Last weekend my Mom, Stepdad, and Grandma came over for lunch with my wife and I. My Grandma, like usual, helps catch me up on what is going on with the family that I hardly talk to including some Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. Not only does my Grandma speak on the phone with some of these family members, but most of the time, she is chatting with them on Facebook Messenger.
Facebook is the center of my Grandma’s life. It allows her to be able to communicate with all of her family and friends cheap and easy. It also allows her to see what is going on in their lives by those same people posting life events and photos to their Facebook feed.
So when it comes to someone using social media “socially,” I would have to say my Grandma is a real example of that. For the rest of us, though, I can’t honestly say that we use social media for the social aspects. Some may disagree that adding photos or comments about something is adding to the social sphere of information, but there is no back and forth most of the time.
That, to me, isn’t social but content creation.
My relationship with social media has always been back and forth. I get spurts of wanting to share things that are happening in my life, or I go on a trip and want to share the moments I am having there. Mostly though, social media are just consumption apps for me. I scroll through the content of my friends and family posts but hardly like or comment on anything, nor do I reach out and have a conversation with them.
Part of this has to do with me not having many social media apps on my phone — currently, I have Twitter, Instagram, and Untapped. Twitter, I don’t follow any of my family since they are not on it and very few friends. Instagram, I do follow more friends and family, but I hardly post anything, especially stories. And Untapped is just a beer tracking app that you can use to rate and document all the beers you try at different places.
The bottom line is that; I don’t use social media. I consume it.
And I think most people do too. Some are what I like to call micro-content creators who post a lot on these platforms but still don’t interact much and consume other’s content.
I thought about this article topic while driving home from Palo Alto with my wife one weekend and passed the Facebook HQ in Menlo Park off of CA-84 — you can’t miss the big thumbs-up sign. It was hard not to think about how consuming social media is so similar to how we consume streaming services.
Videos posted on social media are the best comparison to streaming services, but I would argue photos and even text is a form of content as well. When you scroll through Facebook, and you read someone’s story about a horrible day at work, a link to a political news article, or watch a funny cat video, this is consuming content.
Just because some production company didn’t produce it and some big actor didn’t star in it, doesn’t mean you are not treating it the same as clicking on the next episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix. And all of us watching those videos and endlessly scrolling through our feeds is consuming content as if we were on the couch watching our TVs.
Social media has become Netflix, but instead of buying content or hiring companies to make content, Facebook and Instagram are leveraging us to create content for them for free. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the service itself is free, but it is an interesting way to think about social media and how we use it.
This comparison makes sense the more I think about it since, like social media apps, my wife and I have reduced our streaming services so much. HBO and Netflix are the primary two services that we watch. We also have Amazon Prime and AppleTV+ (thanks iPhone 11 Pro), but we hardly ever watch anything on them.
So I am hesitant of the thought in signing up for more services like Disney+ or Peacock just like I haven’t signed up for TikTok and haven’t signed into Facebook for years. I don’t have enough time in the day to consume the content that these services and social media apps provide.
Of course, that is my choice in choosing to use my time in other ways then consuming content. Whether that is on a social media app or Netflix. Most people do not realize that all of these services are providing the same thing. Creating a margin in your life and separating yourself from content can be very beneficial.
Podcasts, YouTube videos, streaming services, audiobooks, and social media apps are providing more content than any one person could consume in a lifetime. We are in such a great time where boredom is no longer a fear but, for some, an asset.
For those who utilize social media to its fullest and find it an excellent tool for keeping in touch and being informed of others, I am happy for you. For me, I will continue to consume it where it fits in but not too often, just like sitting on the couch every few nights to watch an episode of The Crown with my wife.