Now I have never thought of myself as media junkie. I was never the kid growing up who would spend hours on end in front of the television watching cartoons or playing computer games. I have always been pretty active in terms of lifestyle and choices. That being said, I believe that as I have grown with media and it’s developments, that I have used its applications as tools to benefit my life and passions. Society uses media in practically every aspect of our world. It would be unrealistic to say that society should stop certain media uses all together, but instead find a healthy balance. As we discussed, Thompson said the limitations and inability to use media helps us establish our relationship with media and its effect on our own identity. I truly believe social media is a beneficial aspect of technology that brings people together to thrive. But we must all remember there is real life past social media. This challenge was much more difficult that I expected, and it helped me revaluate certain media relationships I had with myself, and my dependences on them. Through my New Media Diet Project and testing I was able to evaluate my media use, and found that I do not rely on media for my own identity, although to escape the idea of a media identity is impossible and irresponsible; additionally I discovered that my media use has a direct correlation to my personal connections, and relationships.
First I will say this media fast could have not have come at a better time because my school workload and other responsibilities tripled during the week, and not having any distractions of social media definitely helped me focus. Because I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through my phone every spare moment I had free, I became more conscious of my surroundings, which allowed me to explore different ways to fill that time. I people watched on the train, surveyed the wonderful city of Chicago on the shuttle rides home, and one afternoon when I literally had no work to do in-between a large break of classes, I walked around an area of downtown Chicago I had never explored. One thing students can all agree on is that students’ lives can get pretty stressful at times, and it was nice to just have time to myself and decompress. I also found myself becoming much more organized, I wrote in my planner each day what I wished to accomplish for the day. I really enjoyed the freeing feeling I felt during my media fast. I was curious if I was ever going to feel bored, or worse cheat and check instagram or twitter, but I didn’t. For example my fast was during Paris Fashion Week and initially I was kind of bummed I wouldn’t be able to go on instagram or pinterest to keep up with my favorite designers, models, bloggers and etc. Instead I reached out to other outlets to get my PFW fix. I ended up finding some really cool bloggers and fashion cites I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I realized I made excuses for myself using social media as an outlet for my passions (food, fashion, travel, etc.). I found that I was actually limiting myself and not using media as a way to expand my passions.
Before my New Media Project I have never really thought about my personal media identity, and I have never used it to evaluate my actual personal identity. I began to think of my media use when I was abroad. Since my phone didn’t work in Italy, I only used it over wifi to login onto facebook to connect with people in America and for instagram. Now I believe instagram has turned into a popularity contest of who posts the coolest picture, the amount most likes, and followers one has. It has become a social hierarchy. I never really thought about these aspects myself until a comment my friend made, “Wow that is so embarrassing she only got 20 likes in one hour, I would delete that if I was her.” This shocked me, because I never really thought about how others perceived my instagram or social media identity. Now I’m not going to lie….. When I was in Europe I instagramed a lot, at least a photo a week, photos that I thought were cool and wanted to share with people back home. After posting I would get a pretty large amount of likes and comments. Now after returning back to America, my postings have definitely decreased and so have my likes. It is interesting to see that my location affected who and how many people like a posts. As well, I am kind of embarrassed to say, I have deleted a post that didn’t get that many likes, or haven’t instagramed something I thought was cool because I didn’t think it would get that many likes. In class we talked about “The Web Means the End of Forgetting” by Jeffery Rosen who argued that media has created an identity crisis for many. People are now reinventing themselves and portraying themselves differently on social media. This idea also may suggest that people are not being as real or as truthful about themselves. This idea and topic got me to look at how social media affects the way others see me, and how I see myself.
Although I don’t think I rely on social media for my identity I think it is impossible for us to escape. I agree with RushKoff that we must create strict sense of identity and post with responsibility and intent because everything put on the net is there forever. Our society, including myself, uses social media for a great deal of our communication. During my testing I was tagged in two posts on intsagram, friends sent me facebook messages, I missed posts about sorority events, and a group message for a school project was created, all which I had no way of knowing or checking while I was fasting. I quickly responded to all after logging back on. Because I wasn’t using social media I became complete out of touch with certain aspects of my life. For example there was a posting on facebook about a location change for an event. I had no idea so I showed up at the wrong place. Many aspects of my life use facebook and other social medias as crucial ways to contact and update people on events so on. Another irritating portion of my fast was my inability to network. In the past couple weeks I have been trying to find a job and used LinkedIn a lot to network and find opportunities in my area, but not having access to this media inhibited this. As well during my fast I missed a post on an instgram account of a brand I love and follow, that they are hiring in the Chicago area. Therefore I found my media fast benefited my productivity because I didn’t have distractions, but also hurt it because I didn’t have access to many different medians I needed.
A major aspect I learned through my media diet was how much I relied on social media for the solidification and connection of relationships. The main reason I love social media so much is because it makes me feel connected and closer to people and their activities even if they are halfway around the world or haven’t spoken in a while. Rushkoff said, “Friendships, both digital and incarnate, do create value,” (Rushkoff 104). My friends and family are immensely important to me and I have a lot of them. Friends from school, work, study abroad, home, and family who live all over, and it is nice to see what’s going on in there lives. Now I know many may argue that if you really care enough you should reach out to the person, but lets be real, sometimes life gets hectic and we get lose touch with people we care about. Social media makes it so much easier for me to feel connected to my best friend who I don’t see if often, because she posted a instagram of herself at Oktoberfest so I know at least where she is and what’s she is doing.
After this media diet I did learn another valuable lesson, that social media should never be an excuse for not reaching out to someone. I have an unhealthy relationship with mistaking posts, and likes to valuable connections. “The contact isn’t the message, the contact is,” (Rushkoff 105). Rushkoff’s statement about social media initially agreed with me but after testing I had a change of opinion. In my field notes I talked about how much I loved snapchat because sends the person a quick little picture of themselves or whatever their doing at that time, but after my media diet I came to the conclusion that it really has no meaning. A snapchat isn’t the same as picking up and calling someone or sending a quick text. After my testing I realized that I wasn’t receiving as many snap chats as I was sending. Another part of my media diet was to call five people during the week that I haven’t spoken to in a while, and turn on my read receipts to improve my texting response time. Although I only called three people during the testing I believe it really helped me feel more connected. For the most part, when you are talking to someone on the phone you guys have each others full attention, you are understanding tone of voice and feelings which you may have otherwise wouldn’t had understood in a text. Although calling isn’t as convenient as sending a text, I really plan to continue this trend as after speaking to each of the person I called I felt much for connected.
Another quick side note I would like to mention is the activity on my Media Diet blog. I was pretty surprised to find one day that I had comments, likes, and even follows from other user who read by blog. I almost forgot that this blog was in the actual media world and not just our class. Although some of the followers and comments were spam, I actually got an interesting comment from a reader. “Thanks for sharing your unique perspective on life (one that likely less than 10% Americans ever experience).” I’m unsure if he was interested, trying to be cynical, making fun of me, or all three. But it made me think, the use of media in my everyday life seems normal and essential to the way I live, but for the majority of the world this concept is not. I forget sometimes that it is a privilege to be able to use media so frequently and effectively.
After analyzing my media use before and after effects, I discovered that I take the easy way out most of the time because social media is so simple and requires the least amount of effort on my end. I came to the conclusion that I do not use media to its full potential and need to expand and explore my media horizons. I have realized that I need to set a healthy balance between my media connections and real life connections.