Less Social, More Sociable

We can say NO to social media

We were not BORN into social, like our little siblings or children born post-2000. We only ADOPTED it.

Consequently, it will be easier to leave (hopefully).

My first interactions with social

It all started with a little website called Orkut. The website was shut down a little while ago. We had all heard stories about the founder creating a social network to find his lost girlfriend. We never thought about checking the authenticity of the story because it was the most romantic story about the use of technology that we had ever heard. What could possibly be better than finding the love of your life? Teen girls love it. I loved it and I am sure boys were fascinated with this idea too. It was an amazing thing to experience. I was a late adopter for Orkut as I was busy doing things I considered more important in life- studying.

It was all about being able to find your old crushes and mildly stalking them. We were constantly wondering if they had posted ‘falling in love’ scraps because they had somehow, finally, noticed that we were in love. Oh! it happened all the time. There were groups of people with shared interests. There were people who wanted to contribute to some cause and then there were some who would simply spam you with scraps.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland when I used Orkut. It was this fun world of people and you could actually change your profile color and background. It was like getting a ‘mood ring’ and trust me, I considered it more appealing than ‘What’s on your mind’ message at the top of my Facebook timeline. Maybe I was impressionable, maybe I was just in love with that community. I could never feel this sense of community on Facebook or any other social profile for that matter. No hard feelings though.

Along came Facebook…

When I was in college and everybody started to migrate to Facebook, I thought I should check out this website too. I had been on a couple of ill-designed, ‘serve-ads-on-your-face’ type of websites and was completely disillusioned. I may have made an account on hi5 or MySpace too.

On Facebook, I was initially less interested in connecting with people and more interested in answering quizzes and sharing results. Damn! you could not even change the profile color. It was a glitter-less Orkut.

An average quiz I was answering was titled ‘What does your name mean?’ or ‘Who were you in your past life?’ or ‘What does your favorite color say about you?’. Yes, I was quite addicted to casual quizzing for a few days and then I was bored.

Then started a phase of social interactions. We were young communications graduates looking for ways to connect with each other and industry influencers. I will not suggest that we were not trying to become influencers ourselves by adding countless friends on Facebook. I had over 2500 Facebook friends.

We were sharing day after day. Our mantra was ‘anything goes’. We would post unnecessary pictures, thoughts, quotes, couplets and try to pass off as industry intellectuals by even sharing some original content. Most of us were just ‘feeling sad’ or ‘feeling excited’ because… what else could you possibly feel on social media to get attention? Could you feel ‘content’ or ‘calm’ or ‘relaxed’ and get attention? NO.

And the disenchantment…

As time passed by, the number of Facebook friends I had was reduced to 1200. I was ‘spring cleaning’ people from my friend list. Finally, getting a comment like ‘nice picture’ or ‘wow Neha ji’ stopped making sense to me. I was not interested in getting any more likes or comments. It stopped making sense to me altogether. Slowly, the number reduced to 400–500 and it has not increased since.

For most of us, who had excitedly added our friends and their friends and their family members…

and our crushes and their friends and their family members…

and our friends’ boyfriends/girlfriends and their friends etc. on Facebook, it stopped being a ‘happy place’.

Crushes were crushed, hearts were broken, friends fell apart and since they went, it was useless to stay friends with people who were connected to you through them.

The lists kept getting smaller, not just for me, but for everyone else. I did not feel envious if anyone in my list had 4000+ friends. I did not feel envious because someone else was getting 200+ likes on their pictures. I stopped caring.

The people who grew up with me are now disenchanted with Facebook but they have not stopped using it. They are getting married, having kids and finding another chance to stay relevant in the bigger scheme of things by staying on Facebook.

The ‘staying connected’ concept and why it doesn’t make so much sense to me anymore

So why are you on social media, really? Let everything else aside. Let’s talk about Facebook. You are on Facebook to stay connected. From what I have been experiencing lately, it is more about just adding people and letting them know how awesome your life is. THAT IS IT.

The staying connected concept is being ruined by people who want to market their products to you. There are auto playing videos and many annoying ads. As a marketer, I was not impressed to find that I could not target my audience with PAID PROMOTIONS the way I wanted to. Let’s save it for another time. On a personal level, I stopped feeling at ease with Facebook.

This is how my average day on social media looked like when the disenchantment began-

Whenever I wanted to consume content, I would go to Instagram.

Whenever I wanted to connected with fellow marketers or people with similar interests or wanted to share my honest opinions about things around me, I would go to Twitter.

If I wanted memes, creative images or even rage comics, I would go to 9gag or Imgur.

If I wanted to just keep adding more people on my professional network (about that in a later post) I would go to LinkedIn.

There were so many other avenues for me to explore and get the content I demanded, whenever I wanted.

This final ‘shift’ from Facebook coincided with the time when my social network suddenly became overly politicized. Everybody had a political opinion and they wanted to shove it down your throat. The worst part was that these were people close to you.

They were unavoidable and sometimes, your political ideologies just didn’t match. It is always difficult to be friends with people who are being too vocal about their political ideas and want you to join them. Persuasion soon changes to propaganda and friendships and relationships are quickly ruined. It happened with me too.

What followed was the lowest standard of political mud-slashing this nation has ever seen. I survived all of that as a Facebook user.

However, I had not had enough yet. Along came a flood of dubious, shady and worthless publications being fed to me forcefully on my timeline. There are suddenly hundreds of publications offering advice on anything and everything. There were countless clickbait articles and it was getting difficult to separate the grain from the chaff. I didn’t want that.

The result- I still have a Facebook account but my activity is best described as erratic.

In fact, I check in or post pictures only when ‘I HAVE TO’.

I post links to my blogs there sometimes. The engagement is low because people want controversial opinions, pics where I am acting stupid and also status updates where I wash my dirty linen in public.

Key takeaways from my experience

As I have matured, I have learnt a lot about social interactions. I classify as someone old school. I am comfortable in any social situation and communication with any one, of any age, at any time. However, I would chose not to communicate if it meant being a part of a cacophony.

I have decided to become more sociable and less social. What does this even mean?

I have decided to meet more people in real life. Of course, my online interaction with fantastic people around the globe will not take a back seat. However, my personal preference now is meeting more people and feeling their real energy. It is so much different in real life. I have decided to attend more local events, find more time to actually connect with people- call them or meet them sometimes, then just add them on my social media networks. I have found more peace this way.

There are many people who I still interact with online and I value each and everyone of them. However, I say no to useless, meaningless ‘connections’ who just wish each other on birthdays because ‘it is the right thing to do’ and send holiday greetings with their business messages embedded deep in the good wishes.

I am taking this step. Getting over Facebook and finding a more meaningful way to connect on LinkedIn is my priority. However, considering the state of my messy LinkedIn timeline with propaganda, politics, news articles I don’t want to read and career advice I have read a million times before- I wonder if this scheme will work.

As far as social networking is concerned, I have found great value on Twitter and have found some cool people on Instagram too. However, if we could connect with so many wonderful people in real life, it would be so much better.

The moral of the story is- be more sociable, meet people, call people and be real ‘friends’ with people. I mean, won’t it be better to have a friend bring some snack and beer your way on the day of an important match rather than posting a status update about how your favorite player will ruin the opposition and get 40 likes?

Think about it.