Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Social Media

I have a laundry list of resolutions I'm hoping to achieve this year that include saving money, getting in better shape, and learning new skills, and so far... well, I've been doing okay, I guess. There have been some hiccups with money, I'm only just getting back into running and fitness after a pretty wonderfully sedentary and indulgent holiday season, and finding the motivation to jump on Duolingo can be a difficult some days, but it's rolling on steadily but surely and I'm dedicated to giving each of my goals a shake.

One thing that I've been doing pretty well with in my 2020 resolutions is "minimizing consumption." This was mainly focused on producing less waste and saving some money in the process; less trash, more cash. For example, I try to bring my secondhand Klean Kanteen to coffee shops instead of using paper cups, use the spork that lives in my work bag instead of disposable cutlery, and buy thrift store swag and wear things I already have instead of getting new clothes. I don't know how much money I've saved, how much garbage I've prevented from entering the waste stream, or if Captain Planet is going to get me a ring and finally make me a Planeteer like I've deserved, but these actions fit with my beliefs and morals and has been pretty neat to work on.

One consumable thing that I hadn't considered when writing that new years resolution, and one that I've taken steps to work on in recent weeks, is one you could probably guess by the title of this post: social media.

At some point after MySpace, I ended up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Untappd, Strava, and others that either are now defunct or I've forgotten about. It's not a bad thing to be connected; I live far away from a lot of my friends so getting to see what they're up to is nice. I also don't get out much so seeing what's up with friends I have nearby is also nice. Having an outlet for my stupid (read: "clever") one-liners, seeing updates on world events, finding communities of people with similar interests, and learning about things I'd never considered or thought about makes being connected on social media platforms worthwhile.

However, I catch myself scrolling aimlessly down my Facebook and Twitter feeds a lot. Pictures of cool dogs on pages like "Dogspotting" and funny articles from satire sites are great, but when I realize I'm just mindlessly thumbing through my timeline, or I catch myself reflexively opening an app to impulsively check for notifications, it reminds me of when I smoked. Years ago I'd think about cutting back but inevitably find myself on my back patio halfway through an American Spirit out of habit. A cup of coffee in the morning or a beer at night meant I was going to spark one up. Getting in my car meant the drivers side window was open a crack and a cigarette was in my mouth. It wasn't that I actually wanted to smoke; I did it habitually. I was addicted. It sucked. Once I quit and realized how much better I felt overall, it was a lot easier to not pick up the habit again. I still think about it two years later, but I'm not about to run to the corner store to pick up a pack anymore.

After thinking how much time I spend online both at home and at work, and considering how divided my attention was from other stuff I'd rather be doing or needed to do, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone-- the two big time sinks of social media for me-- and sequestered my other social media apps in a folder tucked away from my phone's home page. When I'm at a computer I try to meter how much time I spend on any given social media site, and I log out of them before closing their tabs so I have to manually log in every time I want to check my notifications (making them a mild pain in the ass to use is helpful).

The evils of the internet notwithstanding, like social media addiction, data security issues, misinformation and half-truths in news media presented as fact, and the ever-rampant beast known as FOMO, I just want to consume social media more mindfully. I will absolutely heart-react to a picture of an adorable cat if I see one, and I'll definitely watch YouTube videos if I see something that looks interesting, but I'm striving to use these services on my own terms. I'm not trying to be a 21st century Henry David Thoreau, or make my apartment a social media Walden Pond; I just want to be less wasteful and more intentional in my day-to-day life, online and offline.

Hopefully my other 2020 resolutions work out as well as "reduce consumption" has because it's been a good time overall. It's not perfect, but it's a start.