Moving on from social media


By Adam Earnheardt

Editor’s note: This is part two of an interview.

Facebook, Twitter and other platforms know they have a retention problem.

People are taking breaks from social media. Others have abandoned it all together.

On Monday, Twitter began enforcing new rules that would eliminate some forms of speech as well as violent and abusive tweets, logos and images.

This announcement comes on heels of criticism from a former Facebook executive who claimed the social media giant was harming society, and that users should take a break from the platform.

Before I start a five-day social media fast over the holiday break, I had questions about what to expect. I turned to writer and reporter James Swift, who left social media permanently, and wrote about his experiences:

Q. What did your friends say when you left social media?

A. I received a few emails asking if everything was OK, but the majority of my social media acquaintances probably didn’t even realize or care I disappeared. And that sort of proves the inherent irony of the term “social media.”

Virtually “de-personing” myself didn’t mean anything to my closest friends, because the bulk of our interaction was one-to-one anyway. As it turns out, the people I lost contact with were people I didn’t really enjoy being around to begin with – individuals I’m fairly certain were using the platform as a means of social surveillance, not social interaction.

I have gotten a lot of emails from people who have read some of my articles about the ills of social media, and two intriguing themes emerged.

Younger generations seem to view social media as passe. Having been raised in the web as opposed to with it, they have a deep desire to disconnect from the internet hive-mind. They want anonymity, as apparent by their preference for platforms such as 4Chan, Reddit and YouTube.

But older generations seem to view it as a necessary evil, this thing they hate but can’t escape. They’re aware of the deleterious effects of social media, but it’s almost like they are addicted to it.

I’ve even had a few people ask me for tips on “breaking the habit,” so to speak.

Q. Do you ever foresee a time when you might return to social media?

A. I’ll never use social media as a personal user. That includes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The frank reality is that I don’t want to be assailed by a parade of opinions I never solicited. If I’ve learned one thing from my social media detox, it’s that privacy feels fantastic.

Instead of having to worry about your personal brand and fighting the latest moral crusade for whatever sociopolitical issue you think will get you the most retweets, you can actually kick back and enjoy your own personal experiences.

Read Swift’s works at uncommonjournalism.blogspot.com and thoughtcatalog.com, including his new book coming in 2018.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn. Have a column idea? Email him at acearnheardt@gmail.com.

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