On Monday, I wrote about how being online used to mean different things to me than it does now. I find social media a place of demands, hostility, miscommunication, and expectation that I’m not interested in delving into quite as much anymore. How are you feeling about social media these days? Do you have any resolutions around using it more, less, or differently?
As an artist and creator, it's very important for me to minimize my exposure to social media platforms to preserve my own creativity and not to be overwhelmed or influenced by what's out there. I find it quiet easy to not be on social media and surprisingly I can stay off of it for months if necessary. I actually have amazing friends I talk to regularly on the phone and catch up with people. What deeply worries me and scares me is how much my professional path and thereby my financial foundation is inextricably linked to social media. My initial attempts at getting published, to get onto panels and podcast features have overwhelmingly thwarted by not having "strong" social media numbers and it seems every few months there's a new platform or new reel or format to try and include.
I don't mind some light social media for connection, but the idea that it can make or break your career to me is quiet unsettling. I worked as a Palliative Care nurse of over a decade, with folks who were on the path towards death. And I had such instant deep intimacy and connection with so many people. And I remember vividly so many of them telling me, what we spend our time on most days and what we think is important in terms of social media is all an illusion and none of that matters, whatsoever. It's the connection of spirits and conversations. And I am just in my early 30's so I guess I have no idea what the future holds and how I am going to navigate this path.
What I am trying to do more of is create intimate containers for folks to experience being in community with the hopes that we can stay connected but not rely on algorithms to make it or break it.
First of all I wanted to thank you for that piece you wrote. I really resonated with it even though I don't have a platform as you do. In terms of my feelings to social media: always less use. But ultimately a more thoughtful use is always my goal. That translates into being super cautious about who I follow, who follows me, what I consume, what I share. It's a constant search of balance. Finding this newsletter last year was really great. It moved my attention to more lengthly reads, even though I am a books person, a lot of the things I was consuming online was really fragmentary so it was really good to find this open dialogue with you, which is crazy because I don't know you and I always leave your texts with the feeling that I had a conversation. So let's say one of my resolutions is to find more spaces like this. Thanks!
This is the first year I will ever be using social media for anything other than my own walled garden of yoga photos and flowers and the sky at. I can honestly tell you that using social media to supplement my income terrifies me. I don't actually want to put myself out there like that! I want to meet people IRL, have them say, "wow, she give the best yoga class in the studio, I'm coming back," and not have to compete with beautiful, svelte 20-somethings who can twist into sailors' knots because their cartilage isn't fully formed yet. I don't want to have to perform for people that are looking for something that doesn't exist. That's not even a moving target, that's a trap. But I also know I need to use social media, and well, to be relevant in 2021. SO my goal is to use it as authentically as I can, own it if I screw up, and remember that I'm not a svelte 20-something, my cartilage is fully set and VERY cranky, and that who I am is enough. People will see that.
By the way I am 36, I know I sound like a swamp witch from 1740. :)
I really connected with your piece, thank you for writing it! I feel like I went through a few pretty healthy years with social media, especially Twitter, because I conceived of it as a tool. I had a rubric for how I would use it (promoting my own work, boosting the work of others, sharing tips and resources) and that was it. 2020 really destroyed that balance, and I found myself so desperate for stimulation I sucked into endless scroll in a way I hadn't before. Now I find myself compulsively opening up social media throughout the day without realizing I'm doing it. There's almost no pleasure in it anymore — it feels like I rarely discover something worthy of delight or exploration the way I used to (via Google reader, the various blogs I went to every day, less uniformity in general). I'm going to ask myself now WHY I'm logging on. It's almost always because I'm avoiding something (don't love my current day job) or I'm looking for some stimulation. I want to seek stimulation in more "worthy" sources (books, long-form articles that have been fact-checked, something you called out as sorely missing on IG especially!, TV and movies, poetry), and when I want to procrastinate, take a walk or do something physical. Basically, I want to try and sit with my feelings for a moment rather than try to immediately numb out with social media.
I deleted my accounts in June. In my case, social media began to bore me and make me anxious at the same time. I don’t miss it at all. I’m subscribed to many interesting newsletters and several news outlets that satisfy my curiosity and keep me in the loop.
Deeply torn. As someone who just quit his job to start a (recipe-based) newsletter that eventually needs to pay some/most/all of the bills, I need to cultivate my audience(s) on social media. But I just spent a couple of holiday weeks mostly staying off of SM and feel so much calmer that I don't really want to jack back into it again.
I don't really suffer the SM toxicity directly, but I still experience it secondhand, which is why I feel better when I take breaks, especially from Twitter. Something I DO struggle with personally, however, is "numbers/content comparison", where I look at the feeds of others engaged in similar work to my own but have more followers/engagement/prettier pictures/better recipes, etc than I do. Rather than being inspired by their examples, I find myself deflated, unsure of the point of trying, or feeling like an impostor. This despite the fact that the audience I do have tells me that I'm giving them something they want and need, and continues to grow.
Part of me wants to use social media in one direction, to avoid this trap: to use it to push _out_ content, but not to absorb it from elsewhere (it's clear that some people are good at using it this way). But there's a hitch, which is that I have genuine friends there, and it's often the only place we interact with one another on a regular basis.
I've been feeling weird because I work on Instagram. I used to sell vegan frozen meals and create content about it, but because of covid I stopped with the meals and created a crowdfunding to monetize what I could do from home, which is content. But then on my personal account I unfollowed tons of people, even accounts that I enjoyed because it was just too much information. I set a 40-minute limit to the app and, yeah, as a content creator on Instagram I'm pretty lost cause I dont know if I'd like to read my own stuff — not because of what I write, but because of the plataform where it is at. That's why I'm thinking about changing it. You know, Instagram as my only platform worked for a while (around 2018 and 2019), but now it just feels weird. Plus, I asked this same question in my stories a couple of days ago and I received around 50 replies and just a very few people said their relationship with Instagram is good or ok. The rest of them said it was toxic, that they felt bad for spending a lot of time there, that it was too much information going on, that they thought about quitting but they dont because it's the only place they can see and talk to friends during the pandemic.
Oh, I also left Twitter last month after 11 years there. My life feels good now, I read more books, but I realized I'm pretty much alienated from the world because Twitter was THE place I got informations about what was going on in Brazil and in the world. I feel bad about it too, so now I'm trying to stay tuned through other plataforms (podcast, newspapers..), but I have to look for it, they dont come at me like they did on Twitter. Sorry the long ass comment. xx
It's interesting what being more isolated in 2020 has done to the way I use online communication. I'm looking for genuine connection wherever I can find it, and it's rarely on social media. During this weird, slow, stressful time, I'm giving less fucks about impressing people. I want openness and honesty. I prefer this platform and the more thoughtful pieces people are sharing here. I'm sending long emails! I'm doing hours-long video hangouts.
The only social media I consistently tolerate is LinkedIn - because there isn't the constant disappointment of looking for connection and finding hostility instead. It's clear people are there for a particular reason and there is no expectation of showing your full self for the public to judge.
At best, social media is the step it takes to get to an online group based on my interests, a video chat, a meaningful exchange of letters. It's a means to an end, not somewhere I try to show my true self and keep being disappointed.
It's a real double-bind, isn't it? New forms of publishing and writing (of which I see your newsletter as a valuable and stimulating example) are inextricable bound up with social media, which is simultaneously becoming more toxic, hostile and wilfully destructive. Add extractive capitalism into the mix (hard to avoid - and I know you wouldn't want to, given your commitment to transparency - when Substack itself is venture capital-funded) and you have an explosive cocktail, to use a metaphor close to your heart.
For me personally, that double-bind pinches tight. I'm keen to return to writing, editing & publishing after a 30+ year break, but find myself see-sawing between optimism about the new possibility of more autonomous, less corporate forms of media and the knowledge that their absolute dependency on social media most likely means anything I write or launch stands a good chance of being viciously attacked for, well, just being. Makes it hard to move beyond the limbo between ideas and execution.
I know that writing and publishing around food is no easy option. Though, as a topic that touches every single human life in some way and that is personal, political, economic, ecological and so many more things, just in-and-of itself, it offers great scope, hence the proliferation of excellent new publications on the subject, including yours!
I'm appalled by my own screen time numbers and it's been affecting my sleep. I'm trying to leave my phone in another room as of midnight (I'm a night owl). It's a very hard habit to break especially with Beirut anxiety so high. There's this fear of needing your phone nearby *just in case* something happens.
So much of what I do is online and via social media but I want to work on prioritizing myself over my work.
"Now I can’t tweet a damn thing without someone I don’t know, who doesn’t know me, saying something in reply that mocks me, insults me, suggests total lack of awareness of the circumstances of my life" this really resonated.
The thing with social media for me is that it sucks in many ways but also many of us need to it make a living. I used to sell my books mostly at events and with the pandemic I've solely counted on social media for my sales. I've gotten work opportunities because of social media. But it becomes frustrating as well because I feel i always have to be "on" but on means we have to sometimes put up with abusive comments or passive aggressive tweets.
As much as I love what I do, I wonder how different it would be if I had a life completely removed from this.
For me, when you wrote about curation and the bubble, and the paradoxes at play, it really resonated. I've personally made the decision to step back in recent months and to take time away as I feel that my habitual use of social media, particularly Instagram, has built up an emotional attachment to those I follow which can affect my decision-making. Especially those who share the minutiae of their lives and also take a moral stance on cultural and political issues. It's fun and engaging and I've definitely learned stuff but it's also a kind of peer pressure which I think can contribute to the polarised viewpoints we're seeing a lot of. I also think that for many of us in countries imposing lockdowns, social media has become a substitute for contact with other people during the pandemic. Instagram feels like real life but is it? I would argue, no. It's not.
I’ve stepped away from social media for January and hopefully will have created boundaries that I can hold on to. I’ve found that the inspiration and story ideas I once found on social media aren’t worth the negative and look-at-me aspects of it.
I would love to use social media less, if only for the promised benefits of logging off. But I like writing, journalism, and following good work to improve my own. And all of that still predominantly happens on Twitter and Instagram — where well-researched articles, insightful threads, newsletters away from the noise, crop up in response to hostility or a Twitter event of the day. So it does seem like I've to wade through the Bad Stuff if I need to get to the good reserves. I also feel like I need to engage with it if only to see how it can inform my writing and thought processes? I am 24, so I feel some misplaced wistfulness about the forums of connection you spoke of in your issue. I don't think social media has ever been that for me. But hopefully—we are more tuned into our social media tendencies this year (and longer) as the rubble from the Bad Stuff swirls and settles...
I wrote about the toxicity of social media particularly for Asians during COVID for HuffPost. I feel like it's a necessary evil - as much as it can be a wonderful connector, it's also emotionally exhausting based on the tides of the day. And I abhor Twitter - always have. What a hot mess of difficult to follow, barely sentient verbal diarrhea lol.
I left social media last summer. Permanently deleted everything. I was becoming aware of the ways it was creeping into my subconscious and how I was presenting a version of myself to the world. And the constant doomscrolling was getting out of control. I also thought of my daughter growing up watching me interacting with it, and that isn’t the world I want for her.
I think it can be a wonderful tool, and maybe there are people who can use it in a healthy way, but for me the cons were outweighing the pros in my life. I’m suspect of the effect it’s having on all of us and how we shape images of ourselves for each other, and the ways we are ultimately consumer and product on it. I don’t miss it at all, and am much more present and less anxious than I used to be.
All that to say- if you’re thinking about deleting- do it! The sun continues to rise and set, and I’m paying more attention now.
8/10 years ago on Twitter, I felt like I really created real virtual communities around areas is was interested in craft, film, food that turned into IRL communities and relationships. Nowadays I just tend to RT things I like, I feel I have lost a lot of my voice/personality but when I started studying food I ended up saying less publicly about my thoughts or politics. Maybe this is because I think I can sometimes come across a bit haughty or blunt in the way I express thinks (I'm a Scorpio hahaha). I'm very glad to have quite a lot of professional contacts on Twitter though.
I feel more comfortable in Instagram stories as there is impermanence, so I can be myself more. I have no social media 'plan', I just post what I like, and again don't usually write much of substance. I realised that this year it looks like I have mainly eaten shellfish, but day to day I tend to eat mostly veg-based. Facebook I used to just use for people I knew in real life but this changed a few years ago, with some activist projects I worked on and I'm still glad to see other people's journeys.
This year I wish I could turn off my phone more, I mix business with pleasure on all channels and it can be exhausting even when everything is muted/notifications are turned off.
I find it interesting that this is the first newsletter post I have commented on, when I have had so much I want to say about previous topics, there's probably a lot I want to say about 'community', capitalism, justice, privilege, being a key-worker during a pandemic, but often I am paralysed by the need to use precise language, to express myself eloquently, so I say nothing instead, but think a lot of thoughts!
I resolve to be more present. Yesterday I wrote about feigned cool and damage. Hopefully, someone gets something out of it today 💓
In the last 6 months or so, I have found myself using social media less to connect with people I actually know and more to follow (and interact with, to a very limited extent) writers, artists, and creators who generally have larger followings. Notably, most of these folks are older than me and experiencing growth from a different perspective.
I think I have been frustrated with being an early-20s during a pandemic and interacting with other early-20s during a pandemic. So it has been a little refreshing to see people in their 30s, 40s, 50s etc. on upward trajectories in their lives. Or experiencing hardships, shifting perspectives, thinking out loud, seeking out new knowledge. I am scared of both the instability in life and the complacency that can come as a result of stability, so it’s comforting to see others navigating these challenges.
But I am very aware that these interactions have been mostly one-way, so I think a goal for this year is to connect with people outside of my typical circles. I want to build relationships with people experiencing different kinds of life events (and I think age is just one of many factors). These interactions won’t necessarily be offline because I am still going to be in the house for a good part of this year, but I’m looking for more mutual relationships. I have just been absorbing content and perspectives because that’s what I’ve had energy for but I am ready for more of an exchange.
I really enjoyed this piece, Alicia. It framed so nicely my own feelings surrounding the evolution of social media, Instagram in particular. (I jumped off the Twitter train years ago & I've never looked back.) But I too have noticed this shift in people's expectations-- the constant demand for explanations, the casual disregard for the fact that there is another person behind the screen, no matter how big the "brand" is. We seem to have shifted from a platform where you could actually interact with people you admire to this weird sense of ownership over them. And why? As you outlined in your piece, don't we follow people we admire because they are so different and interesting? Why do we feel the need to force them to conform to our expectations?
I don't have a huge social media following, but I've noticed this behavior directed towards lil old me. And don't even get me started on the "RECIPE??!!" comments. As someone who develops recipes for a living and who is conscious of the fact that the internet contains one gajillion free recipes, it irritates me to no end that you feel entitled to my work for free when you clearly have access to a whole world of free content.
Anyway, thank you again for framing this discussion so clearly. It's an important one to be had, and I hope in 2021 we continue to dissect the ways that social media is shaping the our reality.
Thanks for your piece on Monday. It perfectly captures how I’ve been feeling about social media over these past few months. I got off Facebook months ago and don’t miss it at all. I use twitter and Instagram for news and also to communicate but it feels increasingly hard to connect and is overwhelming. I’ve been thinking of winding down using those platforms but am torn about it.
I'm a consumer of social media rather than a user of social media. I tell myself I have curated who and what I'm following to get what I want out of social media - funny memes, links to articles, book and music recommendations and sports commentary. Whilst I do get that I spend far more of my time down rabbit holes and doomscrolling. The Pandemic has made the doomscrolling worse with the sheer incompetence (or wilful negligence, or hey a mix) of the government's response in Britain.
I tend to only like and retweet things and rarely feel that comfortable wading into debates on twitter. There isn't any nuance only hostility and overwhelming bad faith actors. Over Christmas I had to ban my mum from posting on twitter, she was getting worked up arguing with people on the platform. She's in her 50s she's not social media literate and she was being wound up by right wing trolls about lockdowns and the virus. I had to explain to her there was no point arguing with anonymous people with Name/Patriotic Symbol/Number as they don't care about your point they just want a reaction.
I will just continue to use social media as I did last year, hopefully come across some more interesting and amusing things and pray that there is less to doomscroll about.
A few years ago I heard some great advice about Facebook: unfollow all your friends, and then instead of scrolling a feed you will have to intentionally check in with individuals. I'd hit a point with FB where I was feeling pissed off with friends for no other reason than...they posted something. Didn't matter if I agreed with the thing, or if it was a cute cat photo, it all just felt irritating. The unfollow seems to have reset everything to a more "normal" pace of keeping up with friends - there is no way I would spend hours talking or texting with 300 people I know from various places every week, so why was I trying to do it on social media? I still have the account, but the only things I follow are some local business pages, and bands I like. And when I do check in on someone, I realize I haven't missed a thing - if I care enough to hear about someone's big life events, I will hear about them outside FB.
I'm trying now to think of how to do something this intentional with Twitter. I stopped opening the app during the leadup to the election because, just like with my FB fatigue, I hated seeing the same thing posted a hundred times by a hundred different people. And like you said in your essay, the constant absolutism and the performance of Doing The Right Thing and the behavior policing, it's just so much - again, that stuff is so useful in small doses but just incredibly stressful in a firehose. But quitting entirely doesn't feel like an option, because it is pretty much the only place I have access to marginalized folks' insights on what's going on in the world, without the softening and both-sidesing of the media. Where else would I hear what actually happened when the newspaper says "police clashed with protestors?"
tl;dr, managing my friends-and-family social media is a huge relief, but i'm struggling to manage my news-and-culture social media in the same way. and i appreciate all the thoughts y'all are sharing here.
Your piece on social media this week was especially poignant and as always, so eloquently written. I deleted my Facebook over two years ago, and have relied on Instagram to keep me in touch with the online world. It used to be more of a ‘fun’ space, but even though it is my choice what I curate for my feed, I found things turning more negative. A couple of other writers I really respect deleted their Instagram accounts, as well as their other social media accounts, for many of the same reasons you wrote about in your piece.
At the end of November I deactivated my Instagram with the goal of staying offline for the entire month of December. It’s now a week into January and I have not reactivated my account, and I’m pretty sure I never will. A large part of my problem with Instagram is that it is now owned by Facebook, and appears to be run by the same misogynistic, racist, fatphobic men who currently run the world at large. The whole ‘shadow-banning”, photos being censored for no reason, accounts being deleted without warning, no dialogue whatsoever between Instagram and its users, just endless examples of prejudice with absolutely no acknowledgement of these issues nor move to correct them.
It’s frustrating that social media has become, for many creatives and entrepreneurs, the only way they can find patrons and purchasers of their works and wares. These people have to bend and reshape themselves to fit Instagram’s (or Facebook’s or to a lesser degree, Twitter’s) demands in order to be seen and have their livelihoods devastated when Instagram makes their seemingly arbitrary decisions.
So, I’ve started looking outside social media for information on people, products, organizations, etc. that interest me, and I find other ways to show them support and share them with my network.
It seems like few things are able to escape the long reach of the worst of capitalism.
I loved your piece on social media. It helped me process some of my own anxieties around social media.
During the pandemic I used and deleted various forms of social media. In the beginning of lockdown while out of work (worked in restaurants), I was obsessively checking the news and my social media. Most days I did nothing but a lot of panicking or crying. One day I posted a story while I was in my apartments backyard doing a little project. A close friend who saw my story messaged me something like, "that looks fun, wish I could motivate myself to do something."
It really made me reconsider why I, or anyone, post certain things. I like to share stuff every now and then because it's cute or fun, but at that time I realized pretty much any activity I posted might negatively affect someone else looking on, in the same way I might feel like I wasn't "doing enough" when watching someone else's story or seeing their post. I started to think about my own responsibility and motivations in using social media. I messaged that same friend back, "this is the first time I've gotten out of bed in over a week!" I deleted instagram for a while.
I think a lot now about how social media is really a tool designed to be addicting and to make us feel badly about our own lives in a subconscious way so we buy things or think we "need" to travel, etc... What responsibility do we have to each other when social media glosses over reality? Am I part of the problem? At the time you had written about individuals taking the blame for systemic problems and I wondered if it applied to social media as well... Social media IS addicting by design, yet we turn around and blame people for their social media addictions... are we soon going to be sold ways to manage our social media addictions?
On the other hand I think about how social media is a legitimate social space with influence on real life!... so the lines between who we are online and who we are in person feel even more blurred.
I have few followers and have never depended on social media for income. I can't imagine what it's like when these platforms are just another "necessary evil" people have to rely on.
I definitely came up in a different internet generation (a combination of 2010s Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube), but I resonated with a lot of what you wrote in the piece. I have a distinct memory of downloading Twitter my freshman year of high school and feeling exhilarated, almost high, on the flood of information beaming onto my laptop, the connection that I felt with the rest of the world. I made a lot of my friends through Twitter, and held my ability to be "good at it," whatever that means, really close to my identity. In the last year, all of that has fallen away.
Twitter isn't a friend anymore, but something to constantly compare myself against (of course, it was always that, but somehow it feels worse now). My feed amalgamates into a bitchy know-it-all who is mad at everyone, who believes no one can do anything right, and who has somehow read/watched/done everything already. It makes doing the right thing, or even knowing what the right thing is, feel impossible. A few days ago (during the height of the b**n d*d thing) I just angrily closed all my tabs. I couldn't believe that I used to think this thing was fun, and that makes me really sad.
I deactivated my Instagram right after Christmas and made a new account to only stay updated with a handful of friends, and I also unfollowed half the people that I was following on Twitter. I set a screen time on my phone for 2 hours for all social media. I usually ignore the limit, but it's been a good push to think about spending my time writing, collaging, or reading instead. This time is also coinciding with my mental health feeling low, and I do think my social media reform is somewhat connected to that. Without so much mindless scrolling, I am just left with my thoughts. Many fears and insecurities have come up recently. Ultimately, I know it's good for my mental health to fully turn inwards. I think we all know that we hide our wounds on social media, but what I really crave right now is vulnerable communication, which is why I appreciated your last piece so much. I also loved reading through all of these comments. Looking forward to more of this honesty and dialogue in 2021.
I started “surfing the web” in the mid 90s too, when it was a hobby that people had - live journal and message boards and aol chat rooms. I think for a lot of us in those days the net was somewhere to be someone else and to find a community that we didn’t have IRL, and we were sneered at a bit for it by the popular kids.
Facebook is the first time I can remember a site demanding that I use my real name. For a long time using your real name was something you would never do, sharing pictures of yourself and personal details would be something that you would be very wary of doing. Rightly. All those concerns we had about privacy and people selling your data and using it to access other information well, they turned out to be right didn’t they?
I realised last year (with the help of my therapist, big up yourself Elaine) that what a lot of social media was doing for me was subjecting me to the judgement of people I don’t care about, people from school that I’ve not seen since the 90s, people from jobs I had three jobs ago, people who I spent a lot of my time as a kid dreaming about the day I could get the hell away from. So I got rid of it, and I’m much much happier for it.
I think we’ll look back on the last 10 years of social media as a mistake, I think we’ll look back on them in the way we think of the increasingly nasty reality shows of the 00s, as something a bit embarrassing and exploitative. I worry about the kids who have had their whole lives put on Facebook - from a practical point of view as an emotional one, what security questions can you ask of a person when their school and pets and houses are all posted on their parents page?
More than that though, social media has become dominated by those who shout loudest. I found a lot of great things because of it - Twitter particularly - but now it’s almost impossible to have a conversation without some dickhead appearing and shouting “didn’t happen” or making some what about argument and it’s all so tiring. Like arguing with those loud, stupid, opinionated people that we first built our online identity to escape from.
I have a really conflicted relationship with social media. I only use Instagram, and I largely use it to share my work as an artist. It’s been a really incredible way to show people my work and highlight things I find interesting, inspiring, and beautiful. I actually don’t know if I ever would have started my own photography projects without it. I don’t know if I would have recognized my own creative impulses. The same live feedback/validation cycle that’s so toxic on Instagram is the same feedback that I recognize and trust my creative impulses. I didn’t grow up in a household where art was discussed or really valued that much. It wasn’t outright discouraged, but it wasn’t seen as practical to my family and therefore it wasn’t championed either. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know how to trust my instincts. Taking photos and writing about apples and other fruit/edible plants, then sharing them, really helped me get in touch with those instincts and trust them. I think this could have happened on another photo platform for sure, but it happened on Instagram. For the most part I just try to ignore what is “liked” by other people and just do work I find interesting - that’s not always easy. I’ve also connected with people who have become actually close friends now, that I’ve met IRL. I can’t imagine any other way I would have met these people. For every shallow relationship, there’s a close one too.
But Instagram is really addictive. Despite following accounts that inspire me and are full of interesting information and stories, I find my head hurting a lot and I’m not able to process that information deeply sometimes. I have to “Save” posts a lot and go back to them when I can focus since often I’m just impulsively scrolling.
I’m working on another Odd Apples book and I’m not sure how I would promote it without social media. So far everything I’ve done is independently produced. I would love a publisher only to just take the pressure off me. They can keep the money, just don't make me do any promotional stuff I don't want to do. Sometimes I think I might even leave the platform whenever I finish that book. Instagram is best when it’s a fun tool for discovering and sharing. The monetization of it is not fun and it can detrimental to creative work. I've seen talented people just pivot their work to accommodate the algorithm and that is sad to me. I remember wondering if I should make a different account for non-apple work and then thought, how stupid - why should I care if people stop following me if I eventually move on from just focusing on apples? Why should I let that have any control over my ideas, desires, and instincts? If I want to take a photo of a flower, a cake, a bee, a slug, I can. The fact that even for a second I thought (and had people tell me) to create another handle was scary.
I think we all have a complicated relationship with social media. I don’t know what the answers are for many of us who showcase creative work on it and don’t have agents, publishers, etc.
I do feel that the creators of these platforms have a responsibility to make sure it’s healthy for users. They know so many small businesses and creators rely on these platforms to reach people now. They should be working harder to ensure that the platforms are continually made safer and healthier. It seems like there is an emphasis on pleasing shareholders in the short term by getting users to increase the time they spend on the app and target them with ads from large businesses with deep pockets, but this is why people are fleeing too - it’s too much.
I loved your Monday piece because it articulated so well the concerns and frustrations that so many of us have. As a young adult/college student, social media has been part of my life since middle school, influencing my social life, relationships, and the way I'e learned to share my ideas and art. But for the first time in my life, I feel this intense obligation to turn my social media into something Meaningful with a capital "M." I am struggling with this need I feel to use my social media to stoke the revolution. But as someone who has grown up sharing exclusively photos of my friends and my summer travels, I am in a liminal phase of deciding the best way to use my very personal and very limited platform to share the things that I think actually matter--not just the homecoming game I went to or the beach walk I took this morning. How is social media best used to facilitate activism and education when for many of us, it feels like this weirdly personal thing? Where is the line between my life that I share online and the actual meaningful work that I want to share online? I am in a moment of reevaluating the content I put out and how best to pivot that content to better reflect the things I truly find important.
I really loved your essay on Monday! One thing I’ve been thinking about with my own usage—and would be really curious to hear about this for you and others—is that while I find breaks from Twitter SO liberating, and almost don’t miss it, once I come back, it’s really hard to moderate my behavior. I don’t want to (and professionally probably can’t be) totally off Twitter, but it often feel like it’s an on/off switch for me. So this year I really want to figure out a way to, like you say delve in less, without leaving altogether! Anyone’s suggestions for calibrating more moderate behavior in this appreciated :) and it’s fun to be on this old-fashioned message board!
I left all social media in the middle of November. A friend sent me your Monday piece (via text! wow!) and I'm super grateful. Your point that social media can't be used to portray all of who we are helped me put language around some intuitions that led me to that choice. I'm a writer, too, which is what made the decision feel so fraught (besides being an extrovert in isolation...), but I finally realized—if this is truly what it means to "be a writer," I don't want to be a writer. I partly left because I don't have the constitution for being attacked, but then realizing how much I was really giving up by giving up so much time and attention to algorithms has made me....honestly kind of sick.
I'm trying to go back only to IG, mostly because I have some writer friends I keep up with there, and I'm slightly optimistic about the possibilities for using it in a very specific/defined way. Mostly to share what I'm reading. If I can't keep it to 30 minutes "posting time" in the morning and 30 minutes "engagement time" at night, it will be gone.
SO many feelings about social media. As a business owner, it is "necessary". Yet it is exhausting. It is unpredictable. It's not worth spending money on. It's confusing. It's evil how it can make us all feel like nothing. It has a lot of power over us, regretfully. But it can also be funny as hell, create connections, etc. etc.
My company has many followers, but b/c we don't pay for ads, etc. the algorithm shows our posts to a fraction of those who "follow" us. We work on not caring every single day. But because social media is more like mainstream media now, it makes getting in front of folks even more tricky. So many channels, it's overwhelming.
I grew up before social media (I'm 50). I was not an early adopter of Facebook, and Twitter makes my brain melt. Instagram started out so fun and we met a lot of good folks, but it's just become another place to feel terrible, be told we're wrong, etc. What you wrote about posts passing muster / fact checking... Everyone is an expert apparently!? But -- that longing for connection, community, we're all feeling some version now. At the end of 2019 and before 2020 turned into what it turned into, we started a bingo night, with prizes, food, community -- old school style. It was amazing. Folks came out to just get together, have drinks, play games and just be together. We wanted real life, In Real Life. (I'm in Portland, OR)
Even commenting here, on this "social media" makes me nervous, to be honest. But maybe this is what real life is now and we'd better get used to it?
Much of your newsletter resonated with me, and if social media weren't essential to promoting my work, I likely wouldn't be on it—certainly not as much as I am now. (I used to enjoy sharing poems, music, etc., but I seem less and less inclined to have "fun" on social media these days and more and more inclined to limit my time there.) And though I wish to be on it less (and am succeeding in that endeavor at times while also being online enough to achieve my other goals with it), I also find myself addicted to it. This is nothing unique to me, of course, but I'm concerned about how often I reach for my phone and scroll, and how loud some Twitter voices are in my head when I'm out there, trying to live my life. Some of those voices have taught me very worthwhile things, but I also feel trapped by them.
The demands and hostility you reference above also resonate. Here's a recent example: I received a cold DM from someone apparently trying to build a wellness brand of sorts asking me to send "a quote on how [I] find balance in [my] drinking habits and in life as well as a couple of photos." She was going to put this content in a highlight on the brand's Instagram account. I told her I wasn't interested, but thank you. "Oh, ok," she said. She thought it would be a nice way to promote the alcohol-free beverage book I put together, "but up to you." Normally, I would leave it there, but it was Thanksgiving day and her response had irked me. Perhaps this could be a teaching moment. (Audacious to think I have something to teach anyone, but I believed I did, in this case!) So, I explained that I have to be judicious about what kind of labor I engage in, and from the examples she sent me, it didn't seem that the work of people featured was mentioned at all—plus some of their handles weren't linked to properly, so viewers couldn't easily get to the work if they even wanted to—and that I didn't have the bandwidth to provide original images and quotes right now. I appreciated her interested in wanting to bring my work to her "community" and told her that I hoped that my response would be taken as informative re: my thinking, not rude. She then basically shamed me for not wanting to help people drink more mindfully by sharing my voice on her platform, which is...pretty gross. It also shows that the intention *wasn't* actually to promote my book; she wanted me to provide her with free content. Are a couple quotes and a photo *that* much labor? No, but (1) I'm lucky to get these kinds of requests relatively frequently right now, and, as I told her, I have to pick and choose where I spend my energy and (2) I think about all of the authors with less access than I have, who I imagine are being asked to give of themselves in this way, too, and are saying yes again and again. Sure, every little bit helps, and I admire the hustle, but it's exhausting, and they're being taken advantage of. ANYWAY. I explain the entire episode because, while I don't know if this woman's warped expectations are a result of the way social media functions or something else (there are lots of possibilities!), I am increasingly being interacted with this way on Instagram, specifically, and I thought it worth mentioning. You, Alicia, will probably be better able to make something astute from it than I! I just know how it felt, which is icky, and that it's largely on that platform where this particular kind of shit goes down, at least in my experience.
I'm all over the place with it. My business sells the most through IG/FB and I only post positive posts. But, I'm more of a post and run LOL I will quickly zip through either platform and quickly like/comment on friend's posts but really I don't spend much time because there's so many other things I'd rather be doing. I will respond to comments on my posts but I try to limit the time spent most days. I also don't follow the "rules" that Social Media companies like to tell you - the "you have to post this many times a day" crap. I post when I feel like it, my customers know this and they're excited when I have something to share. Also, I'm a chocolatier so there's pics to drool over ;-)
I just lately discovered your newsletter and am finding it very informative and interesting. Thank you. I don’t think social media in its present form is helpful or useful! “Trying” to make it healthy, trying not to let it take over one’s life, is not really possible by the way the platforms are designed. What is worse is something I am noticing, that once on it for exposure and therefore a part of one’s livelihood,there is the inevitable “appeasing”and also change in the content that people post! One has to make or design content that increases or feeds the followers. That begins a slow ever increasing “branding” of slogans, and content that can be monetized !
For me the good of social media still out ways the bad. I think that from the beginning of using twitter I have always had negative interactions (which is probably to do with being a non-white woman talking about race and gender?) so I think I found a way to navigate that a decade ago... and part of navigating that is about taking long breaks from it, lol. Although even as I write this I am reminded how shocked I am, constantly, when I do get nastiness. The last year I have found new people to follow and engage with, that have made it worthwhile - a lot off the back of your interviews Alicia!! It is definitely a different place though, and I am constantly trying to re-work out what it is that I want to say and how to say it - it is hard to not use it as a place to express hurt and anger, when few other public outlets allow for those conversations. It is funny the way your personality gets seen though - its just a different way of performing identity. And I am amazed that my posts about my animals get the least likes (why can't be liked for earnest-ness AND silliness! haha).
Thank you Alicia! I find Jenny Odell's work very useful to deal with the conundrum of social media. I had earlier fallen into the traps of detoxes or retreats which seemed short term since you cannot live as a hermit throughout your lifetime. I think I had an inner conversation to make sure that I utilise media but not to the extent of dependence or obsession. I am currently not on social media platforms and that indeed has saved a lot of time for me away from toxicity and despair! Hope this makes sense
I just deleted all social media (I only really used Instagram) off my phone a few days ago as I was starting to feel it consume me. I was spending way too much time reading everything people were posting, as I tend to not post anything myself as I find it intimidating. I am going to take this pause, however long it ends up being, to re-evaluate what I want out of social media. Something that also influenced my decision to delete was the documentary Social Dilemnia, which really helped show me how it is in our nature to be addicted to it, as that is how it is designed.
Wow, what a resonating piece, as always. Like many others who’ve commented here, I gave up social media for a while last year, but I’ve since re-added it.
There have been some posts that have infuriated — and wounded — me, which gives me a lot of reason to delete social media. I’ve found myself going over them again and again in my head, especially in my most anxious moments. For me, it’s people who seem to be gloating about how much they’re living their best life in the pandemic — and for me here lies my dilemma with deleting social media. I am an extremely extroverted and social person who gets energy from others (even so-called short connections), so this pandemic has been very hard on me. Sure, there are phone calls and Zooms, but social media is the way most people connect these days, for better or worse, even if the connections aren’t always deep. When I post an IG Story or post an article I’m proud of (which is the majority of what I post on Twitter or Facebook) I hear from people who I never would expect to call me.
The other dilemma is as a writer and journalist, I am constantly told how essential Twitter is to finding work. I mainly follow journalists and editors and those feeds, as I’m sure you know, can have gigs in them but also are super toxic and negative. I’m usually too afraid to post anything personal because it was engrained in me from Facebook’s early days that an employer/editor might see it and won’t hire me. But then not posting feels like I’m bottling up me feelings. Ugh, social media sucks lol...
I’m totally prepared to delete social media again, but under quarantine (Montreal just announced a curfew and businesses have been closed since October 1), I don’t see another way to get my social hit and without that this winter is going to be even darker.
I am in the fortunate position of not having social media being tied to the money I make or the work I do in any way. I only use Instagram, nothing else, because I find that platform to be the best for what I want, though they seem to be trying their damnedest to ruin it. Nowadays I mostly use it to message with some friends and keep up with what they're posting. Sometimes I'll engage in the comments on posts but when I'm hit with waves of bad faith, hostility, and negative assumptions, I just have to step back. It's not worth engaging. I strongly feel that the more time people spend interacting with strangers in social media, the more misanthropic they're going to become because most people don't know how to act like themselves when they're behind a screen.
I think limiting social media helps my brain think longer, more meandering thoughts so it can work on more complex interesting problems. We weren’t built to know what so many people are thinking all at once in a big storm. I appreciate all the good insights in this thread from people who are also trying to tame this beast. Alicia, you explained well the burden presented by so many reactions/inquiries on a daily basis.
"[D]emands, hostility, miscommunication, and expectation" hits it right on the head for me. I've been on and off with social media the past couple of years. Something about the pandemic (crisis? trauma? angst? anger? isolation?) really amplified the intensity/seriousness with which people approach their social media lives. I was mostly using "it" --primarily Instagram, with a couple of niche apps sprinkled in for good measure-- in a light-hearted manner. I'm a firm believer that if you want to have a serious discussion or trade opinions or translate your critical thoughts into words, it's best to do so in a setting that was built for that exact purpose. Take a class, join a group, find a discussion board (so meta, lol), etc.
I deleted Instagram (again) from my phone not too long ago. When I've done that in the past, it has been out of a "this is unhealthy, I'm addicted" feeling. This time, though, it came from a place of "I give up, this is silly, and way too serious, and I thought we were all just sharing fun photos and keeping up with each other's fun life shit?"
I'll inevitably reinstall that damn app, of course, but I can't imagine what kind of expectations I'll have going into the experience. I hope it's "none."
I quit Facebook and Instagram in late 2018, and it's been one of the best decisions I've made. I feel like I'm a lot more productive as I'm not spending that much time checking apps, and I also feel like I'm more intentional about reaching out to people. That being said, I still use apps like TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter. After watching the documentary "The Social Dilemma," I resolved to stick to using Twitter and LinkedIn during work hours, and I set a half hour time limit on TikTok.
I've lately become curious about the intersection between what social media does to our sense of knowledge systems and how it interacts with what harder data we have is telling us (i.e., the data tells us that one of AOC's 'biggest' moments on Twitter was when she played Among Us, which makes you wonder about degrees of exposure, what it says about our expectation of XYZ based on that kind of exposure, etc.)
But all that's very abstract, and what's resonating about your piece -- as the comments here indicate -- is the fact that you're grounding it in the very obvious fact that this is your life and your work, and that we should recognize it for that, not for the fact of the internet being the internet.
Keep on killing it, my friend.
Cool piece on Monday &, judging from the responses, it resonated. I still love social media for discovering weird shit, or, the internet's constant state of surreal. However, the constant demand for engagement is EXHAUSTING.
Your Monday newsletter was so timely and, as always, deftly argued. I’ve been thinking much the same — social media is just not the same anymore. But, strangely, I’m using Twitter and Insta more now than at any point in the past five or so years. Five years ago I was working in the media (as a managing editor) and considered a target for culture war warriors, bored pests and dude trolls. And ‘for the job’ I steeled myself for the fights in order to distribute my work and that of colleagues. Now, I use Twitter as a research tool and have built a community willing to share knowledge — mostly older users (academics, farmers, researchers, agrologists, climate scientists etc) who are terrible ‘at Twitter’ but keen to disseminate their work outside the academy. I’m often grateful for their guidance and the banter is unfailingly polite. Insta I use for business, it’s a place to sell things. That’s all it is now. The selling for me might be a podcast or a book but the intent is the same as if I was making ceramic pots. That might sound cyclical but FB’s privacy T&C’s should alarm anyone using the company’s apps for anything other than trade. I will never give over details of my personal or interior life to FB, its a predatory company with the worst intentions. That said, I love Instagram ‘cause it’s a brilliant time suck. Thanks for your thoughtful work Alicia. Finding and following writers like you is the best of Twitter.
Your explanation of how we consume content really resonated with me, especially the piece about the authoritative tone. Especially on Instagram (I am on Instagram and Reddit only), there are lots of accounts sharing The Absolute Truth about a certain topic--and if you don't approach it or believe it or share it, then you are Wrong. Then you see another account post about the same topic, but their Absolute Truth is not the same as that first account. This is where a lot of my frustration and internal conflict comes from. What I think is overtly missing is duality; with topics like antiracism, activism, fitness/nutrition, etc., all of these truths can co-exist, and you can believe and practice all of these facets in your life. It is not the poster's responsibility to explain this when they post, but there are a few accounts I've seen that do this; those are the individuals that are the most outwardly exhausted by the "work" that they do on the platform. I find those reminders valuable.
I agree with you that Instagram has become a place for people to make a living and cull their influence. I do find some of their information valuable and their photos beautiful, but in 2021, I want to focus more on looking at accounts of people I know in real life and less on influencers and celebrities. I was never the type of person to become envious of people I distantly know based on their social media posts, just admittedly nosy (who is married, who is popping out kids, who is pursuing a higher degree). I am planning on trimming down the superfluous accounts I follow and posting more snapshots of my life--perhaps beyond my dog and my dinners--to work on fostering that connection again.
Just wanted to underscore that I have no content expectations or demands from your Instagram account and will gladly "engage" with whatever snapshots you are inclined to share.
Thanks for your awesome newsletter.
I am 30 yrs old and remember the Internet you’re talking about. This august right after my 30th birthday I quit all social media lol.. and honestly I have felt the best and most mentally secure I have in a while. I’ve had “social media” profile sites since I was around 12 and both the way posting online makes me feel and how these companies work has changed immensely.
I am a freelance graphic designer and I felt scattered and anxious all the time on ig/twitter and found I was losing a significant amount of hair from stress. As a designer there is a lot of pressure to stay on social media for work and networking. I can’t tell you the countless articles I’ve read this year about designers talking about how social media degrades their mental health but it is a necessary evil. I refuse to agree. People have lived and survived for decades before this single decade of Instagram power.
this year I have also been taking basic coding classes and I started a personal website & newsletter as my social media replacement. when I left social media I made it a point that I wasn’t abandoning my friends or isolating I just was leaving the monopoly of IG/ Twitter big tech. I arguably use the Internet more now but I am actually browsing more of the Internet (rather than staying on ig as the singular net experience) and it’s very exciting what people are doing on the web and is a healthier way for me to engage with the news etc. at least in design/ tech circles there seems to be a lil Internet renaissance on reclaiming the web & democratizing it as it was intended. The site -> Are.na has been a wonderful place to explore the web, I will admit there is a bit of rewriting conceptually to move to a platform that isn’t likes or retweet based.
Obv not all aspects of social media are bad & i still miss my friends posts because most are on Instagram and do not exist online off of those platforms. I really appreciate what you have written, and your writing in general!! Your newsletter has been a highlight these past couple months. ❤️ Sending wishes to not let those negative comments ruin your dinners!
As a fellow person of Livejournal experience, your Monday newsletter really resonated with me. TBH, I'm about to be more active on social media than I have been for the past few years. I don't really use FB (except for my local buy nothing group), and there's really nothing *fun* about IG anymore. Twitter is what it is - I don't think it's my platform, but I enjoy reading it. That said, I'm feeling called to become a tiktoker.
I'm a somm (currently out of work while restaurants in my city are closed), and I think 99% of online wine content is lame, so I'm going use my free time to try to make some content within tiktok's parameters as I see them -- goofy, personal, informative, entertaining. I don't have grand designs about amassing a big following or anything, I just want to create a body of work, try to master the genre, and hopefully make some personal connections along the way.
Also, I'm surprised no one has mentioned tiktok in this thread already. A lot of older folks (25+, lol) are writing it off as something just for Gen Z, but I don't think we've begun to see the full scope of its influence. Like any platform, it has is cons (it's trash entertainment meant for mindless scrolling!) but I've come across a lot of people who are trying to make it a genuinely good platform too.