When quitting Twitter isn't an option

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Whenever I see another article talking about a social media cleanse or how the writer went off Twitter for a year or deleted their Facebook account, I have to stop myself from sighing audibly.

Girl using smartphone (martin-dm / Getty Creative)This isn't because I don't think there's merit to the idea — there definitely is. Social media can cause poor mental health outcomes, and there is evidence that social media is designed to be addictive. But deleting all my accounts is not something I think I could realistically do. So I scroll past the article and ignore my envy.

At present, I have 1050 tweets and 128 followers on Twitter. This isn't a lot, because even though I joined in 2013, I don't post very regularly. My feelings about social media are complicated. When I first came out, social media accounts that my family didn't follow were among the few ways I could express my queerness. Over time, I've learned to enjoy reading threads on issues I want to know about, and have cultivated a timeline that doesn't want make me want to gouge my eyes out.

If I'm honest though, the real reason I'm on Twitter isn't because I particularly love using it. The truth is that Twitter and, to a lesser degree, other social media like Facebook and Instagram, are part of my work life as a writer and editor.

What's trending, what news items are being picked up and talked about, and what the newest takes are, all come into play when it comes to what I help publish and what I write. I could get this information from other sources — and I often do — but cutting out social media would take away a huge part of how I engage with different communities and hear viewpoints I might not hear in mainstream media.

And realistically, while there are writers who don't use social media, for an emerging writer looking to freelance or publish a book, having a social media presence does help establish an audience and personal brand.

So I read those articles that tell me to cut social media out of my life with a kind of wistfulness. As much as I value the connections I make on those platforms, I sometimes resent how much time social media takes up and the guilt I feel if I don't post something. Posting anything publicly within a limited number of characters is an anxiety hellscape of checking and rechecking and frantically editing. Sometimes I'm not able to shut off my anxiety for days after posting.

 

"Given that footballers have to post and comment publicly within company guidelines, the AFL stepping up to protect player wellbeing on social media becomes a matter of workplace safety."

 

But for me, and I suspect many others, resistance seems a little futile. Social media has become part of our lives, and that includes our work lives. Almost every business has social media accounts. Many jobs, particularly jobs targeted at young people, centre around social media skills. Companies have social media guidelines for employees and use social media to make decisions in the hiring process.

For people whose work is in part maintaining a public profile, such as professional footballers, the relationship between social media and work is even more tightly wound together. Tayla Harris, Eddie Betts and Liam Ryan have all been subjected to hateful online comments on official AFL social media accounts.

Given that footballers have to post and comment publicly within company guidelines, as Harris rightly pointed out, the AFL stepping up to protect player wellbeing on social media becomes a matter of workplace safety.

Considering how damaging social media can get, is continuing to use it just a Faustian bargain that we're all trying to justify to ourselves? I'm not sure if there is a straightforward answer. For some, staying off social media altogether is the right move for them. But for others, social media is an integral part of how we work.

And while social media companies are being forced to respond to criticism and articulate ways to mitigate the damage social media can cause, I suspect that will be a slow process and one that said companies will ultimately choose their bottom line over user safety.

So for those who choose to stay, the challenge right now is to be honest with ourselves about why we use social media platforms, to regularly and frankly evaluate the risks and benefits of social media, and to behave as ethically and be as kind to ourselves as possible.

 

 

Neve MahoneyNeve Mahoney is a student at RMIT university. She has also contributed to Australian Catholics and The Big Issue.

Main image: martin-dm / Getty Creative

Topic tags: Neve Mahoney, social media, Twitter, Facebook

 

 

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Existing comments

If I was on Twitter I would be one of your followers, Neve! However, you are here at Eureka Street so I'm not altogether deprived. I'm not a fan of Facebook and Instagram and other platforms don't appeal either. Social media can become addictive and so it's wise to have a healthy scepticism about some aspects of it. It's part of my life and I do need to be vigilant about other pursuits being important. Also I enjoy my breaks - that's important too.
Pam | 10 April 2019


Thank you, very informative and insightful article. Much appreciated.
Larry Vincent | 11 April 2019


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