Social Network Abstinence

On: October 4, 2011
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About Juliana Paiva
Brazilian, 24 years Graduated in Industrial Design in Rio de Janeiro. Worked on design offices, new media festival and TV channel. Doing a New Media Master and trying to figure out the relationship with behavior and design. Likes films, travel, cartoons, music, memes, design, design thinking and service.


In this postmodern age, McLuhan‘s thoughts about medium as an extension of ourselves seems more and more accurate. However, if the medium is us and we are the medium, how we can detach from it?

Nowadays, social media is one of the main examples of how integrated we can be. With every information just one click away; almost instant responses and the capability to turn your roll of friends in an international environment, social media is becoming even more engaging, and appealing to a different spectrum of ages interests and purposes.

Therefore, all these communication seems that our relationship with social media is becoming intrinsic to our habits and behavior. The desire to see and be seen transcends our own identity in the so called real life. We are walking a path we can no longer go back? The media really changes the way people perceive and understand the world?

“Technology become water to fish, imperceptible but essential to survival” (McLuhan’s Understanding Media)

Hence, I began with a research in a small scale about the relationship between people and social media. How blended with the media we are? The research consisted in gathered a small group to spend the whole day doing their usually tasks only removing any kind of social media (facebook, google+, twitter, flickr…). Along with the day, the person was asked to keep a journal about the day, writing when the willing to use a social media was strong, what they wanted to see or post in and why. Basically, describing everything that was related with social media (and the lack of it) for 24 hours.

At first, I should say that this analysis was done in a small scale – both size and time – so it fits the time and management of this post. But all the information and feelings described in the journals are a data that can begin to understand our behavior regarding social media. These data also raised many questions that can be further explored. In this post, I will comment the four major issues that I could analyzed in those journals. Also, you can see all the journals in my personal blog.

  • Social media is addictive?

As for the journal was asked to not only write what people wanted to post or read about but also report their feelings regarding the day without social media, most of the journals begin to sound like a description of a minor crisis of abstention. They described the desire to see a comment or to write something in social media as impulses, urges.

“10:40am: Saw a new video from Zelda and wanted to post and comment about it on Orkut. I was a little anxious.”

“11am: I decided not to enter blogs or too much information on the Internet. I’m getting afraid of wanting to share something…”

Likewise, they described the feeling of not using those sites as anxiety but, sometimes, relaxing. The diary also brought up the self-reflection of some people related to whether or not use social media and how long could they handled without.

“I spend the day relaxed and almost had an impulse to log in when I needed to look for a name that I knew I had in the history of some conversation with a friend of mine.”

We can see all those behavior – saving the proportions – in addicts in drugs or alcohol, raising the question of how social networks can be addictive.

  • The old distinction between real life and virtual life still exists?

As the day went by, people begin to think about how much they are missing, feeling uninformed of what happened during the day, not just on Facebook, Twitter or Ning, for example, but what they actually miss in their lives during the day. The information that they got thought TV, co-workers, news sites, newspapers, wasn’t enough, wasn’t personal. This report can make us think about how blended our lives are with the online environment. Can we continue with the distinction of real and virtual life, or we are no longer two different people regarding the mean?

“4pm: I’m curious of what is happening on Facebook. Felling misinformed. But I’m quite alright; guess I can live without these… for a couple of days…hahaha.”

“8:10pm: When I arrived home I felt like log in the social medias to know what happened during the day.”

“Today, the first thing that I did on the computer was log in to Facebook to see what I had missed from yesterday.”

  • Are we becoming more narcissists and voyeuristic?

The content of the posts that they couldn’t write this day was mostly about interesting videos, blog posts, sites or music that was read/listen along the day. They wanted to share not just because was interesting content, but because was something that they were doing and wanted people to see or hear the same thing. Social networks rely on the narcissistic side of people, sharing and showing to another who you are/like/dislike, etc.

“9am: Arrive in my job listening to music and wanted to post the video-clip on FB.”

“3:30pm: I signed a petition on Avaaz and clicked on share this in FB. Remembered that I can’t and cancelled the post.”

Together with sharing something, people also want to know what others are doing, is the voyeuristic side. As was said before, the people in the research felt a lack of information in this day also because they didn’t get to see what their friends or acquaintances were sharing. Hence, social network encourages the narcissistic and voyeuristic behavior?

“14:00: I receive an e-mail from FB telling that someone had mentioned me in a comment. Automatically I click on the message and read it. I killed my curiosity… guess I violated the rules a little, but I manage to hold myself and didn’t commented back.”

“1:50pm: Got back from lunch and saw through Gmail that I had a post on FB. I was curious to see what it was.”

  • Are we replacing face-to-face conversation to only online communication?

Social media enables communication among people. Small or absent fees, the capability to have international conversations instantly and the ease to find whoever you want only increases the use of those networks. As analyzed on those journals, the communication is increasing but also shifting to online to the point that people misses information just by not being logged in.

“I was afflicted to not be able to talk with my daughter but just kept working.”

“Another point is the chat that everybody uses. Today, nobody calls anybody to hang out, they use the chat instead. I’m not sure if I missed something…”

“I couldn’t hold anymore. I really needed to access internet and social media. I try to avoid by reading a book, but, as a Director for a junior company, was extremely necessary to connect myself.”
In conclusion, there’s still a lot to understand about Social Network and our relationship with that. Such research becomes interesting when the daily behavior in social media – normally passed over – is scrutinized into separated actions that, if analyzed, can display how blended we are with the social medias.

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