Social Media 30-Day Detox Experiment

I did it. Finally. After months and months of complaining about social media — and this is from someone who works in the media industry — I decided to put my cynical self to the test and deprive myself of everything digital (with the exception of WhatsApp, which serves to be my SMS app replacement). And what better time to begin with my experiment than when I went back home to Syria before Ramadan, the place where I usually unplug from the online world? With your run-of-the-mill social networking applications hardly accessible, self-control and restraint should have been easy.

Should have been.

Though in Syria I tend to spend my time completely offline, this visit was a bit different and more often than not I had an impulsive urge to share what I was doing with everyone, especially stories that my grandmother narrated to me on the balcony as we observed the streets and prepared Freekeh. Yet I was completely disconnected — and other than email on my mobile phone, I was completely cut off from the outside world.

The first week I suffered from severe withdrawal symptoms. I had dreams of shrinking URLs and twitpics. I created conversation scenarios in my head and lived them, whether they be on twitter or Facebook. Quite sad, right?

When I accepted the fact that I could not use social media, I was flown back to Dubai. Armed with my new-found self confidence that I can remain unplugged for a longer time, I deactivated my Facebook (quite a dumb thing to do as I use many services with the FB login, but that’s another story) and uninstalled all applications (twitter, G+, etc) from all my devices and browsers.

And I came to this conclusion:

  • It is so w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l to be away and focus for once in my life! To have the time (shock) to read books and go out and do other things! To not have to deal with links about Google Plus on Google Plus!
  • Living without social media is d-r-e-a-d-f-u-l. I miss how enriching interactions are and how I felt I was part of a community.
By then it hit me that these are just services and I am the one in charge. I can allow myself to use them the way I wish, or be abused by succumbing to the addiction. I have the willpower to work from 9-5 and drop by on my breaks. I have the choice of what I can post and where. More importantly, I have the choice of what I want to read. It all seems silly, but for a guy who considers himself to be on the inquisitive side, I tend to feel obliged that I have to read everything.
I wanted to conclude with something else but I have this request to make instead: FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY, UNLINK TWITTER FROM THE REST OF YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA SERVICES! NO NEED TO REPLY TO @myexgirlfriend ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK AND G+ AND LINKEDIN!

The Social Farce

I cringe at what I intend to hint to with the blog title as I type it. The world around me is being consumed by this “social media” virus and I stand here in it, but not of it; I stand between shifting paradigms in a knock-off world – a mere mental state of perceptive reality shaped by our subconscious lust of belonging to this cognitive group yet be unique in the hundreds of thousands around us.

My director asked me a few weeks ago: “What do you think is the future of social media?”. I replied with silence; I did not know what the future of social media is, because I believe it is built around a psyche that is adept at being delusional yet can be broken by an odd individual. I believe that that we are ushered into an era where we believe that we are empowered. We believe we have power because we now believe our voices are heard. We believe we can change our world because the rest of the world is now watching. Common folk like you and I and a horde of other people. Our ideas are becoming a by-product of the corner of the massive pool we happen to swim in. And, indeed, we have seen countless examples of this “empowerment”.

But we never stop to ask why we have been empowered, and where is this en masse cognitive process going – and who is driving it. We never stop and wonder that we are being heard in most cases because the recipients are exercising mob-control. We almost never consider that instead of being heard, we are being herded.

When there were little options and little opportunities, people knew what they wanted. People knew the market, each other, their needs, and their desires. Now, people have little knowledge of what they want, and, if they do, they need reassurance from their peers.

Here I am in an era with an infinite amount of options none of which is satisfactory. I am in an era which screams FREEDOM when everyone is a prisoner of their own mind. I am in an era where we juggle between many gadgets and services and our to-do lists get bigger and longer. We need tables and sheets and agendas and Excel and three hundred web-apps to keep track of what we’re doing and keep track of all the other apps we use to keep track of us. Every single aspect of our life has become a target for a service, and then we have services and apps which attempt to consolidate our fragmented lives into one “box”.

Our minds have become so fragmented that we fail to see how broken the system is.

There is a difference between riding the bandwagon and doing things right – though anyone at this point can still theorise at what is right and what is not. Every time I hear “social” I begin to imagine a group of silhouetted individuals in a grey, bland room with flashy rings and teeth and a projector displaying some random infograph (which have become a commodity right now and information unusable within days) plotting their next strategy to brainwash people en masse.

If I were the word “social” I would have killed myself right now.

Movie Review: The Social Network

Having been dragged to watch The Social Network was quite an ordeal by itself. As if the world needed yet another dose of Social Media Crack, we are now presented with a film narrating the (real?) story behind one of the most successful social platforms, Facebook.

Mind you I am not against the medium. Believe it or not I actually do work in a media agency that has a strong social media function. However I do not find the need to be part of the 80% of people who claim to be a Social Media Adjective and some Legendary Entrepreneur because I retweet Mashable and think that opening an online scarf shop is the next big thing (if it really is, though, well done on becoming an entrepreneur at that stage).

The Social Network

Back to the film: It’s surprisingly good. Not that I thought for a minute I would be very interested in knowing how Facebook came about – this is a Hollywood film afterall and is bound to be full of fiction – but it is because of the story telling and the plethora of interesting and funny actors.

While we tend to think the geniuses behind the big websites we use are a bunch of basement dwelling robots (and maybe, they are, and that is their choice if they’re happy with it), the film narrates the story of the personal struggles of the main characters with coping with the idea that they’re on to something. You can truly feel the zest and energy of the film as The Next Big Thing on the way happens.

However fictional the story is, it did a great job in creating a believable tale of intimate human relationships filled with humour. For a “drama” documentary it felt like a two hour sitcom. And I don’t see why not; if you’re going to add some fiction around someone’s life you might as well make it sweet and funny rather than bitter and grim – especially that Mark is still alive and kicking, something which I found an odd thing to do but someone had to jump on the social media bandwagon.

The Social Network

If you take out the fact that we’re talking about Mark and Facebook and social media then you end up with a regular weekend comedy in home pizza night with the friends type of movie. And quite frankly I think this is what the aim of the film really is.

Hello, I’m Another Social Media Expert

Since I joined twitter in April 2009 (thanks to Zaher who nags more than I do), I was introduced to an incredible world of up to date spam, infinite ways to spend/waste time, attention disorders and, more importantly, entrepreneurs and social media experts.

I may sound like a hypocrite as I am a heavy contributer to spam on twitter and Facebook. I do love discovering the web, bringing together photos and links I find interesting, important or funny and share them with my friends. Sometimes a bit too much during the day. I also was introduced to a bucketful of amazing people who have become my friends. And I have used the medium to promote my photo blog and this blog, which did bring in more traffic, as well as find a few freelance jobs and what not. So it isn’t all about spam, on my part of my followers’.

However, I do not claim to be a social media expert.

I do not understand why people have the notion that if they have a Facebook fan page and a twitter account for them and/or their product/corp  that makes them social media experts. Funnier, still, they talk about how their business models presumably changed and share their “expertise” on the subject matter with others who also want to jump on this bandwagon.

There is much more to social media than simply opening accounts on every possible channel. Planning is involved, analytics, monitoring, “engagement”, choosing the right updates at the right time through the correct medium and such jargon an average internet user doesn’t need to be bored with. Pointing out how twitter changed the Iranian elections doesn’t make anyone a social media expert. Having a Facebook page with a portfolio of startups (that have just started) doesn’t make anyone an entrepreneur.

That’s not to say there aren’t social media experts out there amongst all the others. There are people who have a strategy, have and still are planning the paths and focus of their businesses/startups. To those, hats off to you. But if you’re selling stitched socks through twitter you’re no more of an expert than anyone else, me included, sharing links on the medium. بالعربي, مو كل مين صف الصواني .. قال أنا حلواني