[Referring to the Economist article Yuri shared, my classmate’s heads-up definitely inspired me to finish this post.]
Social media is such such such such a hot topic. It seems everyone is on it; Newhouse School is crazy about it; every professor cannot omit it in everyday class; the name of Broadcasting Journalism major in Newhouse was changed to Broadcasting Digital Journalism. My education is warning me that I cannot just walk away from the Internet and Social Media.
What I experienced back to China for less than a month this summer whispered “you need a break” to me. Everyone around me blames the censorship over the Internet in China. I don’t want to address this OLD topic here again, but I want to observe the censorship from another totally different angle–the obsession with social media. Emphasis needs to be mentioned again here. This post is only expressing my own feeling over this issue, no statistics or scientific data supported. I was in a situation that I can’t get on fb, can’t tweet, but I was on Gmail and on Chinese social websites.
So, there is the story. There were three stages.
First stage: I was trying to get on fb. I searched several methods to get over the firewall, but failed since I don’t want to pay for the access. I simply don’t think the access worths the small money some external serves provide. Some of my friends posted on my fb wall to greet me and ask me whether I got back to China safely, when I will be in U.S. again, etc. I replied them by emails. I was kinda annoying about the denied access of fb, but not of twitter since it’s my resource to get information and I can get information through other channel. Therefore, the access of twitter has never been a headache to me. On the other hand, I need to contact my friends in China, so I was constantly active on Chinese social websites. I was organizing parties and meetings with my friends in China. However, I still talk to my closest friends over the phone and contact them through text messages.
Second stage: I gave up to break through the firewall. I was totally on the Chinese social websites and my Gmail. Emails help me to know some updates from school. I traveled a lot during this period, so my Internet access was not available all the time. I did feel a little bit annoying when I was trying to get directions when I got used to find the direction on the web through my cell phone.
Third stage: I was not really on social websites. I was emailing with my friends in U.S. to arrange my arrival in New York city and Syracuse. Even though I was back to my hometown where I can get Internet access easily, I was not really relying on my computer all the time.
After all, I was Internet-ad-free-ish, except the Gmail ads, which actually made me mentally relaxed, after overwhelmed by the advertising campaigns in the U.S. and over the Internet. It was a sip of everything when the huge volume of information popping into our eyes through the social media, but when I really went back to the habit of reading newspapers, I was more focusing on the detailed information. Sometimes the title of the news is actually distracting and misleading the reader, since its main objective is to attract the attention of the readers, then its wording and meaning sometimes are misunderstood. In that case, the last paragraph can be more important than the title. Another note, like what John King, the CNN Live host, expressed in his video message to the 3rd Annual Public Diplomacy Symposium at Syracuse University keynote speaker section, the boom of social media provides people more data but less certainty in current news circumstance. It was so easy to get lost in the mass media now than before.
That is my story of losing close relationship with the social media. I didn’t feel desperate or helpless when I was away from it. I think one of the psychological reason for that is I totally understand it is a tool of my life, but not a controller of my life. Moreover, the facilities of Internet access made me to get closer to social media. In U.S., I have a smartphone, so I am on fb and emails all the time with fb and email app.
Another observation: I feel more people constantly active on my fb are studying or working in schools or communications industries (all of them are tweeting for their work but not personal stuff). A lot of people are more like “scouting” people on their news feeds on fb than changing their status or uploading their own pictures. At the same time, some people have never look at others’ information, but keep sharing links on fb.
What is social media for? Mainly, it is for interaction. So, where is the interaction existing in these kind-of-post-crazy-about-fb period? I think people should realize the function of social media wisely. It is a tool, but not a criteria/necessity of life.