Before I begin, this blog post is inspired by some of the conversations that have been taking place in the Mental Health Twitter community: in particular the above tweet.
As someone who has worked in the NHS for quite a while (in non-clinical roles, I should add), and on a personal level, experiences mental health issues myself (I do not currently work in the Mental Health sphere of the NHS, though briefly have) I have definitely noticed what both of the above authors are referring to. I have noticed it in other sectors as well though it is perhaps slightly less damaging outside of healthcare Twitter. I know most librarians reading will surely admit that most of the interactions they have on their professional twitters/library accounts are with their peers, rather than those they provide a service for. If that is the case, who is this social media content for?
I’ve been having some misgivings about the concept of ‘professional twitter’ for quite some time, especially in the past year as I have felt the need to do more work tweets or managed professional accounts and had targets to meet with regards to creating content. By ‘professional twitter’ I mean twitter accounts either set up in a professional capacity to represent a service itself, or tweets by personal accounts that are ‘about work’.
I am currently trying to take a social media break so it seems a bit bleak that I am now going to blog about twitter but I am hoping this will help me to organise my thoughts a little bit.
What with the trend of minimalism and konmari and digital detoxing and all of that, the word intentionality comes up quite a lot. What are the intentions you have when you post a tweet?
- Maybe you want to share useful information
- Maybe you want to post a picture to get positive responses
- Maybe you want to publicly thank a colleague rather than emailing or telling them face to face they did a good thing
- Maybe you want to prove you are actually working from home, honest
- Maybe you want to talk about yourself because you are super important aren’t you, definitely, probably.
- Maybe you want to humblebrag about your super important and exciting career.
- Maybe you are angry and want to tell people off for doing things wrong, or being legitimately evil and having bad ideas
That wasn’t intended to be a burn list or anything; if I am really honest with myself I have had a lot of these intentions, and I don’t even think they are bad reasons for wanting to do anything. I know most of the time overwhelmingly positive content on social media is PR, I KNOW stuff on social media is staged and filtered and written purposefully for whatever reason.
So yes, I KNOW ALL OF THIS, I can’t bear inauthenticity at all yet here I am finding myself feeling pressured to participate in it and guess what, it HUGELY affects my mental health. Yet, I don’t want to delete Twitter. I remember back in the heyday of Facebook (2007/8 or so?) someone creating a Facebook group entitled ‘if you aren’t on Facebook, you don’t exist’ and it gave me SUCH existential dread. If I delete Twitter (and actually you could interchange this with LinkedIn) will people forget about me, will I be less relevant, will someone else take my old handle and either never use it so I can’t have it back or start some kind of terrible account I fundamentally disagree with. If I really think I only matter or something I do is only valuable if I have told Twitter about it, what does that say about me? What does that say about every day I live through where nothing is worth shouting about. But also, do I really need a colleague I worked with 15 years ago to know what I still think on a day to day basis? Why is that?
My MA dissertation was on Museums using social media to try and engage visitors with their collections and the overwhelming finding was, most engagements were with other Museums on social media or people working or hoping to work in the sector. Not the ‘hard to reach’ audiences (a problematic phrase in itself) that they hoped to be in touch with.
My undergraduate dissertation (can I just shout out to anyone else who did Human Geography and constantly has to battle peoples assumptions that they know about rivers and colouring in and want to be a geography teacher, I do know about colouring in but sadly that was not an element of my degree) was on the use of the internet to build community in a real life geographical location. What I found there was that lots of white middle class people liked to chat with each other on messageboards (this was pre-facebook groups) about litter bins and HMO’s in an area that was actually incredibly ethnically diverse but… wasn’t represented in their little online enclave. *sarcastic pondering face emoji*
So what am I trying to say, I guess I am trying to say that Twitter is a useful information tool. But writing a tweet isn’t doing the actual work. Is writing this blog post any better? I don’t think it is, but it’s something I can read back on when I need to remind myself of what actually matters to me and what feels good in my working life. Social media invariably feels like a kind of a smokescreen blocking out the actual groundwork that matters to service users. I don’t think that means it should stop being used, I don’t think it is a bad thing or a waste of time (unless you are spending too much time on it, not sure what the measurable range of this might be though! I am sure some researcher has done one) but if its purpose is to send out a message so far removed from reality that it does harm to service users (ie. the tweet I mentioned at the top) then that can’t be good. Some prolific tweeters appear to spend most of their time on Twitter and it makes me wonder, what are they doing in the office, what do their colleagues think of them, what AREN’T they tweeting about? Also, if I am one of their service users, is this what I am paying for? (either via subscription or taxes).
I have learnt so much from the internet, but I need to also implement that knowledge and those tools in real life and I am starting to feel like tweeting about them is not the most effective use of my time.
I am still on twitter @ingridboring and will probably stay there (because god forbid I suddenly cease to exist, ha) but I hope to spend more time being a better version of myself irl and if that means I lose relevance online then: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If I am only relevant if I am joining the echo chamber of false-positivity about all the good work I am trying to do, then what does that really mean. I don’t feel good about feeding a false narrative about what it means to be doing the work I do, especially when I know it impacts on my own mental health and is potentially picked up on by service users.
If I want to be awful and relate this back to minimalism (ew don’t worry I hate myself enough already) I could aspire to tweeting more mindfully or intentionally, then this regularly thrown around William Morris quote will do: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”.
Honestly, social media is the biggest mental health trigger for me and I need to be real with myself and take steps to feel better so I have the strength to continue to do what I need to get done for as long as possible.
It’s quite scary to put this out here, and so I am going to schedule it and then probably freak out and consider deleting it and pretending everything is totally fine LOLOLOL.
Oh, ps. I recently read this article on cellphone addiction which really resonated with me too. Some days I literally struggle to walk down the street without looking at my phone or reading a book because of social anxiety and if that starts to impact on me even leaving my house, which I feel it has started to, then something has to stop here.