Navigating Social Media: 2022


[Image description: A screengrab from Toy Story of Woody and Buzzlightyear, popularly used for meme images, with the words ‘Social Media, Social Media Everywhere.’]

Navigating Social Media

Article by Emily Bourne and Aiden Tsen.

    Hi, I’m Emily and we are all gathered here today to watch my joy. Small clips of my life, cut just in the right spot. Swipe through photo dumps. Click through the info-graphics on my story. You like me or you don’t, either way, you watch. You click follow. Or you don’t, but you still watch. I almost want you to. Almost. 

So, I’ve had an open Instagram account for years now, occasionally going private from paranoia. The switches have become more frequent now. But in the early days, I didn’t mind who looked at my account, this is my life authentically, I thought. I liked posting content, I think in the beginning, posting content on Instagram was a fun hobby.

And then it was a place of politics - meeting like-minded individuals. My Instagram was like my own little riot-grrrl meeting with amazing women on the internet. The internet was a place of learning, it was a place of growth and finding my passion.

For a while, I was conflicted on social media, as I was getting flack for being a feminist bitch from people around me. People trying to intimidate me in real life and online about just wanting everyone to be treated fairly, made me feel scared to be perceived by people sitting in their own bedrooms, on their phones, shared by friends, spoken about in chats - the possibilities terrified me. I disappeared for a very short time. But I emerged when life had calmed down again, still as political as ever.

In later years, Instagram really encapsulated the meaning of “social media” for me. I was using it just to communicate, to make friends and to feel connected. It was my only form of social interaction at the time. I had such a big community of friends with disabilities and chronic illness that helped me immensely. It was a great tool for me to feel not so alone during a time of illness.

Today, I’m not so much a part of that community anymore. I’m not part of any community really. I follow people who inspire me, keep up with new found friends - but I don’t feel as reliant on the app anymore. I deleted Facebook about a year ago because I couldn’t scroll down my feed once without seeing racist propaganda, and I getting into arguments with nazis. I never redownloaded, because, apparently, nothing on there was worthwhile anyway. I’ve never had Twitter, and I’m not jumping in that hellpit now. And I have one person on Snapchat, which I only ever use when I’m really bored. I deleted my TikTok after a year of fun, because I kept finding myself using it between breaths in conversation, and then not listening to a word anyone said. I miss it, but I don’t need it.

Will I ever become completely social media free? Instagram, you’re the last to go….

    Hi, it’s Aiden! I find hearing about other people’s experiences of social media really interesting, especially when there are contrasts and parallels to my own. There are plenty of both between the two of us!

Let’s start with a contrast. While this may sound odd for someone who has an art Instagram and personal website/blog, I’ve always been a slow adopter for social media. It took years of hounding from friends in secondary school for me to get Snapchat, and I only got Instagram after A-Levels. I’ve never gotten Tiktok.

That’s deliberate: I know I’m the type who can get absorbed into something for hours. That’s a no-go when I’m already in a dark place like when I was chronically ill during sixth form. I find talking about things I can’t change often makes me feel worse, so I didn’t look for an online community.

Maybe that’s why I go too far in the opposite direction when I’m feeling overwhelmed, sometimes abandoning the various forms of social media for days or weeks at a time. As proof of that, I haven’t touched my art account or website in months. Even email and standard text messages aren’t immune to my neglect. Luckily, work-related duties are.

It’s not a good coping mechanism, not least because it just adds to the pressure of returning. I try to give myself a break: it’s been a rough year. However, especially now that I'm a working ‘adult’, I’m quickly realising that social media really is the way to keep in touch with folks. Instagram is my tool of choice, and I use it mostly for the messaging function, only looking at posts sparingly.

In terms of similarities, I don’t really know if I feel like part of a community. Although I like the idea, I’m not sure if I’m looking for a social media one. While I’m thinking about it though, I’m going to sit on the sofa with the dog and work through all the messages. Looks like Instagram’s not going anywhere for me either!

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