Monday, September 8, 2014

IST 686 Blog #1 - Media Diet Reflection

For the five-day social media diet activity, I will be spending the first day logging down all my social media activities. For the following three days, I will be doing my best to abstain from using any of the social media platforms that I use on a day-to-day basis. Throughout this activity, I have come to realize how much of my life depends on social media. Most importantly I have learnt how society demands the usage social media. While some people may regard the use of social media as unhealthy and unbeneficial to society, I would like to think that it presents a unique means for society to move forward.

Prior to starting this activity, I first analyzed what social media platforms I was on so that I could strategize on how I might effectively conduct this social media diet. While I mostly use Facebook and Twitter, they are mostly tools that inform me of what’s happening to the people that I know as well as the things that are happening around the world. Most of the actual communication and conversations that I have are done through email. Although not a frequent user, I still check my LinkedIn every now and then.

As committed as I was to abstaining from using social media for three whole days, it would be quite difficult to abstain fully. While it would be possible to abstain from using Facebook and Twitter by disabling the notifications that I receive on my mobile devices (my Android and iPad) as well as blocking the social media domain names on Chrome (which is my preferred web browser), I receive over hundreds of email messages everyday. Most of them being work related that demand almost instant responses. Therefore my strategy heading into these three days was to abstain from all social media activity except email.

Not receiving social media notifications on my mobile devices definitely helped considering the fact that my primary motivation to log onto social media comes from receiving these notifications. However I might have overestimated the control social media had over my life. While I was fairly successful throughout the first two days, I was not able to last by the end of the third day and so I had to stop the activity once I got off work. It was the feeling of not knowing what’s happening around the world as well as not being connected to the things that are happening around that drove me to break my abstinence. I had no idea how much anxiety social media has placed onto my life. By the end of the activity I had over hundreds of Facebook and Twitter notifications, which took me a very long time to respond to.

While I did feel a certain amount of guilt as I realized how much time I invested (or wasted as some may say) into social media while I logged all my social media activity, it eventually sunk in and subsided towards the end of the day. Now as I reflect back, I believe that by that point I had unknowingly accepted the fact that social media was an important part of my life for it is what connected me with the rest of the world. In that sense there was nothing to be ashamed of. At the end of the day, social media is the most effective communication platform between my friends (especially those that are back home in Hong Kong or studying abroad in Europe) and I.

Thinking about the larger picture, social media is in fact the premier platform of communication for people of this generation – we just cannot live without it. While many people argue that social media limits the physical interaction, which hinders the development of society, I would like to believe that there is another side to the argument that most people fail to consider.

Almost everybody has a Facebook or Twitter profile. I would like to think that we are all motivated to have some form of a social media presence because not only does it inform us of what is happening around the world, it also broadens our social circle. Social media makes each and every one of us a part of something bigger than ourselves. People around the world gain utility as they instantly interact on social media whenever something goes viral, be it the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden or some idiot pouring ice on his/her head for a charitable cause. That would be impossible without social media. So while it may be true that social media does in fact limit the physical interaction, it opens up so many unique opportunities that just cannot be found without social media. That is why I believe today’s society not only encourages social media usage, it demands that everyone have some form of a social media presence.

It is opportunities like these that drive globalization around the world. All this reflecting has made me realized how the anxiety and desperation that I felt from abstaining from social media is a result of literally being excommunicated from the world. While I still was able to communicate with those around me, I was too used to being a part of a greater social circle as well as being able to reach to a larger group of people. This is a feature that is unique to social media, which is why it is embraced by this generation as it serves as the most effective communication platform that we have today.