I don’t really do social media. That statement might seem odd since I teach social media in my journalism classes, but generally, as an individual, I try to stay away from social media.
I’m on Facebook (I know, the one for the olds), but I pretty much just keep up with friends, family members and their kids, laugh at memes, and check in on former students. I’ve created a few Twitter accounts over the years; an adviser handle to send messages to my newspaper and yearbook staffs, a coach handle to send messages to my basketball players, and now a handle for this blog. I got on Instagram this year because I picture of me was floating around during one of our school spirit weeks and I wanted to see it. I have Snapchat that I keep completely private with no friend connections so that my son and I can take pictures with filters (He calls it “taking funny pictures”). You should see a common trend; I’m a lurker, not a producer.
I know that I need to change, especially for our newspaper at school. The past few years I have put kids in charge of our social media handles, but there has been no structure so there were just sporadic posts and photos. This year, we actually have a student taking on a defined role as social media manager, and I will be learning along with my students about the role social media can play for us.
However, I find social media to be a dangerous ground. I think our kids are too consumed with likes and comments, and they care more about people interacting with them online than they do in person. I have seen students lose scholarships because of social media posts, and I share stories of people losing jobs over posts with my journalism students. I half jokingly blurt out all the time that social media will be the death of our society. I think I am so over the top because I know if I had grown up today instead of when I did, I would be yelling at people like me to stop being such a dinosaur and get involved. I would be just as consumed as my students are, and that scares me.
This last week, being off of school and with much more time to not be constantly stressing out, I went in hard to Twitter. It was the first week of NBA free agency last week, which is the Christmas equivalent to NBA fans. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am a Clipper fan, and I am proud to be one through all the terrible years. This week there were rumors that one of the best players in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard, could possibly be signing with the team. Every free second I had last week, I was on Twitter searching for “clippers,” “kawhi,” “clippers kawhi,” and any other possible combination of rumor that came out of the NBA. I would search Twitter before I fell asleep and dream of Kawhi Leonard signing with random teams. I had become everything that I feared.
I had encountered a friendly, somewhat pejorative acronym that has entered the lexicon, as day after day, second after second, I was experiencing FOMO (Again, for the olds, this stands for fear of missing out). I was afraid that if I looked away for even a second, the whole NBA world would have known where Kawhi went, and I would have been out of the loop, even though I was so far into the loop that I was experiencing centrifugal force.
It was exactly as I had imagined. If I had access to social media when I was in school, there is no way that I would have been able to focus. Every time I searched and got no solid information, I felt angry, as if I was being denied a basic right. Twitter users were jumping on reports from trusted sports reporters and former athletes, even though they were all prefaced with statements like “I’m hearing that” or “sources say.” Any first year journalism student knows that means that the information being presented is not solid, but this FOMO mentality was driving everything.
In a few weeks I’ll be back to my limited social media connectivity, and I think I’ll be fine with that. I think my FOMO may be a bit more intense, which is why I went into journalism in the first place. I like finding out information, I love gaining knowledge, and I thrive on using that knowledge to analyze our world. I know that I am going to have to engage in more of the social media world to truly grow our newspaper’s online presence, so I’m going to have to get over my end of days mentality about the stuff. I just hope I can teach my students to use it effectively and help grow more positive discourse over time, so that I can get on social media without feeling a little bit like flirting with the enemy.