Kristen’s Corner: To Tweet or Not
Friday night, I drove up to the high school a little before 7 p.m., camera bag in hand, ready to cover the boy’s basketball game. Upon my arrival I found an empty parking lot and dark school.
I drove around the entire complex, assuming I just didn’t know where I was going. But I saw no buses that would have carried the opposing team, and no more than three cars at the entire school.
After texting three people, I was sent a screenshot of the Lockhart ISD Facebook page. The game had been canceled according to a post from eight hours earlier.
I felt like an idiot.
Since taking this job, I’ve battled with getting back on social media. As a reporter in New York, my phone was an extension of my hand. I couldn’t live a day without scrolling through Twitter.
When I moved back to Colorado in mid-2015, I wasn’t reporting full-time. But I kept my voracious news and social media habits the same.
But following the 2016 election, I began to realize how toxic and manipulative social media had become in my life. I felt myself being pulled into arguments with family and friends. I had a “side” I felt I needed to defend. And oddly enough, I found myself spouting off talking points like a robot.
I realized I was paying less attention to the real world and instead putting more stock into the digital bubble I had created for myself. I began to notice I was looking for my Twitter feed to tell me what was happening in my city instead of using my own professionally trained eyes and ears.
On January 20, 2017 I began a one-month news and social media cleanse. I wasn’t working as a full-time journalist at that time, so my job didn’t depend on it. I deleted everything from my phone and didn’t check the news or pick up a paper.
It was the second-best thing I’ve ever done for myself (with the first being to quit drinking in 2008).
Without social media to distract me, I realized how much time I actually had. I “magically” was able to work on those projects I’d been “too busy” to do before. I became present and focused on what was happening in front of me, not the bright blinking thing being shoved in front of me.
I also found that most of what I considered “newsworthy” before, actually wasn’t. Nothing I “missed” during my news cleanse actually impacted my day-to-day life.
I decided life was better without social media all the time. I didn’t delete my accounts, but drastically changed my relationship with social media.
I don’t have Facebook on my phone, haven’t posted anything since 2018, and rarely check it. My last Twitter post is from nearly two years ago, and the only time I check it is during major breaking news.
I only recently opened an Instagram, but that was to see a band I love post home shows during the pandemic. I don’t post or get on there except to watch those shows.
As I climb back into the role of full-time journalist, I find myself wondering if I should dust off my old accounts.
A quick check-in over the holiday brought back that old familiar dopamine hit. The scrolling through content, the desire to comment, and most of all, that unquenchable desire to have your post “liked” or retweeted.
Like that bottle of Grey Goose that used to adorn my counter, it was familiar. Comfortable. Comforting.
As we found out in the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, those feelings are by design. I know myself very well. I wonder if I can get back on “just for work” and maintain balance.
Historically, balance has not been my strong suit. But as I found out on Friday, Facebook and social media is how people I cover communicate.
So my choice isn’t to get back on or not. It’s to be the signal or the noise. I hope I choose wisely.