Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm Social Media Sober: Some Thoughts on my Facebook Hiatus

"Hello, my name is Kristin and I have been social media sober for 33 days."

Sounds like something one might say in front of a support group, which might not be far off at the rate people are becoming overly active on social media. Who wouldn't need support while extricating themselves from a behavior that has become a part of almost everyone's daily life?

33 days ago, I made the bold decision to attempt to go 99 days without logging in and checking Facebook. I am proud to say I have not yet buckled and taken even a quick peek.

As a professional photographer, this is more than just a fleeting commitment. Facebook is driven by visual perception - something I have learned to capitalize on in my profession through the use of tagging and sharing and having my clients do the same. I should clarify that I am still using the Pages App on my iPad, which only allows me to post as my pages and promote those posts if I choose to do so. I have no ability to see personal profiles, the newsfeed  or any of the interactions between those who like my page or those who are my "friends". (Yep, I just put "friends" in quotes...I'll talk about that in a sec.) I like how the Pages app is stripped down and its sole purpose is for business promotion. I know I'm not missing the opportunity to take advantage of Facebook's robust advertising system. In addition to the Pages App, I also have Messenger installed on the iPad. This allows me to reach out to people if I feel the need and vice versa. Again, no ability to see anything else.

Remember when I mentioned my "friends"?.  Let's define "friend" first to illustrate my point. According to Merriam-Webster.com, a friend is one attached to another by affection of esteem. Their simple definition for the word is a person you like and enjoy being with. Enjoy being with. Like physically able to tolerate and maybe even enjoy their presence and existence.

Facebook, especially for young users, creates a false sense of community that literally feels like being in a room full of your so-called friends. Complete with drama, judgement, superficiality and the attributes we all have as errant human beings, only they're magnified and in your face, even written down for all to see. It's like a parade of our deeply flawed perception of who we "are". But it really isn't who we are, is it?

If young minds are subjected to this kind of damaging social culture, how can they be expected to function as productive, well-adjusted adults?

One thing being away from the pool of lies that Facebook truly is has made me realize that I have forgotten how to be truly present. To be okay with where I am right now, which is sitting in my living room, listening to good music and my kids playing quietly in the other room while I handwrite this blog post on a pad of paper. Yes, hand write. It's refreshing.

These two will never forget their childhood because it's all been captured on camera. But what keeps me coming back to this image (shot with my Olympus Tough TG-1, if you wanna know) is the process of getting them down on this rock from the steep bank above. The true beauty of the surroundings, the sounds of Box Canyon Creek, my 5-year-old stepping in the glacier-cold water and freaking out and having to abort the mission entirely. That is the stuff memories are made of.

As a photographer in the digital age, I've found I've gotten sucked down a rabbit hole of capturing these moments on camera almost fanatically, often forgetting to actually enjoy the moment because I am too busy trying to adjust the exposure on my screen and apply a pretty little filter so my "moment" will have that ethereal glow and all my "friends" will "like" it and think I'm this super deep, intelligent person living a glamorous life in the suburbs.

I am actually shaking my head and snickering to myself as I write this because I actually am a pretty cool person, like to think of myself as fairly intelligent and am blessed with an incredibly wonderful life. But why isn't it good enough that only I and perhaps a handful of my friends and family members are aware of this and love me for it? And not all my family members because, let's be honest, we've all got a psycho or two who we are inexplicably connected to by blood and nothing else.

The fact is, it is good enough. In fact, it's better. But we need to take the time to realize this, which often means identifying the things in our lives that take us away from what truly matters. This is not to say we should altogether cease to use the technology that is available to us to snap a quick pic of our kid's first lost tooth or a video of him riding his bike without training wheels because hey, film is expensive and CamCorders are bulky. But next time you feel the urge to share those moments, think about your audience and who you really want to share that moment with.

I could go into detail about how this pertains to what I do as a professional photographer and how truly important it is to invest in quality photography because of it but that, my "friend", is another blog post.