© Robert FrankLast month I took a Twitter-fast. My attention span waning, I tried to cut out one many things which compete for the quiet moments of my day. Unplugging myself was admittedly difficult, much like kicking an addiction. Maybe I'm more conceited than most, but I found it telling that what I missed initially about Twitter, if I'm gut-level honest, was the ability to promote myself (how funny, clever, observant, etc. I am). Things would happen in my day and I would instinctively come up with clever observations no more than 140 characters in length; I was missing out on the opportunity to prove my good humor to the masses! Furthermore, during that first week I found myself preoccupied with the unknown - what was going on with my followers/followees? Yet the headache that was Twitter-withdrawal slowly subsided and I began to enjoy living life unplugged (or partially unplugged).
The fast got me to thinking. "Connectedness" seems to be one piece of heavy artillery proponents of social media use as they wage war in the digital age; Twitter, Facebook, and the rest are great because they keep us connected, or so they argue. Yet, based on my experience, I can't help but wonder if ego lies beneath connectedness. We want to be connected, at least in part, to build an arena in which we can demonstrate our own value, our credentials. Maybe the reason we tell ourselves we want social media (connectedness) isn't actually why we become so addicted. Or maybe it's just me....
Maybe the same truth, that social media isn't all it promises to be, applies in other areas. In this week's edition of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell analyzes social media's usefulness to facilitate social activism. Proponents will argue that we have entered a new age, one in which activism can be empowered with a few key strokes and a single click. Yet, Gladwell finds a difference between true activism, the kind that actually enacts change, and what is happening on Twitter and Facebook. He argues that social media "makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact." As always, Gladwell makes a compelling case. I certainly don't agree with him 100% of the time, but I do agree with his take this time. Read the article at the link below. It's short and well worth your time.
Malcolm Gladwell - "Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be tweeted"