the news media por­trays events, con­cepts, and ideas as more conflicting/​provocative than they are.
  • Intensification. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will sen­sa­tion­al­ise events, con­cepts, and ideas to make them more inter­est­ing than they are.
  • Concreteness. Because of media logic, news media will report events, con­cepts, and ideas more straight­for­wardly than they are.
  • Personalisation. As a res­ult of media logic, the news media will over-emphas­ise the role of named indi­vidu­als in con­junc­tion with events, con­cepts, and ideas.
  • Stereotypisation. Because of media logic, the news media frames events, con­cepts, and ideas as more aligned with con­ven­tion­al perceptions/​opinions than they are.

The effects of the above media logic can also be recog­nised in social media. Still, social net­work algorithms seem to add even more effects:

Social Media Logic Effects

Social media logic, rooted in pro­gram­mab­il­ity, pop­ular­ity, con­nectiv­ity, and datafic­a­tion, is increas­ingly entangled with mass media logic, impact­ing vari­ous areas of pub­lic life.”
Source: Writing Technologies eJournal 3Dijck, J., & Poell, T. (2013). Understanding Social Media Logic. Writing Technologies eJournal. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​7​6​4​5​/​M​A​C​.​V​1​I​1​.70

Based on the sug­ges­ted addi­tions for social plat­forms, we can add four extra dimen­sions to the clas­sic media logic effects model:

  • Programmability. Social media logic enables and encour­ages users to cre­ate and manip­u­late con­tent, lead­ing to a tailored por­tray­al of events, con­cepts, and ideas that might not fully rep­res­ent reality.
  • Popularity. Driven by social media logic, con­tent that gains ini­tial pop­ular­ity can dis­pro­por­tion­ately influ­ence pub­lic per­cep­tion, regard­less of accur­acy or completeness.
  • Connectivity. Social medi­a’s inter­con­nec­ted nature, rein­forced by social media logic, facil­it­ates the rap­id spread of inform­a­tion, often without suf­fi­cient veri­fic­a­tion, lead­ing to a dis­tor­ted under­stand­ing of events and ideas.
  • Datafication. The social media logic of con­vert­ing inter­ac­tions into data points emphas­ises quan­ti­fi­able aspects of events, con­cepts, and ideas, poten­tially over­look­ing their qual­it­at­ive nuances.

Social media logic seems entangled with clas­sic media logic. While more com­plex, social net­works seem to amp­li­fy the effects of clas­sic media logic.

Learn more: Social Media Logic: The Amplification of Media Effects

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has

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