I quit social media four years ago. By that I mean I quit Facebook, Twitter*, Google+, LinkedIn and other “social networks” that require the declaration and management of electronic relationships. Since then, my personal and professional lives have been greatly enriched. So much so, I don’t plan to join digital social networks ever again. (More on that here.)
Unless, of course, those networks can enhance my physical relationships. Consider, for example, Google Hangouts, an ad-hoc social network. After reluctantly declining six months of invites, my wife recently convinced me to join. I’m glad I did. It’s allowed me to stay in close touch with extended family without colleagues, associates, admirers, like-minded people, or old high school acquaintances getting in the way. It’s also let me indulge in animated gifs.
But even this endearing network has become a distraction at times. By my own doing, it’s sometimes made me lose sight of the big picture.
Case in point: Since quitting full-time social media, I began producing and editing annual home movies. I screen them every Christmas, and they’ve become a precious asset to our household. We watch them regularly, as they highlight photos and videos that would otherwise sit unseen on a hard drive.
Since joining Hangouts, however, I’ve taken fewer videos and photos with my SLR, opting instead to post real-time bite-size videos and pics from the convenience of my phone. At times I no longer capture moments for my personal and family archives. I do it now to show off or entertain others, and that’s a problem.
You see, sharing things you’ve done after-the-fact with friends and family is an effective way to engage and create bonds with them. Even the occasional live broadcast of something exciting has meaning. But sharing things with others before meeting personal needs — in my case capturing great raw footage to document my family’s life — can lead to regret.
As with all good things in life, the trick is setting boundaries. For me that means checking my motive before capturing a moment or sharing my status. “Does this meet a goal or help me get to where I want to be, or am I doing this to entertain someone else without it deepening our relationship?”
I don’t ask that question or wrestle with it before every type of system 1 or system 2 thought. Rather, I use it as a guide to ensure that social media enhances my life instead of distracting it. If the latter happens—whether I’m ultimately at fault or not—I’ll simply remove the distraction.—Blake Snow