A Digitial Declutter: The Background

pablo (41).png

Join me for a trip down social media memory lane.

First, there was Friendster (does anyone else remember that?). I’m pretty sure the site consisted of making a basic profile and finding your friends’ profiles. There was also Xanga, which was one of the first blogging sites. Then came MySpace and the stress of choosing your Top 8.

Once they tanked, though, Facebook came along, which I couldn’t join until I was in graduate school with a .edu email address. All we could do was to speak about ourselves in the third person and ‘poked’ people.

Then Instagram hit the scene and all you could do was post pictures with really bad filters. There were no stories, no DMs, no comments, no ads, and no ownership by Facebook. At about the same time, I signed up for Twitter before hashtags became popular.

Things started to snowball. We moved to Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, Periscope, Snapchat, Vero (which was popular for a weekend), KIK, Yik Yak, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Medium, and Marco Polo. I’m sure there are countless others that young people are using which I know nothing about.  

It’s barely been 10 years since social media hit the scene. The majority of my life, I didn’t use nor had any need for social media. I had many other forms of media and plenty of space to be social without the use of technology.

But there’s been a shift in how we use and react to social media.

We’re tethered to our devices. Perhaps you could say we are enslaved to them like the podcast episode, A Cellular Exodus, does. Most of us pick up our phones 6-7 times an hour with an average of over four hours using our phones. Our bodies now experience phantom vibrations falsely thinking we got a notification. We feel an underlying sense of anxiety when we forget our phones at home or if we don’t get an immediate reply to our post.

Places where we once went to people watch (airports or parks for instance) we only watch our phones. If you take a moment to notice, we are all looking down at our phones. At intermission of a theatrical performance, I attended recently, I looked around and the majority of people were looking at their phones. As I walk across the campus at work, most of our students are looking down. When going out to dinner, countless kids are sitting with their families watching an iPad as their parents talk.

Now that technology and social media has been out long enough, we are finally starting to the positive and negative impacts of if. Studies are now conclusively showing that the more people use social media, the less happy they are, the more anxious they are, and the more depressed they become.

Personally, I’ve been questioning the value of social media. Is the time spent on it worth it? Do it significantly add value to my life? Is it keeping me from being productive in any other area? Am I a better human because of it? Am I aware of how social media makes me feel while I am using it? Or am I caught in a trap of mindless scrolling and numbing liking and retweeting?

In the coming few posts, I’ll be sharing about my 40-day “Digitial Declutter” from all social media and optional technologies, how it has impacted my personal and professional life, and what changes I will be making in the weeks ahead.

Stay tuned for what’s next. And if you’re still using social media, go ahead and like, share, or retweet it.

Nathan Albert