My relationship status with social media is: It’s complicated. I’ve hit a crossroads with social media where the people I know in real life no longer have anything surprising to say in person, and those I follow because I find them interesting are becoming brand sponsors. While the convenience of social media is real, there’s a lot that continues to prove itself fake.
One of my biggest problems right now is that the line between branded content and user generated content is getting thinner, as I see hobbyists I follow creep into influencer status and begin promoting brands. This means every post becomes an internal debate—did they post this because they enjoy it, or because they were paid to. Add the numerous new sneaky hashtags surrounding sponsored posts such as “hosted” rather than “ad” and you start getting a frustrating situation.
As massive as the surge of influencers is, I can’t help but have something against it at this point—I’m tired of watching people turn into advertisements. Social media has become irrelevant to me the same way cable TV did. I’m not there to browse channels I somewhat like hoping to see something good between the commercials. So, the next step is obvious—walk away.
Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, time to just pack my bags and go back to having an incorporeal presence online. Once the task was complete—after several googles to find under what ridiculous setting they all hid the disable account button—I was free from the noise. And within hours, the texts started to roll in.
“Did you block me?”
“Are you ok?”
“Where is your Insta?”
“I’m going to miss watching your trips…”
Remaining vigilant, I simply expressed my need to take a break from the bubble—something many people understood but none felt compelled to join in. So I continued onward, no social media, no more branded posts, no more miniscule life updates from friends and acquaintances. No more behind the scenes of artists I follow. No more update posts about their web stores. No more access to special sales from the small brands I love…
And here we are, in Act 3, at another crossroads. Staring at my phone, realizing I’ve not only rid myself of the worst parts of social media—I’ve accidentally removed myself from the best parts. Social media may have been designed around connecting people, but as ecommerce grew and websites shrank it has become a new frontier for small brands, artists, and service providers to keep their loyal fans engaged.
You know where this is going—so I’ll beat you to the punch. I made it 20 hours—and at hour 21, upon realizing it takes too much effort to pull out my phone, look up a contact, text, insert the gif, and send, I signed back into Messenger to simply tell someone “I’m breaking my rules, because it takes too much effort to be snarky through texts.”
I didn’t make a grand return due to my need to be connected—I did it because, at the end of the day, the confluence of access and convenience for both people and brands is becoming too great to walk away from. When brands begin to only use social media as a storefront, and instant messaging becomes your primary communication platform with friends, you realize you’re not just cutting yourself off from “the bubble.” You’re cutting yourself off from knowledge.
And it is here, in the last week of January, that I finally figure out what my New Year’s resolution is. Only focus on content that matters; step away from content that doesn’t. There’s too much content out there—good and bad, branded and non-branded, to ever fully engage with, so just pick out the important parts. Even if that means sacrificing an influencer follow…or fifty.