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Social Media: Use It, Don’t Abuse It

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02/06/2014

Social Media: Use It, Don’t Abuse It photo 1

“Use TIME’s calculator to see just how many days of your life have been lost to this ten-year-old.” 

This was the headline that extended across my computer screen last week. One of my friends sent me a post from Time Tech with a calculator that computes how much time you have wasted on Facebook in the past 10 years. The device, called the Facebook Time Machine, was shared with the world one week prior to Facebook’s 10th birthday, which we “celebrated” on Tuesday. I decided to let this machine calculate how much of my life had been spent reviewing pictures from the past weekend, posting links on my friends’ walls, and reading statuses that either make me laugh or question the person’s sanity (usually the latter). The results were not even a little pretty.  

According to this website, I had wasted 79 days, 20 hours, and 10 minutes on Facebook since 2006. This was based off of me averaging less than an hour a day on Facebook. “Facebook is 3,649 days old. You've belonged for 2,878 of them and posted 13,101 things to your feed in that time.” 

Yikes.

Take a moment to process that information. Think of everything I could have done with all of that time. What do I have to show for these wasted days? There is an old adage from Bertrand Russell – “the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time,” but I am certain that the large amount of time that I have spent on social media hasn’t all been enjoyable. Sure, it has its moments: playing catch-up with old friends, accessing news fast, seeing moments captured that you wouldn’t otherwise see, etc. Social media platforms make it easy to view what you want to in a quick and streamlined manner. 

That being said, it also leads you to access things that you wish you never saw, some of which personally makes my skin crawl. I never want to insult anyone’s creativity or freedom to share his or her thoughts (anyone could be reading this and thinking the same thing about me, though I really hope you aren’t), but I think there is a certain point where it is just too much (or in some cases, not enough).

In my mind, the two biggest problems with social media (ab)use is redundancy and the depth (or lack thereof) of content, which contributes to oversharing. I don’t want to see 20 plus screenshots of the iPhone weather app or the temperature gage in your car each day. I know it’s ridiculously cold and that no sane person wants to deal with this weather. I am also aware that professional sports teams play games quite frequently. Posting the name of the team you root for without any other pertinent information doesn’t prove your fandom; rather, it suggests a lack of deeper knowledge of the team or sport. Quality is much more important than quantity in this sense. If you have something witty, aesthetically pleasing, or thought-provoking to share about a general topic, I don’t see anything wrong with sharing – within moderation. It’s not absurd to post a picture of the most beautifully presented and delicious stack of pancakes you ever tasted, but if you catalog every meal on social media, it’s likely to annoy some people.

Just as generic, unoriginal posts can become irritating, sharing content that goes way too far in detail about your personal life, struggles, etc. can also be a source of frustration. I understand that some people feel it’s a viable outlet for their complaints, but what happened to the good, old-fashioned heart-to-heart with a friend? I understand that receiving validation for your thoughts and experiences has appeal. The wasted time I have allegedly spent on Facebook in the past eight years alone makes me a contributor to the problem, both as a validator and someone who wants to feel validated. I could email this very blog to my closest family and friends, but you better bet that I am going post it on Facebook and Twitter so more people see it and hopefully share it.

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I might sound hypocritical, but the difference is that I try to use discretion in the types of things that I share to a network that is comprised of countless people I don’t know that well. I have trouble understanding why some people choose to share sagas containing highly personal information to a network of acquaintances instead of with someone with whom they have a deep personal connection.

I know at times I need to take my own advice, but I urge everyone to think for a moment before posting something online. When someone looks at your handle on any social media platform, it is, quite basically, a summary of you: your thoughts, experiences, passions, etc. Do you really want to be thought of as that guy our gal who posts “ughhhhhh” or “Go BuLLzzzzz” once a week? Probably not. Try to channel these instincts into picking up a phone or meeting a friend in person to share your excitement or grievances. Save the social media over-sharing for the times when it’s appropriate: huge life accomplishments, the occasional crowdsourcing, and extraordinary out-of-the box experiences, like when the Cubs (eventually) win the World Series. On that day, I won’t even care if you choose to share a screenshot of the weather.

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