But I have been scaling back my use of it.
It began, quite inadvertently and unconsciously, over the holiday break when I realized that there were days where I didn’t post – or even check – a FaceTwitLinkFlickagram feed. Which was unusual.
As I reflected on my use of social media in the past year, I realized that my use of social media had amped up in 2016, especially Facebook. I was spending a lot of mindless time on FB and it was making me feel anxious and stressed. The intense heated rhetoric leading up to the US election on both FB and Twitter didn’t help and I was feeling compelled to be on SM a lot. It wasn’t until the holiday break when I went days without checking and posting that I realized just how much SM was stressing me out.
So, as a new year begins, I am trying to be more mindful of my use of social media. FB and Twitter don’t sit open on my computer. I only check once or twice a day, usually when someone tags me as I have disabled most notifications on my devices to help curb the Pavlovian response. I am only on for a few moments at a time, check notifications, and then pop off. I am not automatically sharing photos or stories I read, despite actually doing more reading, albeit in physical and not digital form. Getting a daily physical newspaper has been the way I have been keeping and mitigating the FOMO for larger issues, although I know I am missing details of friends lives. However, overall, I feel less tense and stressed, more focused on my immediate surroundings and find I am actually not missing SM all that much.
The one bit that does cause me a bit of angst is that I have spent the past 10 years building a professional digital identity using social media. Although my network and SM use has never been written into a formal job description (in fact, in the early days just the opposite where my use of SM was viewed by some colleagues with F.U.D.), I know that my use of social media is a big component of my professional work and a significant part of the value I bring to the different groups I am involved with. It does cause me some tension when I know that there are things I should be sending to my network and, even though there is no formal expectation from the people I work with that I amplify stuff, I do feel an unspoken (and largely self-induced) expectation that I be engaged. I am not sure if/how I should communicate this scaling back to people in my network, which is why I am writing this blog post that (ironically) most of you will read after I post it to my various social media networks.
I suspect I am not alone in this uncomfortable feeling. I have consciously chosen to blur the lines between my personal and professional life by being engaged on SM as me. It still feels like the most genuine way to use social media. But I do wonder if, by choosing to scale back my use of social media, it may somehow impact me professionally.
I am especially aware of this as I head into teaching a course at Royal Roads University that begins in a few weeks. If there was ever a time I would want to actually ramp up my social media use to model network learning principles to learners, now would be the time.
Also adding to my apprehension about scaling back my use of social media is the fact that my daughter is turning 13 and wants to begin engaging with social media. One of the rules we have always had about her SM use is that when she starts to engage, she needs to have me in her network at least until she gets the lay of land. So, my feeling that I need to scale back on my SM use comes at an awkward time, both personally and professionally.
All this is to say, you are likely not seeing quite as much of me out there on FaceTwitLinkFlickagram and that is intentional. At any given moment, I’ll likely scale it back up. But for now, I’m ok with sitting on the side for a bit as I rebalance and try to find a new equilibrium.
I am also curious as to whether you feel this tension as well. When you have completely blurred the lines between professional and personal on SM, do you feel pressure to continue being fully engaged on SM even when you don’t want to? When your personal wants a break? How do you handle it, and do you communicate with your network that you are scaling back?