Social media - You have more control than you think

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With social media it’s easy to forget that you can choose what you don’t see, but also, more importantly what you do see.

In recent weeks and in light of many conversations that are taking place about diversity and inclusion, I (I suspect like many others) have been reviewing the accounts that I interact with on social media. I was shocked to discover how homogenised my Instagram feed was at first. Even though I followed a diverse range of people, on closer examination I realised that the majority were very like me.

It’s certainly no excuse but it’s a fact of life that the internet reflects back to us how we most often see the world. Algorithms are very good at monitoring what it thinks we like and then giving us more of the same. So if we spend a lot of time commenting on pretty floral flat lays, or lovely skeins of hand dyed yarn, then that’s what it shows us more of.

Hence, my social media feed is often comprised of yarn, coffee and sometimes cats. There was a weird stage when Instagram kept insisting on showing me photos of those odd looking hairless cats. Heavens knows why - maybe it thought they needed a knitted sweater.

In recent weeks though I have been spending time purposely exploring new accounts from people with a diverse range of backgrounds (even some non-knitters) and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the algorithm picks up on that.

As well as choosing what we do see though, we also have the ability to choose what not to engage with on social media and to choose where we direct our energies. Instagram is a wonderful place in so many ways but it’s use as a platform for meaningful social interaction is limited to say the least. Comments are difficult to moderate and it is all too easy for well meaning words to be taken out of context. I’m not entirely sure how best we can effect genuine societal change when it comes to diversity and inclusion but I’m fairly sure that liking a few posts, adding a few comments and following a few new accounts is not actually going to do that much. Much less is it going to help to shout at each other across a Mark Zuckerberg owned social media platform.

I’m increasingly conscious of the amount of time I spend on Instagram and have started to use the “time limit” feature to help me manage my time better. Far better sometimes, rather than getting dragged into online debate and drama is to actually put down my phone and do something in the real world, whether that’s finding out more about local charities that I can help with, spending time with my young boys helping them to find their own way in the world or spending time on my own reading and education.

I guess this is just a long-winded way of saying that if someone is “quiet” on Instagram or any other social media platform, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing anything. Conversely, just because you shout loudly on social media about a certain issue it doesn’t mean that translates to anything meaningful in the “real world”. Social media is all well and good but at the end of the day, surely it’s the little things we do every day, the small interactions we have and the baby steps we take every day towards being a better human, that actually count?