Love it or Leave it

I had a very interesting discussion yesterday about social media and how difficult it can be if you don’t want to use it or feel that it is unnecessary in your life. Responses to conversations like this with those who do use it (and love it a lot) often include denial, anger, and bargaining. I have to admit that my decision to participate in social media has brought me through most of the seven stages of the Kübler-Ross model and I now sit firmly between depression and acceptance.

For the record, I think that this is an exceptionally good place to have landed. Through my class work, more on-the-side activity and by opening myself up to the opportunities, challenges and dangers of these networks, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of the factors at play in this relatively new online environment. What I’ve discovered has both delighted and disturbed me. I’ve gone from lurker to participant in 10 short weeks. I’ve started, stopped, turned around, re-started and duplicated many of my efforts, all for pragmatic reasons, because this is the way I learn. The environment and infrastructure has allowed me the flexibility to do this and all I’ve given up is my personal data, which I’m pretty sure I had already given up in the first place.

I have read a few articles this week that have illustrated the wonderful variety of emotions toward social media. These range from those who have given it up, like Jordan Turgeon in his piece I Quit Social Media (And I Don’t Miss it Yet), to Kevin Allen’s Why I Love Social Media. In between are so many shades that it is exceptionally difficult to find common ground, which forces you to take a stand, no matter what that stand might be. Mine is reluctant acceptance, mostly due to inquisitiveness. I understand the benefits and I weigh the risks. Since I have chosen to study in this field, I don’t feel that I can do that effectively while standing on the sidelines. However, I can certainly participate in such a way that I am fully aware, and capable of helping others to be so, of the privacy and surveillance issues that we should all be discussing.

Now, for those of you who are dead-set against social media, I don’t think you can get away anymore with knowing nothing about its inner workings. Please take heed of the wisdom of Sun Tzu and “know your Enemy.” There’s a very quick blogpost by Allison in the RoundPeg.biz site that nicely lays out what you should know about social media even if you never intend to use it. We’re well past the point where ignorance can be considered bliss and that ignorance may turn out to be more dangerous than you realize.

I’m not sure if this picture could be a sunrise or it could be a sunset. This is how I’m feeling about social media after all of this experimentation:

SunriseSunset - Michael L Baird (flickr cc) http://flic.kr/p/dzvJyg

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8 responses to “Love it or Leave it

  1. Interesting; at dinner on Friday, two social media fans (me, and my friend Marc) were trying to explain why Twitter is great and more than just a place to put extra Facebook statuses. Marc explained stuff like getting news and hashtags for searchability, but I tried to add the really important element: conversation. I even showed her one I had with @yegmagpie. At the end, she agreed it was more than Facebook, but was still not sure if it would meet any more needs than her Instagram. And I, well, did an inner facepalm about Instagram, because I think it’s this: #selfie #nofilter #notrelated #youcantevensearchthis #imactuallywearingmakeupthough #icantthinkofmorebutiknowtheredbemore. So I guess I’m in the sunrise/set position, too.

    • Yes, there are social implications attached to our use of various platforms. I share your instagram perceptions but also feel like facebook is a bit too personal and that tweeting, taken individually, doesn’t really allow for a good public debate. Although I see many benefits and appreciate the ability to use technology to sort and filter these conversations, I’m not convinced that the majority of users are interested in using the tools for constructive purposes.

  2. So you are past the first stage of denial and now onto acceptance. I’ll go with your image as a sunrise and think of it as a new beginning. Just don’t get blinded by the beauty and keep your eyes opened…

    • I think my foray into acceptance will only go so far. I will always be more cautious with online interaction. I am, by nature, cautious and not prone to public spaces. A lot of what I’ve been learning over the last year has increased my understanding of the very real issues facing unfettered online interaction.

  3. I’m always curious as to why participating in social media has this effect on some people? Is it the whole having your info/life online, or the time commitment, or the worry that it’s hard to understand all the inner workings of each media, or a combo? I’ve seen lots of people express similar “Kübler-Ross model” responses, but I always wonder, why they feel that way?

    • I think that any major change in one’s social environment comes with this type of emotional process. It’s compounded by the fact that there is a tremendous amount of pressure, on each side of the debate. If you decide not to engage in social media, what are you missing out on. If you decide to engage in social media, what is your time-commitment, what are the privacy stakes, etc.

  4. Great post – thanks for sharing your rocky journey!

  5. Great post Sean! I feel like I was one social media user before MACT and I’m a different social media user now. While I am a digital immigrant, though having worked in web for almost 20 years, I feel I’m re-learning the online environment. I don’t know that bloging is my thing yet – not sure I’ll keep it up past this class – but I am re-learning and kinda lovin’ Twitter. Kinda. I think this course in particular got me thinking more about the ‘networks’ created by social media and the new space it’s created in society. Not sure if any of that made sense, but am certainly a new type of social media user since last May.

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