I’ve not been using Twitter since shortly after the Winterwatch feature aired and wrote about why, in this blog A break from a skewed world. The response to the actual video was overwhelming and so was the emotional crash afterwards, I can’t function properly in a world of complete ups-and-downs like that. Not many people can.
Since I stopped posting on Twitter, I’ve been reading a lot of studies into the effects of social media on our wellbeing. Not only is it relevant to my job, but it’s also relevant to myself, and my ongoing battle with my own social media demons. You see, we only post what we want people to see – good or bad – and I feel strongly that we only do this in the interests of self-affirmation.
This blog post came from a bit of an experiment. I realised, when I wrote a blog on birdsong in springtime, that it automatically posted to my Twitter. I also realised that this would indicate whether anyone actually ‘cares’ about what I write. You see, any post of mine that’s been ‘popular’ has either been off the back of something media-related or from ‘known’ people sharing it. Obviously that’s how you build something, of course it is, but if you can’t maintain that level of engagement and content, it’s exhausting and anxiety-inducing, not-to-mention near enough impossible.
I know that I can post this on my blog and not that many people will read it. That becomes cathartic in itself. A bit like a diary or journal, I can share these perspectives and air them, on a platform that is more for me, than to garner whatever it is I’m trying to get from people on Twitter. The beautiful thing is that I can write this and it posts once, I can’t login to my Twitter at the moment and so I can’t fall into the trap of retweeting and deleting in a search for reassurance and validation. I’ve been watching from afar and it’s amazing how many other people fall into this trap.
We ‘like’ the pictures that we see, not always the words or perhaps any deeper content, such as a blog. We tend to see something attractive to us and think we like it, so click to affirm that we do. We may then share it ourselves, so other people can see it, because we want people to know that we like it. In a weird way, likes and shares and whatever they are on other platforms, are almost like a currency.
I read somewhere that when we post something, we check it, relentlessly, for 48 hours after. I noticed that at the peak of my obsessive usage, I wanted to post every other day, to keep ‘interest’ up – so perhaps there’s something legitimate in that timeframe. Through my distant observations, I’ve seen others doing this too.
Even when we post something that isn’t directly about us, we’re still doing it for a reaction and for attention. I have no doubts that we do and see things and coincidentally, we share it, but most content is engineered to impress – to show something off. How many times have you looked at an object or view and thought ‘that would be great on my instagram’? That’s when posting becomes part of our lives – a routine of sorts. A bit like the person filming a concert on their phone.
It’s fascinating. It’s dangerous and it’s also a really engrained part of our society. I’m reminded of something that the wonderful author Melissa Harrison tweeted to me, during another time of ‘twitter turmoil’
Never a truer word spoken.