Final Paper

I’ve never thought of myself as needing social media, and in a sense I really don’t. But at the same time, I do. I never really realized that there could be different ways of needing new media. I in no way rely on social media for my sense of identity, but I do admit that it’s almost a necessity in my day-to-day life. Social media and technology have a direct effect on my connections with other people, my access to information, and my general functioning in school and work. But more than that, it has become such an integrated part of society. It is clear that the key is to find a balance with my own life, using social media as a tool instead of a crutch, and understanding that it can be used for far more than posting pictures and chatting friends.

As I stated, I firmly believe that my personal identity is not tied to my social media use. I’ve been a Facebook user since my freshman year of high school, and I have used Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram, but it has never been an addiction. I mentioned earlier in the project that this summer I did my own version of a social media diet. At first it was sort of like an itch, or a natural reflex to check my social media, but week-by-week it got easier. I noticed a change of internal thought process. Instead of thinking “this would make a great snapchat” I began enjoying what was going on around me. Suddenly walking with my dog was less burdensome, as I no longer had to try to take a good picture to instagram or snap to my friends. I was no longer concerned with what others were doing and how it compared to me; I was merely enjoying things for the sake of enjoyment.

I did re-download the majority of my social media once school started, but I have noticed how much my behavior and attitude towards it has changed. While it is interesting to check and keep up with, I haven’t felt like it holds the same importance as it previously has. I have learned to live without it, so it doesn’t feel as necessary. I was sometimes afraid that I would fall out of my social circles or that people would forget about me, but the loss of a Facebook profile has proven not to be a loss of self.

In fact, the media diet I did for this class showed me that this “loss” of my social media self led to more of a focus on my actual self. Instead of filling my usual commute downtown with the goings-on of my Facebook friends, I would read a book or the news. When I say I read the news, I want to clarify. Initially, I told myself I would read five articles a day from various news sources. This plan worked about as well as a New Year’s Resolution or Bob Dylan’s Christmas album. I compromised by downloading the Skimm, a daily summary of world news sent via email. I immediately thought of Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” article, because I didn’t have the attention span to read multiple articles, I was drawn to the shorter, briefer news summary.

Even though it wasn’t as much as I’d originally planned to do, it did give me an interesting look at what is going on in the world. In terms of reading books, I was finally able to start (and finish) Gone Girl. Facebook Ella was replaced with (semi) globally conscious, book-reading Ella. It was surprising how easy it was to adjust to not using social media. I can genuinely say that my identity did not change but I spent more time thinking about myself. I found it funny that instead of scrolling through other people’s thoughts via Twitter, I was stuck with my own stream-of-consciousness (I got no favorites).

While technology and media don’t play a huge role in my personal identity, they do factor in to my relationships with other people. My brief absence from social media meant that there were quite a few parts of other people’s lives that I did not experience. I cannot even count the number of times I was asked, “Did you not get my snap?” or “Did you see my tweet?” The way in which I interacted with people changed because I was no longer using the same channels. I may personally not have felt any different, but I seemed different to people because our types of interactions had changed. In my sociology class I read “The Medium is the Message” by Marshall Mcluhan, which espouses that the medium through which a message is delivered affects how the message is perceived. It embeds itself in the message, exerting pressure and bias. Although not one of our class readings, I found it extremely relevant to my experience. During my media cleanse most of my social interactions were in person, lengthier and deeper than a snapchat or comment on instagram. One of my friends also assumed I was mad at her because I hadn’t responded to her Facebook messages.

Leaving social media forced me to seek out social interactions with people more directly and be more accountable. With my read receipts on, I was forced to respond to people right away. I also noticed that to fill the social void I had many more conversations with people than I usually do. I thought of the “Digital Dualism” and Vial’s argument that the digital and actual worlds are distinctly separate. There is a difference in interaction with people when it is face-to-face. While my interactions with people were deeper and increased in quality, my social “reach” of sorts was drastically smaller. I was only exposed to people that I ran in to during the day or felt inclined enough to text. Social updates from my friends were no longer conveniently listed on an app on my phone; I had to do more work to hear them.

Ironically enough, the first day of my social media cleanse was also the first day of my new job. My new job as the social media intern for Loyola’s graduate programs. I honestly do not know how I didn’t realize this until I was sitting at my desk Monday morning, but it turned out to be the most interesting development of my project. I technically “cheated” all three days because I accessed Facebook and Twitter, but it was through Loyola’s different accounts and not my own. Instead of seeing social media as a method of socializing, I was using it as a tool for marketing and reaching the specific audiences with different needs. It’s also made clear the fact that social media is no longer just a way for young people to keep in touch with friends; it’s a powerful marketing tool and quickly becoming an integral part of society.

I help post for and support the social media for the Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, School of Social Work, School of Education, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Nursing, and transfer students. Each school has a different audience and must tailor the direction of their posts and content to the needs of their current and prospective students. For example, the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) is largely composed of working adults who want to complete their degree. SCPS’s social media pages often post about events going on around campus to create more of a sense of the Loyola community among their students. We choose events that take place in the evenings and would attract an older audience.

It was interesting to tweet for the first time on a profile that was nothing like my own and fully comprehend that Twitter extends way beyond my tiny social bubble. The Institute of Pastoral Studies celebrated the day of St. Jerome (who translated the bible from Greek to Latin) by tweeting a passage from the bible every 15 minutes on September 30th followed by the hashtag #IPSBible. We manage all of our accounts through Sprout Social, so I was able to program each tweet to go out at a specific time. Piously (heh) logging all 96 tweets into Sprout was a surprisingly cleansing experience for me on multiple levels. I had given up Twitter, yet here I was tweeting Genesis through Revelations. It was like some strange, social media Hail Mary. I’m not Catholic and don’t consider myself to be particularly religious, but I grew up going to church every Sunday so reading each passage brought a sense of peace. It wasn’t so much in a religious way, more just a general spiritual peace and feeling connected to humanity. Catholicism and religion in general is so wide-reaching you can’t help but feel humbled; even if you’re not religious. I thought it was so interesting that I was on a social media “detox” but my first real interaction with it was the most cleansing part of my week.

The social media cleanse really allowed me to analyze not only my personal relationship with social media, but also how social media extends beyond my own personal use and can be a valuable tool for society. Ideally I know that I need to reach a balance between online and real life, similar to Vial’s point that we need to be comfortable with the two to reduce conflict. I will continue to use Facebook, Twitter, etc., but I also need to be more conscious of my interactions with the people and world around me. Reading the news is something that I now do daily, and I feel much more globally aware than I did before my media diet. At the end of the day, it is clear that social media isn’t the problem. Facebook only becomes a rabbit hole if I make it into one. Social media and technology are great tools but we must treat them like it. Sometimes a break and a little self-reflection is all you need.

The Test

The first thing I noticed after deleting my social media was how much I didn’t even care at first. While my commute to work and class was boring, I just chose to start reading a book instead, which was nice because it was something I had been meaning to do. I also didn’t have as much to distract myself with during class, but the past two weeks have been so busy for me I was paying attention anyways. Usually, it’s the times in between classes where I’m waiting for a shuttle, waiting for class to start, or walking home that I check social media to entertain myself. However, I just started a job and have had a lot of work in all of my classes, so I didn’t really experience very much down time during the day; I was always on the move.

I also didn’t have much trouble adjusting to having my read receipts turned on, but maybe that’s because I didn’t have that many people to text. It was nice to feel accountable when talking to people, although there was an instance where I accidentally ignored my mom. She wasn’t happy.

It was probably the music part of my social media cleanse that frustrated me the most. I usually constantly flip through songs, so I told myself I’d listen to whole albums instead of spending so much time choosing what to listen to. I kind of hate entire albums. In fact, I couldn’t think of any albums initially where I liked all of the songs, so I just chose silence instead. Eventually I listened to Alt J’s old album and Bruce Springsteen’s greatest hits (which may be cheating but its still an album….). I thought that this would make me more exploratory with the music I listen to, but I didn’t want to focus on listening to an entire album so I didn’t expand myself musically.

I must admit that I pretty much completely gave up on my “read five articles a day” rule. I couldn’t get into it, and I was busy reading Gone Girl anyways. I did, however, download the Skimm, which is a daily email that summarizes global news.

One huge thing that I totally didn’t realize has to do with the job that I started this past week. I was hired as the social media intern for Loyola Graduate Program Enrollment Management. So while I technically did break the no social media rule, I was using social media in an entirely different way. I was not using my personal account, but the various accounts of Loyola’s School of Social Work, School of Education, School of Nursing, etc. In my job I use social media to promote Loyola’s graduate programs and interact with students. So while yes, I did go on Facebook, it was for an entirely different purpose than I am used to. Also, the Institute of Pastoral Studies celebrated the day of Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible. To do so, they tweeted a Bible quote every 15 minutes on September 30th. Guess who had to log all of those 96 tweets? That’s right, me. I swear I am never tweeting again.

Overall, the media diet so far hasn’t entirely affected how I do things other than me reading on the bus or not listening to as much music, but that’s mainly because I was so busy this week. I didn’t have much time to myself. If I had down time, I think I would have been more aware how different it was to not use social media

IMG_1389IMG_1390

Project Proposal

What I found most interesting in this media diet project was noticing the differences in how I use my phone/computer now versus how I think I used to use them. I mentioned before that this summer I did a sort of social media cleanse in an attempt to improve myself and focus on being in the moment rather than choosing the right Instagram filter (even though it’s almost always Valencia). I noticed that in everything I was doing I was always in the mindset of “I really should put this in my snapstory.” Because I’m sometimes hyper-critical of myself, I began to ask myself “Who actually cares?” Who is going to look at my snapchat/Instagram/whatever and honestly get as much enjoyment from me my walking my dog as I would if I actually took the time to be in the present and experience it? Will I have a better afternoon than someone else just because that filter makes me look really tan in my Instagram and wow it’s like that pimple disappeared? In all fairness maybe my afternoon was better, but I’d never know that because I was too busy comparing it to everyone else’s. So I went off the grid for a while.

Naturally, I returned to Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, but I still haven’t re-downloaded snapchat. Through tracking my use of social media, I’ve realized that the way I use my phone and computer have changed. I mostly use Spotify to listen to/discover music, and I realize now just how much I use google. I browse reddit a lot, but mostly for the fun facts and articles. When it comes to traditional social media, I’ve become less involved. I’ll scroll through if I’m bored, but I have an automatic reaction to exit out of it after a few minutes of aimless wandering due to lingering guilt from my former cleanse. I’ve become less accountable for the most part. I’ll forget to respond to texts and facebook posts because I either switch my music too quickly or get distracted with something else.

For my social media diet project, I propose that I continue my quest of sorts to try to improve myself using media, using the tools and unlimited resources that I have right at my fingertips to become more well-rounded. I’m going to take a hiatus from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I like to learn new facts and answer my own random thoughts, but I really want to focus on more globally important information rather than just trivia. Instead of browsing all of reddit or googling random questions, I am going to download various news apps (Al Jazeera, BBC, Human Rights Watch, etc.) on my phone and actually read at least five articles every day, not just the headlines. Because I am always switching around my music, I am going to test out what it’s like to *gasp* listen to albums in their entirety, and maybe record how I feel about them as a whole. I am also going to turn on my read receipts so that I am more accountable via text message. I know that this proposal has a few elements, but reading Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” really resonated with me. I want to see if I can make a difference in the way I use media as well as improve myself as a person, becoming more globally aware and lengthening my attention span.

5 Paragraph summary

Going through my own personal notes, the video of me using the computer, my walkthrough with Liz, and looking at Timetracker and similar apps, I’ve come to the conclusion that my media use is not exactly what I expected. I always assumed that I spent the most time on Facebook and Twitter, but in reality I spent much more time on reddit and Spotify. This is in part because this summer I did a sort of social media cleanse, deleting Twitter for a while, deleting snapchat for good, and not checking Facebook or Instagram nearly as much. I always hated when I was with people and they were constantly on their phones, so I tried to change that about myself. I told myself if I was going to use my phone/computer it had to at least be a little productive, whether it was finding new music or learning new information. While I officially gave up this cleanse before school started, I only now realize that it has really changed the way that I use media.

Now, I think I use media in a much more goal-oriented way. While I still will go on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram when I’m bored, I mainly use my computer/phone to accomplish a task or find out specific information. When I wake up in the morning, I check my gmail and read the Skimm to get news for the day. The media I use the most is Spotify, closely followed by Reddit. I use Spotify to entertain myself when I’m not in class, and also to discover new music. When I spend an extended amount of time on Spotify, I almost always end up with at least a few new songs to listen to for the month. As for Reddit, I can find out current events as well as random facts (which I love). When I check Facebook, it’s usually to see whose birthday it is/to see if I have any notifications to respond to. If I am bored, I’ll look at Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for a little, but only five minutes at most each. I then exit out of them, it usually doesn’t extend much further than short scrolling.

I also realized just how much I utilize Google. I guess I’m the sort of person who has a million random questions everyday, and it’s so handy to be able to just look it up and find out information in just a few minutes. I look up so much random information when I’m bored. I think that because I previously went on a social media diet of sorts, the way I use my phone when I’m bored is different. I’ve conditioned myself to not scroll aimlessly on friends’ posts or profiles; instead I like to learn new information or answer questions I have. I now use google multiple times a day, and I learn so much potentially useless, but still interesting information. For example, do you know why banana-flavored things taste different from actual bananas? I do. Artificial banana flavor was developed in the 1950’s, when people actually ate a different strain of banana. It was called the Gros Michel banana, and it was smaller, creamier, and sweeter than the type of banana we eat today. A fungus wiped out the Gros Michel, and we had to replace it with a more resistant, albeit less-flavorful type of banana.

Besides realizing that I like to look up a lot of semi-useless information (when was the last time you talked about bananas at a party), I also learned that I don’t use my phone very often when I’m around people. I’ve always been really aware of when people use their phones around me, so I consciously go out of my way not to use mine when I am hanging out with friends. This is unless I’m in a situation where everyone else is on their phones and not talking (happens kind of a lot). In this scenario, I’ll use my phone. It seems that using your phone is a sort of social camouflage; you can do it in almost every situation to appear normal. That being said, there isn’t a specific time of day when I use my phone the most, it sort of varies with boredom. However, I did notice that every weekday I always check social media before I go to my first class and before I go to bed.

It is very clear that media is very present in my day-to-day life, from the time that I get up to the time that I fall asleep. It was helpful to have Liz explain to me just how much I skip around. If I receive a text and don’t wan’t to respond to it right away, I’ll read it and then mean to reply to it later, and sometimes forget. I’ll take the time to read a headline, but I won’t delve into the whole article. Also, if I’m in the middle of doing something and I get distracted/think of a random question, I’ll go to google and look it up; often times quitting was I was in the middle of doing before. Because I did a sort of social media cleanse this summer, I’ve noticed that the way I use media has changed from what it used to be. I wonder if there is a way to further this change and find ways to improve myself as a person by using media.

Walkthrough post

So I noticed as I began to explain to Liz my usual social media habits how quickly my train of thought switches from one thing to another. I’ve started to notice that the majority of the time I spend on media is on Spotify, so I started there. I took Liz through my different playlists, why I have so many (I make a new one every month as a sort of musical timeline).

While I was going through them, I noticed that I’d want to find out some sort of information (what are the lyrics to Elton John’s Rocket Man? Seriously what on earth is he saying.) So from Spotify I’d go to Google and look it up. Then a different song would come on shuffle and all of a sudden I’d be wondering what year Harry Nilsson died or what was the name of the Beatles’ original drummer (Pete Best). Then Liz made fun of how many oldies I listen to so I moved on to the next media.

I also browse Reddit a lot, and it is a lot more difficult to explain than I imagined. Liz does not go on the site, so trying to explain why I thought something was funny sort of killed any humor for her. I also love all of the fun facts listed on the site, which is one of the main reasons I go on reddit.

Liz was also quick to point out that I trail off while explaining things, instead of explaining fully I’d just skip ahead to the next thing. It sort of reminded me about Carr’s article we read, because my attention span was so short I quickly moved from one thing to another.

Video Capture post

So I’ve decided that I do not really like looking at a video of myself messing around on the computer. Although the program is pretty discrete itself, it felt a little strange pressing “record” and then browsing the web publically in the IC. Although to be honest it was probably a little better that I was in public because after a little bit I forgot that I was recording my activity and myself.

What I found didn’t fully surprise me, but I really disliked how I looked on camera, I looked so unengaged. I suppose this is just my resting face, but I guess I always assumed I look a bit happier. Apparently not the case.

I honestly spend about 1/3 of the time that I’m on my computer on Spotify, looking for/changing the music I’m listening to. I have it set on my computer so that I can switch between the internet/spotify relatively easily. I am very conscious of what I’m listening to apparently.

I also noticed that I don’t smile a whole lot when I’m on the computer. Unless I’m looking at a cute picture of a puppy or reading something funny I don’t make much of a face. It’s weird that I have such an internal dialogue going on but you can’t really tell based on my facial expressions. However, I will make a face if a song comes on that I don’t like or if I read something that frustrates me.

Field notes post

So I must admit, I’m pretty horrible at taking field notes. Don’t get me wrong, I can take notes as well as the next college student, I just always forgot to actually take them. When I’m not directly in the mindset of “okay, media diet project, lets go” I completely forget to take notes. The field notes that I have are a bit scattered – on my phone, on a notepad in my computer, or scribbled on a loose-leaf sheet of paper.
What I did find was different from what I expected. I automatically assumed that the most of my time would be spent on facebook. When people think social media, they think facebook. I am no different. Even expanding the category to new media in general, I assumed that I spend a lot of time on facebook because I spend a lot of time procrastinating.
What I did record when I was bored and messing around on my phone/computer was that I do a general shuffle from around five different apps/websites – Facebook, twitter, reddit, and instagram. When I’ve exhausted all of these outlets I move on to my gmail, the onion, and then lastly my LUC email. I always know that I’m really bored when I am checking my LUC email for no specific reason. Once I am out of new things to look at, I get off of my phone or computer and (sometimes) attempt to do something productive.
What I did notice was that I am on Spotify more than any other form of social media. I’ll hear a song, write it down/record it somehow, and then listen to it later. Another thing that I do a LOT more than I realized is just google random questions I have. I’m not sure why, but I’m kind of addicted to immediately finding out the answers to random thoughts I have. For example, did the founding fathers have British accents? Answer: they had accents, but they are different from what we would think of as a British accent today. How old is Pharrell? 41. When did pizza become part of the American diet? The 1950’s after many Americans came back from being stationed in Italy during WWII.
I also realized I have a routine when I get up on weekday mornings, I check my gmail and read the Skimm. Throughout the rest of the day, I listen to spotify constantly (while commuting to class, in between class, etc.)
IMG_1253 IMG_1252 IMG_1254 Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.03.39 AM