Digital media is a part of me. Or so I have always thought. Wake up, check texts, emails, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram. All in the comfort of my bed, in the palm of my hand, before the hour of 10 am. Even as I write this sentence, I have paused to return to a Facebook chat that I had going from previously in the day with a friend. Social media and the internet is a place where I, along with most people my age, live my life and spend a substantial portion of my day. To my parents generation, who were in college before there were cell phones or wifi, my behavior is self absorbed and destructive; a means of procrastination when I should be focusing on the “real world” and living my “actual life”. Both of my parents have Facebook accounts and do use social media is small amounts, they log on once or twice a day to check in with friends and relatives, but it stops there.
To the older generations today, social media is a tool of simple communication and information – a practical necessity. For my generation, it’s an integral part of life. The world on the internet has been and continues to be a fantastic and beneficial tool to me, one of which I have learned through this project needs to be used constructively with some restraint to be able to enjoy it to the fullest.
On one hand, there are those individuals who taint media for us all. Those who feel the need to post hundreds of status’, tweets, photos, etc. of their each activity and are not contributing to the “digital sphere” online in any real constructive way. Luckily though, there is so much more to media that I enjoy that goes beyond just the surface-level status posters that I have found to be fulfilling. The digital world is a place for connecting and expressing and it is for those reasons that I keep coming back, my media diet project helped me recognize that fact.
Scrolling through my instagram feed depicts the exact reason why I support fully living in this saturated digital age. As I roll through the many images on the app I see posts from inspiring women whom I follow working in comedy, sports, fashion, and music. I see some of my favorite brands like Free People and Madewell whose digital marketing strategies online have won them numerous awards. I am filled with joy at funny photos of rescued dogs in new york city who have famous instagram accounts documenting their happy daily actives around the city. I read lengthy captions on posts from NatGeo and Humans of NY that take me to new cities and cultures that I never knew existed and hope to visit one day. On top of all of these different perspectives, sources of insight, and personalities that I don’t personally know, I also have the numerous friends I follow on instagram (the original reason I downloaded the app). I can keep up with friends from high school who live on the other side of the country via their recent photos. I can scroll through my sorority page’s feed and appreciate the women that I am so proud to be associated with and the work they are doing in the campus and community. Instagram can be so positive, though sometimes addicting, and can open eyes to an even bigger world than experienced in our daily “real lives”.
Instagram isn’t the only place of which I have found positive reinforcement through media. Reading articles on Thought Catalog for example, can be uplifting and encouraging, giving advice and opinion on topics like religion, sex, travel, and motherhood. I also spend time on pinterest (I am an avid self proclaimed foodie) where, as someone who loves cooking, I can find thousands of new and exciting recipes that I cook with my roommates and friends. Further, I frequently use a favorite app of mine, “Stop, Breathe and Think” as a meditation aid every night to help me find calmness before bed and sleep soundly. These media are only a small part of the digital world but they truly enhances my life and helps me live in “the real world” even better.
This project however, though helping me identify the places online that bring me the most fulfillment, has also helped me identify how harmful my constant online presence can be. Facebook is a major culprit. I applaud Facebook for being a leader in the past 5 years, completely changing the way we connect online and revolutionizing social media. However, in my own life online I think it is the worst for me and yet one of the sites I visit most often. I can spend an entire class period scrolling through the sea of images, status’, links, and events. Further than just being a waste of time, Facebook has the ability to make me feel left out, lonely, and insignificant. It has its purposes in connecting and spreading information, but Facebook is a place I live online that I have now decided to spend far less time on. It is through the Facebook example that I realized the negative sides of online media. By removing myself from using Facebook during class and before bed for this project, I started to feel a lot better during the day. When I woke up I checked it, checking in to see what happened over night, and then only used it later on in the day when I was in transit or killing time. I was able to focus in my classes so much more effectively and found myself feeling much more engaged. Also, not using my computer before bed helped me sleep better and feel more relaxed. Technology can be so incredibly useful, and it’s always going to be a part of my life, but by analyzing which forms of technology, which digital spaces, really benefitted me the most (and conversely, which were hurting me) helped me decide where to spend my time online.
Beyond the different forms of social media, I am lucky enough to get to have a job that engages me online and lets me find a creative outlet. For that I am truly grateful to the internet. For my internship this semester I am interning for one of my role models and a mentor of mine, Jess Keys, who is a popular Chicago based lifestyle and fashion blogger for The Golden Girl Blog. She quit her job as an ad executive last year to be a full time blogger and as her intern I essentially help her be successful online. Whether its spending time working on her instagram, tweeting her recent posts, or writing actual content for the blog I have done a little bit of everything for my digitally savvy boss. It has been through this work that I have really experienced how online communities form and how incredible they can be. The concept of a creator making something online (ie Jess doing a style piece or a restaurant review for the blog) and having so many thousands of people viewing it and commenting their opinion makes me remember why the internet was such a success in the first place. Every time I publish something through The Golden Girl I am able to spark the interest of people everywhere, people I would never meet or know, and engage them. It’s such a simple idea that is the norm today but it’s also something so powerful and inspiring. Bloggers put in so much time and effort into their sites and, despite the negatives that come with the internet, it makes all of the work worth it when you physically see a community forming. In only a few months at my internship I have seen this occurring, and is what keeps me coming back.
Like any place one can live in the world, “living” on the internet has its definite advantages and downfalls. I can feel so engaged, so creative, and so fulfilled by different things online yet also feel so disconnected and wasteful at the same time. It a dichotomy of the digital world we live in today and is a struggle we each face when going online no matter what we’re using it for. Through the media diet project however, I have found that it is okay to have this struggle. The internet is a wonderful place to be enjoyed, but it is essential to do so with restraint.