I have been a social media user for about 8 or 9 years now. I used to use it because it was new and fun and all the cool kids did it. I used to play online games like scrabble in the days when I had spare time and no spare kids! Now that I have spare kids and little to no spare time, I find it an easy way to stay in touch and stay connected with friends, especially those further afield (useful since I have lived in 3 cities). It’s also a quick way for me to arrange in real life catch ups, and open or continue discussions related to in real life meet ups post hoc. I also find it an effective means of staying abreast of what is happening in the world and locally. As a busy person, I don’t get time to watch or even listen to the news regularly so I generally hear about things via social media and then further investigate online as required.
I have been observing social media too, more so in the last 3 years. There are obviously algorithms for what I see on my news feeds (regardless of how I set it up even), which ads show if I don’t use an ad blocker, which posts are “suggested” for me, which friends I see the most of, and the list goes on. To be honest, I find the filtering aspect annoying and scary in equal measure. Even though I get the idea of how it all works, why it is used, and even though I know it is programme derived and driven (ie not human operated), it still feels like someone out there is trying to brainwash me, or decide who my friends are, or sway my opinion, or affirm what I believe in*, just to keep me “using”.
I see photos of peoples’ kids who are the same age as mine, martial arts related posts, posts of my friends that mutual friends have commented on, pro-vegan sites, food porn and recipes, ads for things I have bought in the past, healthy lifestyle pages, positive life quotes, word nerd-isms, cats (I seem to have a lot of friends with cats….and evidently cats breed more cats on social media!!), choral and musical event pages, and the list goes on.
It’s not what I do see that worries me, and I can (and have) hidden things / un-followed and even blocked people whose posts are intrusive, inappropriate, or just plain weird or uncomfortable; I have even blocked people who seem to have been cyber stalking me.
It’s what I don’t see that gives me cause for concern. I seem to see less and less of single friends, older friends, friends with adult children, friends who don’t have children, friends who I don’t sing with or train with, friends with whom I perhaps have deeper connections than merely demographics, connections that social media filtering doesn’t capture. Equally, these friends probably don’t see much of me (unless I actively seek them out and post on their walls, which I do from time to time), but somehow I feel like I am being pushed away from these friends, who form part of the fabric of my life so far. They are being pushed out of sight, but, despite the effort it takes, I am desperately trying for them not to be pushed out of mind.
My news feed feels like only part of a puzzle, and only a small representation of my world. I want to see everything. I want the good, the bad, the ugly. I want the past, the present and the future. I want to remember who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming.
Social media seems to be weaving an even tighter web via filtering which limits what I want from it. I have thought about closing my social media accounts on several occasions and also about reducing my reliance on them. Unfortunately I am well and truly trapped in the web and until my life gets considerably less busy and complicated, and / or human social interaction becomes more social and less media based again (I can’t see this happening), I will have to stick to social media.
“What a tangled web we weave……..”
*or occasionally not, like odd posts with the word vegan in them that are highly offensive to vegans; when the fallibilities of a computer programme become obvious.