School is out and summer is upon us with an abundance of sunshine illuminating time on the beach, paddle board, and bicycle. But the sun is not alone in its illumination. It seems that everywhere we turn, faces are aglow from the light cast by a smartphone, iPad, or other tech device. And for me and my students school is not out (yet), rather it is on…online. I am teaching the third summer offering of Social Media & Informatics for a group of eager undergraduate and graduate students. And though their faces may be illuminated by the glow of yet another online course, they are studying best practices for use of social media for connecting people and information. This week a student (who I will call Miki Winston to protect identity) shared her thoughts about loss of self in a (mis-) construed identity. In essence, Miki discussed how she shared her hobbies via social media and gained notoriety through voluminous numbers of followers, some even famous people. The audience Miki gained inadvertently placed pressure on her to ‘perform’ posts of perfection. Ultimately Miki became lost in the burden to perform and thus her affinity for the hobbies she posted and tweeted about waned. Miki lost a ray of sunshine in her personal life due to the perceived need to share those events and musings publicly via social media outlets.
I find it interesting that things that bring peace to a person, through the action of a smart phone connected to Facebook or Twitter, suddenly become the fodder for publicity in this era of social media. Perhaps some things should stay private and sacred for the sake of peace…of mind. So much of our lives and days are public given work schedules, school, family, friends, etc. We have lost the sense of solice and peace. So how do we manage?
Revisiting the work of Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” I encouraged Miki to reflect on the issues of public versus private life. Perhaps we all deserve ‘backstage’ time. Save that time for the things that are precious, dear and restorative. Disconnect them from the connected world.
And as for the connected world, think about what and why you share pieces of yourself on social media. Have a plan and a purpose. The plan means…manage it. Have a plan and keep it narrow and hyperfocused. And as for purpose, is it to spread knowledge, update family and friends, or publicly perform? If people (even famous ones) follow you, they are probably not obsessed thus requiring a performance on your part. They happen to already like what you have posted. Just go with it and keep on keeping on. If they don’t like it, they can stop following. After all, I go back to the purpose. Do you Tweet to attract such followers, or do you do it to share with friends, or what? Why would they be interested?
So maybe a little disconnect, a step off of the stage, is really a meaningful re-connection. Check it out..it’s all rapped up! Miki did. She has reconnected (privately) with hobbies near and dear to her heart. She has re-engaged and restored her peace through private engagement. And she has rejuvenated her social media presence with a plan and a purpose that excludes restorative personal time. Welcome back Miki! I’ll follow that!