Where did Tim go?

For the last week and a half I have been on a Social Media fast.  If you’ve visited my Facebook page at all in the last week you would have been greeted with a page without the Facebook wall, no status updates, only a handful of profile pictures and very basic information.  I deleted all of my pictures and notes from the last 6 years I’ve been using Facebook and I just stopped short of deleting my profile entirely.  If you went to my Foursquare account you wouldn’t have seen any check-ins.  If you follow me on Twitter you would have noticed an absence of tweets or retweets.  Why did I leave and why am I coming back?

 

As many know I have a weekly internet program that I do called theStudio.  Every once and a while we’ve done an episode that has changed the way I look at the world.  In fact, my controversial post on the requisite death of the architecture profession came about in part as a result of the show.

Last Wednesday we recorded episode #69 of theStudio with Lindsay Masten Lopez where the conversation evolved into a discussion about the influence of the internet and particularly social media on the design professions.  We realized that we, this generation embarking on the uncharted territory of social media, have found an outlet where we are addicted to the immediate validation by our peers for even the most mundane and trivial things in our lives.

The inverse of this is that we feel compelled to “like” the photos, posts, and status updates that our friends share with us.  I find myself wanting to “like” things on blogs and random websites instead of taking the time to write a meaningful comment.  I want the world to know that I approve.  Does they need to know that?  Probably not.

I recently ended a long term relationship and wasn’t looking forward to having everyone comment on my change in relationship status.  So, I “erased” myself, at least temporarily and decided it was a perfect time for this experiment.

A day after my social media fast experiment started I randomly had a kiwi in my truck.  After filling my gas tank I was greeted by the overwhelming smell of kiwi in my cab and realized that I really liked the smell of kiwi fruit.  I had the sudden urge to tweet “I never realized how much I liked the smell of kiwi.”  Why in the world would I want to tell the world about this?  Does anyone care?  What did I want or expect?

I think I wanted people to confirm there own love for the smell of kiwi and provide me with some validation and connection with the world of kiwi lovers.

Is this insanity?  Probably.  As of 2010 over the 100 million people use social networking sites, so at least I’m in good company.

During my media fast I realized that I’ve been addicted to the feedback from my peers.  As my friend Tiffany said on her blog “If I want attention, I often just ask for it.”  I crave attention, you crave it, we all do.  We all seek connections and validation and the social media explosion has allowed us to get that at the click of a mouse.  In the case of recent tragic events on Facebook we’ve also seen the devastating effects of immediate negative feedback.

So what does this mean?  I’m returning to social media as of today, but in my return I’m going to work to change the way I use it.  Instead of obsessively tweeting and sharing every mundane thought and checking in on Foursquare at every opportunity I’m going to make a more concerted effort to share for a purpose.

Does that mean I’m going to not share my love for the smell of kiwi with the world?

Of course not.