I’ve never been an early adopter. I tend to stand back when something new comes along.
In the early days of social media, I did exactly that. In 2005 and 2006, as Myspace and Facebook gained traction, I didn’t consider them. They were for my kids’ generation.
But as Myspace faded and Facebook became increasingly popular, adults, including my peers, started joining in droves. I toyed with the idea, but I was wary.
“My husband just got on Facebook and says it’s a nightmare,” one friend said. “He’s getting a lot of requests from people he doesn’t want to be friends with.”
I also overheard judgment, such as, “All she does is post pictures of her beautiful family and their great vacations. Ugh.”
Then there was the Evanston Rats scandal. Evanston Rats was a short-lived Facebook page created in 2010 by some Evanston Township High School students for the purpose of disparaging other students, particularly girls. I had kids at ETHS then and they told me about it.
Facebook ultimately seemed too problematic. I didn’t jump aboard.
I did, however, create a LinkedIn profile. I thought it was important to be searchable for work.
A few years later, I joined Twitter, now known as X. I didn’t tweet or retweet. I just wanted to see what others were tweeting. But it didn’t take long before I was overwhelmed by notifications. So I quit. I discovered I could see others’ tweets without having an account anyway.
Then, at the invitation of a neighbor, I joined Nextdoor. This was a social media platform I could get behind! I sold a desk and bought a table through Nextdoor. I also appreciated the posts about good contractors and block parties.
In 2014, I joined Instagram because I wanted to see the photos my kids were posting. I didn’t post any of my own though. I was too self-conscious.
And in 2018, I downloaded Snapchat. A close friend who was on Snapchat with some of our mutual friends urged me to do it. “You can choose who you send to and there are no ‘likes.’ It’s perfect for you,” she said.
Then my social media wariness turned into weariness, particularly with Nextdoor.
What originally struck me as laughable on Nextdoor began to depress me. Someone posted a photo of a young person driving too fast on Green Bay Road. It included the car’s license plate number. When COVID-19 hit, people posted photos of teens gathering when they were supposed to be social distancing. Then there were the political discussions. Neighbors were arguing with vitriol that would be unthinkable in a face-to-face setting.
Much as I liked the upside of Nextdoor, I couldn’t stomach the downside. I deleted my account in the fall of 2020.
As for today, I’m still on LinkedIn, though I don’t do much there.
I’ve also stuck with Instagram. I’m no fan of Meta, which owns both Instagram and Facebook, but Instagram generally has an upbeat vibe and I still want to see what my kids are sharing. But I can’t bring myself to post anything of my own.
And while I love seeing what others send me on Snapchat, I’m losing my zeal for it too. I wonder if my small circle of friends really wants to see another photo of my cats or a vista of Lake Michigan.
Snapchat is passé, my children tell me. They send me TikTok videos, which I can watch without having a TikTok account. I’m in no hurry to get on Threads either.
So here I am, still somewhat on the sidelines. Maybe I’m just not cut out for the untamed world of social media. So much of it makes me uncomfortable. (And I haven’t even addressed the privacy issues.)
But if I’m hesitant to share, if I overthink how to present myself even to a small audience, then why write? Why do this column?
Because this not-so-social media site, otherwise known as journalism, has guidelines and guardrails. It has editors who can save me from myself. It works to keep comments civil.
This kind of venue feels easier, maybe because I’m more familiar with these rules of the road.
I’m sure I still write columns that fall flat. But if there’s judgment and vitriol, I (mostly) don’t hear about it.