Some thoughts on social media

[update: given the ongoing train wreck that is the bird site under its new management, I’ve updated my “how I use social media” post.]

[update number 2: it’s a slow-sinking ship to be sure; regardless I seem to have fallen out of the social media habit so here’s another update post.]

Over the past several years, I have very intentionally tried to pare down my use of (some) social media and/or use specific platforms in very intentional ways. I’d like to share my thoughts on this both just because I want to (it’s a blog after all) and to give the reader some sense of the method behind the madness, so to speak, in case you’re interested in engaging with me on this or other platforms.

First, in a very general sense, I’m aware of the highly problematic nature of social media at present — how it’s both undermining our democracy and basically a front for a complex system of data collection aimed at selling us shit we don’t need. And, combined with my recent read of Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing, I am finding myself more and more interested in giving my attention to other things, specifically things in my local bioregion/community/home/family (not necessarily in that order). And, as a result, I’m just not all that interested in spending a lot of time on Twitter, caught up in the reactionary and decontextualized doom cycle.

Nevertheless, I recognize that, like any tool, social media is in some cases necessary and can be useful if used properly. Which is what I aim to do — use it skillfully for specific ends, mostly letting folks know about professional developments and/or sharing select personal stuff with friends and family. In general, I don’t have all of these apps on all of my devices (I don’t have Twitter on my phone, for example); notifications are usually silenced; I regularly lock myself out of some platforms (I am signed out of Facebook, for example, and recovering the password is enough of a pain that I rarely sign on); and I almost never look at my DMs (email remains my preferred method of communication, especially if we don’t already have an existing real-world connection).

So, as of mid-2022, here’s how I’m using social media:

1) Facebook: generally speaking, I really loathe Facebook. I have been using its “Memories” feature over the past couple years to years to delete and reduce my overall footprint on the platform. Regrettably, largely for professional reasons, I do feel the need to maintain some presence on the site, albeit in a limited capacity. The Buddhist studies/scholars groups I belong to, for example, are actually rather helpful (and, increasingly, have been more personally useful lately than H-Buddhism, I’m sorry to say). I do occasionally post announcements of, for example, public presentations and the like. And to the extent that very few of my professional friends use LinkedIn, but most use Facebook, I am increasingly thinking of Facebook as LinkedIn for Buddhist studies academics. I don’t check Facebook more than a couple times a week, and never use the messenger function.

2) Instagram: while acknowledging that “Meta” owns this platform and therefore my feelings for the former should color my feelings for the latter, I actually rather like Instagram. I like it especially for the original purpose of the original djbuddha blog — a way to let my circle of friends and family, dispersed over a large geographic area, know what I’m up to on a day-to-day basis. Follow me on Instagram to see random pictures of my cats, my kid (if she gives consent), the places I travel, and other things of a more personal nature. Note, however, that I’m very aware of the fact that this is a public platform. So not everything “personal” I do is necessarily shared. This is a curated version of my life, not entirely un-self-censored. Like Facebook, I rarely check my DMs. And I have notifications turned off on my phone.

3) Twitter: in some ways, Twitter is like Facebook to the extent that this is mostly my “professional” life albeit with more four-letter words, sarcasm, and gifs. I almost quit Twitter six or eight years ago, but then made a conscious effort to only follow folks in my field, prioritizing non-white-cis-gender-male folks; and, to borrow from Robert Frost, this has made all the difference. I don’t know what the future holds for the platform as per that guy who sells electric spacecars; frankly, I don’t think it matters all that much. But, for the time being, to the extent that a lot of Very Smart People I admire use the platform, I’m going to keep posting stuff there about my work because I know it’ll reach the right eyeballs. Moreover, given the nature of the platform, there are occasions when one can still engage in interesting conversations with those same Very Smart People. So, until such time as it goes completely south as per that guy who sells electric spacecars, I’ll keep posting things there; but, to be honest, I suspect over time it will be more links to content elsewhere and less direct engagement (unless I’m live-streaming AAR or something). I only access Twitter via one of my devices; it is not installed on my phone; notifications are silenced; and DMs are definitely not the most efficient way to get my attention.

4) Vimeo: astute readers may have noticed I have a Vimeo account linked to from the blog. Years ago I made some video projects, and I suppose I could make new videos and post them here which is, to my mind, a better platform than YouTube. But, for now, this is sort of “aspirational” and not a priority.

5) Strava: technically this is a workout app that I use to track my bike rides, and to the extent that I’m a map geek and it makes maps of where I ride, I think it’s cool. But it’s also got a social component — you can follow friends and give them “kudos” or something. If all goes according to plan, I’m going to be riding a lot more this year; so if you’re on this platform, and like giving and/or receiving kudos, feel free to look me up.

Which brings us, at last, to the blog: after reading How to Do Nothing, and reflecting on the attention economy, and thinking about how much social media sort of depresses me when I get stuck in the doom-scroll, and feeling nostalgic for the pre-social media days of the internet, I’ve decided to devote more of my online attention/energy to the blog. Long-form writing is really my jam, let’s be honest. I’ve been hearing about how newsletters are all the rage these days. And, really, that’s what a blog is. You can subscribe to a blog and have the posts show up in your inbox. And I’ve intentionally chosen a minimalist theme for this blog to focus on the writing rather than trying to convince you to follow me on all the platforms. I’m a writer, the dean of a tiny grad school/seminary, but not a social media influencer. If you’re following me at all, on any of these platforms, it’s either because you know me (and want to see pictures of my cats/kid) or because you know my scholarship and want to know more about that — or both, of course. A blog/newsletter is the best way to find out about these things, augmented perhaps by a social media account if that’s your thing.

So, if you’re inclined, sign up to get these posts delivered fresh to your inbox. And click here to learn more about what subscribing to the blog actually means in terms of privacy, etc., etc.

Thanks for reading. You are a delight!

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