Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Social Media Again

For the past several months I have yet again begun to question the role of social media in my life and work. It started in August when I sat down to look at the influence of social media on my development as an artist for a Pecha Kucha presentation at MONA.

I started by looking back to 2007 when I started blogging.  The fact that a linear record existed was notable. With that in mind I admit to willingly playing  along with this social media experiment but now I am feeling a need to reassess what it's best role is for me. I embraced Facebook fully in the beginning, like I declared my LOVE for it shamelessly in a status update one day in 2009. It wasn't long before I was also ready to began changing my use of it when I could see how it was changing my behavior in relation to how I was marketing my business. In those days I spent hours uploading photos of every little thing I was doing, now I am tremendously selective about what I post. I have switched to mostly posting photos via Instagram with some sharing to Twitter. I sometimes engage with Twitter during a live event which is sort of informative and provocative at times, and I ask  myself again what am I getting if anything from these engagements with social media. I am not getting job leads, I am not making residuals. So why I am dedicating time to it?

When I look back at my blog now I can see myself emerging little by little. Did I have to write a blog about all that, could I have gone to a therapist instead? I wanted to work that out and the blog seemed like a reasonable way to do it. I participated. The blog format has been an equalizer for people. The ability to publish your story this way is of course a thing to behold and revere. And in the beginning blogs went crazy and it gave me a place to think more deeply about what I was feeling in order to write about it. And because the potential of an audience existed I strove to be a better writer and a less whiny human.

Out in the real world. Pathways and grasses at UBC
In the past year the blogging dropped right off. I became silent due to issues in my personal life that needed all my focus.  I tried to write about the big stuff that was happening as a way of processing it, but that became tedious. Just being, not talking was better. In the background I stayed true to my daily practice of journal writing but I missed the blog. The slow crafting of thoughts into sentences that some how exorcise the hard stuff and open up the possibility for greater creativity. I will keep at it.

I joined Instagram a few years ago and used it as the origin for the images I was sharing. Picking people to follow who I found inspiring to my practice felt useful in contrast to Facebook. Even though I know my list is ranked magically to match my usage, I do still spend more time staring at it than is productive but I am trying to quash the impulse to grab for my device and scroll. Too much checking-in takes me away from keeping my attention focused on my actual work and process. The best use of Instagram for me is that of a digital sketch book. So the audience I have to please is myself and I can get inspiration when I want it.

Obviously around the election Facebook was brutal and that was when I took my first steps away from it and lately it is off my radar all together, except to check in with clients pages. No scrolling, no sharing, no commenting. I see it as the most useless and potentially dangerous of the social media formats. To borrow from local indigenous tradition I think Facebook steals your soul in the form of the data you add and share. I refuse to give it my digital chi any longer.
Twitter is the third tier and I try to only broadcast there. Like Instagram I see it as an archival tool, only with Twitter I like to share in a more macro way, to release data into the larger internet.

I think I am graduating from the notion of social media to the reality of a digital footprint, a collection of materials that describe me, that I author and manage expressly for my own use. I miss the little endorphin hits random likes give me but I hope that the time I save I can dedicate to more meaningful activities that will easily replace that hollow gratification that masks a more sinister presence.
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