Social Media word cloud

What does social media mean to me?

by Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, PhD, SFHEA, Antiracism & Learning Tech SIG Chair

This blog was previously posted on Reshaping HE – International, Inclusive & Digital Ed.

I pen this blog in response to a request from the Association of Learning Technology on this topic to invite contributions and reflections on how the community is using social media following the changes that 2023 has witnessed in the use of social media.

What social media platform(s) I am still using?

  • Professionally, I use LinkedInYouTube, and X, and I am going to throw in Discord into this list, which is also massively used for ALTc and OER conference committees and the learning technologist community.
  • For community interests, I mostly use X.
  • For family, close friends, and a few students and ex-students thrown in, it is WhatsApp – somehow I am also part of a few professional groups and projects.
  • For friends and close friends, it is Facebook.

And no, I am not on Mastadon and joined BlueSky a few days back which I am probably never going to use again. And no, I am not on TikTok nor Instagram! I have not felt the need to be on any of those platforms.

What drew me to them, or what has put me off?

LinkedIn has been my go-to platform for professional connections for many years, at some point I have even been a premium user for over 3 years. But I do not find the cost-benefit worth it anymore. With LinkedIn having more edutainment and entertainment videos nowadays, I have significantly reduced my activity on that platform as well.

What puts me off LinkedIn? When people use LinkedIn in the same way that they use TikTok and Instagram. Recently, there has been a surge in people who are playing the expert role while using the listening-to-respond technique. They watch a video somewhere and then share a video of their own review on LinkedIn. It is either “Me too I love it” with no further valuable contribution or publicly bashing the original content creator (1) without contributing to any change and impact on that person and (2) purely for their own content creation, likes, and reposts – sadly not very valuable to me!

X is a bit of a different story altogether because it is more of a tool that is misused nowadays. Trump supporters and Brexit put me off Twitter for quite some time – I figured out it was better to reduce my use of the platform than having to click on “block” many times. There was also a situation where some ex-colleagues were witch-hunting since I had raised a formal complaint of fraud, nepotism, and extreme bullying of students and staff in an ex-department where I was working.

Since I joined the LTHEchat organising committee Jan-Apr 2023 (read my reflections), and then in Sep-Dec 2023, I became active again on X. Somehow it is different using X – with access to its API being suspended, there is no way to use platforms like Wakelet to curate the tweets, which was something really useful for the guests to have all the participants’s responses in one place to reflect on.

What puts me off X? It just sounds so bad for my mental health, checking my EX – could not Elon Musk and his team find a better name? And it just sounds worse for the society, with controversial accounts being re-instated.

WhatsApp is the cheapest way, and at the moment only way I communicate with my family and close friends – it is the only platform they all use at the moment.

It is said that is harder to maintain relationships than it is to create them! So, once every 2 months, I do a full round of connecting with my close friends.

I am also part of a few professional and social groups on WhatsApp, and recently used it for a project. It is also how exchange students to reach me for emergencies.

What puts me off WhatsApp? The new feature for channels to stay updated is something I wish I could disable. But for the time being, WhatsApp remains a platform that I MUST use.

Facebook is valuable to me at a personal level. I joined Facebook only 4 years after it was created, and then at some time in 2009, started to reduce my activity on it, I even deactivated my account twice. Somehow during the pandemic, I used it to locate my primary school friends – found some of them and also found out one of them died and one is homeless. Then, about 7 months ago, I started to be active on Facebook again mostly to follow motivational speakers and consume their videos.

The reason Facebook is valuable to me, it connects me with my friends, I am not a believer that colleagues are friends, so have separated the two as far as possible – there are the odd 2 or 3 colleagues-friends who made it to my Facebook, but that is it. Most of my Facebook connections are to a deeper level and I feel they are more genuine.

What puts me off Facebook? Far too many changes to its terms and conditions and privacy settings.

Discord in my opinion is overrated and yet at the same time underused. I am part of 7 communities, where people hardly check messages or rarely interact. So, I ask myself, what’s the use? It is just another platform that people like to jump onto – like a 2-year-old who already has 20 toys in front of them and still wants the other kid’s toy?

What puts me off social media in general?

  • Advert – I propose a solution that has been working for me below.
  • Fake news definitely – however, from a psychological and coaching perspective, it is an interesting observation of how many other people can be easily manipulated and cannot think for themselves.
  • Asking users to pay for what they already had free access to – instead of creating added value and offering these as premium services, some platforms have removed free existing features which were moved into the premium packages – this is one of the worst business models for social media, as their success is proportionally driven by the number of basic users.

What have I found easy or difficult?

In the past, finding balance was hard to achieve – I had easily got distracted on Facebook and X. I now use a feed eradicator, the best thing I have incorporated as a tool on my devices for this year.

I use Social Media as an enabler of what I want to achieve, fortunately, I can now easily pick up whenever it hinders me from achieving my goals.

What has changed about the way I network, socialise or work?

I tend to focus on maintaining valuable connections, not much has changed in that sense. What has changed is that – the misuse of the freedom of speech – has given me more opportunities to observe patterns and distance myself from those who say one thing in one space and another thing completely different in another space. It has definitely been beneficial for my self-care regime to avoid toxic people in my professional life.

Would I recommend a platform to others?

None actually, I prefer to use what works best for me and with my pace of life, so it is reasonable for others to choose what suits them best, especially with their pace of life.

Irrespective of the platform I use, it is the content that matters most, along with the authenticity of the content and the reliability of the source of the information.

Any tips, resources or advice for new explorers?

✨Get a feed eradicator on all your devices!

✨ As educators, we often think that all platforms will be useful to students, but we forget that information overload is of no use to students. As a researcher-consultant-mentor-coach in education in Africa and Asia, my experience has taught me that it is not the digital tool that matters the most, but the content and the way it is delivered by the person (not by the platform). KISS is the formula – Keep It Simple & Straightforward!

✨The digital world is the digital world, we have only one life; it might be better worth spending time with real people than on social media – Let’s be rational!

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