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Day: March 28, 2013

Giving up Twitter for lent. How does social media influence our lives?

No not me (although I doubt I’d be missed) but the fabulous Louise Shaw did such a thing and she had written her thought up on her blog over here. It is a rather interesting look into the effect that social media has on our lives in this modern day and age.

As someone who uses social media to a significant extent (but not to a crazy level of having many prolonged conversations through it) I was intrigued to see how she coped and found it. She still used Facebook and Google+ but just cut out Twitter. She makes the clear point that it is easier to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend someone on Facebook. Even though a lot of us have the same people on both Facebook is still seen by many to be more inclusive of people you actually know/interact with more frequently. For example I follow a large amount of politicos on Twitter but very few of them have I become ‘friends’ with on Facebook. It is more socially acceptable to stop following someone on Twitter than it is to unfriend some on Facebook. I’m sure of that.

One thing I was surprised with was when she said she felt a bit less stressed being away from Twitter. I have never felt stress on Twitter (nor any social media really) as is someone is having a go at you or at your opinions they are just someone behind a computer screen or tapping away at their tablet or mobile phone. Not even sure if I’m ever had an argument with someone over Twitter (although I remember one person who was giving me constant personal attacks and subsequently wrote a blog post about what a bastard I was) and I decided ‘sod this’ and gave her a 4,000 odd word blog reply which surprised said person.

I in fact think the opposite. I use Twitter for several reasons but one of them is to relax. I follow something like 750 accounts and they are a mixture of politicos, sports journalists, people I know and randoms. I even purposely follow (and still follow) several accounts that I always find amusing. Several of these are politicos that are so blinkered for one side and that every other side is wrong it amuses me greatly. One person I follow seems to get drunk every evening and every evening tweets great revelations about her life and what she needs to do to make it better and yet every night she tweets the same and never does anything about it. Oh how I internally laugh. Not laughing at her sentiments but about the repetitiveness of them.

So social media relaxes me. However the main thing it does is inform me. Twitter is rightly or wrongly the best source for breaking news that we have these days. I read most of the newspaper websites daily but news breaks first on Twitter. If I walked away from Twitter that would be the biggest thing that I missed. The feeling of not knowing significant events until later. Whilst it might not be significantly later – it is still later.

The first Louise makes is about people missing her. Now that is an interesting one. I have gone weeks without making any updates to Facebook and nobody noticed (not on purpose, I just had nothing to say) and have dipped in and out of Twitter over the years. The big question a lot of us have to answer is how big a part Twitter plays in our social life. I read more than interact and in general only ever interact when I think I have something significant to say. Considering I have been around the internet and chat rooms for half my life now and in the advent of broadband and mobile phone technology I now know more people than ever before through social media and I actually have actual conversations with less people than I did when I was a teenager and at university.

Last year I met not one person that I had first communicated with via Twitter. Actually thinking about it I do not think I have ever met with someone who I had first communicated with through Twitter (taking Lib Dem conferences out of this scenario). Back in the day I met people from chat rooms all the time and felt stronger friendships with those people. Some of them I still have a friendship with today. Those people I talked with for hours whereas now with twitter there are far more people I interact with but how many of them do I have a proper conversation with? Far fewer. Ask me a question about what most people I interact do for a living or who they live with or if they are in a relationship and the majority of the time I wouldn’t be able to answer. Ask me those same questions about people I communicated with on the internet pre-social media and I’d be able to answer those questions far more.

I’m trying to work out which I prefer. Having a small group of people I actually spoke with properly and met up with a lot or having a larger group of people of whom we both just dip in and out of each others lives when we see each other tweeting something that we find interesting. I can see the pro’s and con’s for both sides. It is an interesting one. On Twitter I think it is harder to progress an acquaintanceship to a friendship (or anything else for that matter) because you never really converse. You just interact.

Another thing she says is she found a lot more done – and I think that is a very fair point. I can be busy working and I flick up TweetDeck and scroll through and then my mind drifts. Same with Facebook and I’m not someone who gets a lot of tweets or Facebook messages and if I can lose hours a week to social media then I worry about those who are actually social media popular!

If I wasn’t on social media would I miss it? Sure I would. However I don’t feel like I’d come out in hives. It is a good way to unwind. I found Louise’s experiment very interesting and her conclusions seem to broadly agree with how I thought it’d go. Well worth a read I say and one last thing before I bring this ramble to a close…

*drum roll*

Congratulations to the said person behind this – Louise Shaw – as she is now on the approved list to become a Lib Dem PPC. I look forward to seeing her applying for either Southend West or Rochford & Southend East in the future. Although if she does apply for either of those it would mean having to deal with me so she might do better going elsewhere…but in all seriousness it is great to see another intelligent and passionate young person on the approved list.

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