Why giving up on social media is a mistake...

…particularly if you’re a writer, or you do anything that involves human observation.

There has been a recent spate of confessional articles from people who claim to have left social media behind.  Most of these articles are accompanied by a picture of someone doing a yoga pose, and their usual conclusion is how wonderful it is to spend time with loved ones, revelling in the world’s natural beauty, rather than staring down at a phone to rate dinner pictures or check up on Likes.

While this is all very worthy, why can’t we enjoy a simple combination of both?

I’ve got a friend who is writing a play, in which two twentysomethings are set up on a blind date.  When he asked me to read the first draft, I thought the play had been set in the Eighties.  Not only were there retro culture references throughout, but the two characters (Claire and Brian) hadn’t automatically Googled their blind date, or checked their Facebook profile picture.

The play wasn’t set in the Eighties.  My playwright friend just doesn’t use social media, and it showed. 

While I value genuine human connections, I’m a writer, so I can’t get by pretending I don’t get any value from social media.  My job means I have to be aware of what people are talking about, and social media gives me access to that in spades…with the blessing of not actually having to interact with it myself. 

Social media is how I know all about Baby Shark, meaning I can reference it in articles without ever having to do that annoying dance (Baby Shark is one of those trends I can instantly dismiss, by virtue of being sane and over 21).  I also know who’s just been voted out of Celebrity Big Brother without having to watch it, and I can catch up on Brexit-ness by following trusted news accounts.

A simple scroll through my Facebook feed clues me in on current health trends, while Twitter alerts me to the latest political controversies.  LinkedIn is great for checking job titles and career moves, and I can see what just about everybody I know has been up to recently (along with a few stray people I don’t know)…so if I need to find out more about a person or a place, I’ll know whom to ask.

I don’t think it takes much to achieve social media balance.  Here are some of my basic rules:

- Don’t have social media apps on your phone

- Check social media purposefully, not as a distraction from something else (i.e. work!)

- Turn off notifications

- Actually call or meet up with real people from time to time

These easy tips will help if you’re feeling controlled by social media, without having to give it up completely.  No complicated yoga poses or mindfulness seminars required.

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