Note: These are raw thoughts and not a PhD thesis, and therefore should be treated as such.
In my opinion, social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and to some extent other microblogging platforms, are underutilised and I think we could gain so much more from using them.
In short, I think that social networks are more enjoyable for everyone when people share everyday life, opinions, ideas, life updates, progress, and real experiences.
I’ve noticed a few things that I think are misconceptions on how we should treat social media:
Every photo needs to be perfect. The background can’t be distracting, you must be in an amazing location, with no mess, and you must also be a professional photographer.
Your thoughts need to fit within the expectations of others.
If you do not provide context, then it is wise to assume the worst possible scenario.
You must treat yourself as a brand.
Sharing a curated feed of your best moments makes you interesting.
While I don’t believe I’m the messiah brought to Earth to fix every problem with social networks, there are a few things that I think we forget when it comes to using them:
We are all real people.
Our lives in most caress are drastically different to what we share online.
Real-life is what other people can relate to.
It’s always seemed fascinating to me how we all seem to understand that social media doesn’t represent real life, but we still get caught up in it. It’s like we’re all wilful subscribers to an alternate reality, where we get triggered by purposefully emotive headlines, opinions that differ from our own, and from people that we do not know.
But imagine if we used social networks to share our real-life experiences. We all have them. We can all see the distinction between what happens in real life and what appears on social media.
I think that is where Micro.blog has felt different to platforms like Twitter for me. In a sense, it feels slower, but at the same time, it feels like you are connecting with real people. Whereas when I use Twitter, most of the time it feels like I’m interacting with an online account rather than the person behind it.
I’ve definitely fallen into the trap before, where I’ve used Twitter as a place to share perfect photos, links to my blog posts, and anything else that can bring external validation. But I think I’m going to try and just use it like a normal person for a while, and see how it goes. Nothing I do is perfect, and it won’t ever become perfect. So the only thing I’d ask is that if you do see me on Twitter, please treat my public posts as coming from a real person, not someone simply out to cause havoc.
So about last night. England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy. That was hard to take.
But what was worse than the loss, was the racial abuse that some young black English players received after the game. The primary targets were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th penalty takers, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who are 23, 21, and 19 years old. Each of them had the courage to step up and take a penalty in a final when the entire country was watching them.
Whatever happened, happened, and Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties.
But what immediately followed were streams of racial abuse on those three players social media accounts. Most of them posted by freshly created accounts, that were created solely to abuse young players that were representing their countries at a major tournament.
And for as many arguments I see and hear about football players “taking the knee” before games, most of them based on being against the BLM organisation itself, and either not agreeing with their politician stances, or just insisting that politics should remain out of sport. Last night was a clear example of why footballers feel that they need to continue with the symbol. Whether or not the gesture is aimed at supporting the BLM organisation itself or a symbol against racism, it’s very much clear that racism well and truly exists within a group of football fans that quickly turn on players after a bad result.
It’s very easy to jump to the opinion that social media accounts should require some form of identification, to try and deter the level of abuse that occurs every day on the platforms. I’m torn because there are a lot of downsides to no longer having anonymity online, but when things like this happen, I start to think is the price that we need to pay? Because something needs to change.
Several organisations and high-profile people have already released statements condemning the abuse, but I’m not sure if they will actually be effective at stopping it from happening again. Sure, it will offer a level of support to the players, but something needs to be implemented so that it’s not that easy to post racial abuse on social networks.
Maybe some will say this is against some kind of free speech rule, but are social media companies not capable of not allowing racist comments to be made? Instead of relying on their reporting tools after such remarks have been posted.
I can only hope that the press that will no doubt be created because of the recent abuse will force the social media companies to start thinking about what else they can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
The idea behind the app is to enforce a few seconds to take a breath before opening a social media app. So for example, when you go to launch Instagram to mindlessly scroll for a few minutes, you will be asked to take a deep breath, and then you can decide whether you really want to open Instagram or not. A lot of times, I tend to open Instagram or TikTok simply out of boredom. And I think it's become a bit of a reflex. Sometimes I catch myself blindly opening Instagram, but I little kick every time I did would be helpful.
It works via the Shortcuts app, and specifically by using the automation feature of Shortcuts where you can assign actions to happen when a custom trigger is activated. In this case, you assign the "Take One Sec.." action to the a trigger for when a certain app is opened. This way the shortcut is launched every time you launch that app.
The app has a level of customisation where you can select how long you want the "breathing" to last whenever you launch the app, and also whether you want it to apply if you relaunch the app within a specific period. I have it set to a 3 second duration, and also allows relaunches to be allowed if within 1 minute. That way I think it will cause enough friction to stop me from mindlessly launching things, but also not enough that it annoys me if I quickly go back to it a few seconds later. Because this would also apply if you're switching between apps quickly.
While you use/don't use apps after you're told to take a deep breath, one sec is keeping track of all of this, and displays these stats when you launch an app that is behind the "deep-breathe-wall", and also in the one sec app itself.
Another interesting feature is that when you're told to take a breath, you can obviously choose to open or not open the app, but you can also choose to continue breathing. And this time spent breathing, can also be added to the Health app to count as part of your "Mindful Minutes".
I think I'm going to use this for Instagram and TikTok solely, simply because I think I spend too much time on those apps when I should be doing other things. And a little kick will certainly help. I thought about doing it for Twitter as well, but I don't think the mindless scrolling really happens for me there. But we'll see I guess.
Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only.1 I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked.
The idea of this is very interesting to me, and his findings also made me think about doing something similar myself.
The whole outcome that I got from this piece, was that it’s more about not using a phone, than using social media specifically.
This is one of my favourite parts:
After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting. I unfollowed some accounts I realized I didn’t care that much about and followed others I’ve been curious to check out. Swarm I check a lot less, about once a day — there was a lot of FOMO going on when I saw friends checked in at cool places in NYC or on vacations in Europe. And I’m only checking in when I go someplace novel, just to keep a log of where I’ve been…that’s always fun to look back on.
This is something that I regularly experience, albeit very short lived. It normally happens after a holiday abroad, where the use of a phone is diminished. Usually by either the international usage costs, or just because the people that I’d be contacting, were there with me physically.
I’ve started to evaluate my computer usage in general recently, and I think of it as a refining process. Hopefully with things like automation, and better focus on specific tasks will make it easier.