I personally use a variety of social media services daily, each to varying degrees:

  • Facebook Messenger: All regular communication with my college friends occurs through Facebook Messenger.
  • Instagram: I use this to follow friends and acquaintances, as well as a few celebrities.
  • Facebook: I don’t use this to keep up with friends as much anymore, but Facebook is crucial for RSVP-ing to college events (as well as meme pages).
  • Reddit: I use this to keep up with my online interests, such as programming language communities (/r/rust, /r/clojure, /r/programming), as well as games (/r/minecraft, /r/feedthebeast, /r/touhou). I rarely comment, preferring to usually read only.
  • Hacker News: I read this to keep up with tech news.
  • Discord: A chat service I use to communicate with people in communities, like Reddit but more real time and interactive.
  • Twitter: I rarely use Twitter anymore, but I formerly used it to keep up with celebrities.

The biggest thing I can infer from this is that in all my social media presences, I rarely interact with others or contribute to the discussion. I only do so if I feel very strongly about the correctness of my statements, or if the setting is conducive to real time communication like FB Messenger and Discord. I feel like commenting gets into flamewars too often, especially on Facebook.

The benefit, of course, is that I am able to communicate with others around the world with people that share the same interests that I do, without ever having to meet them face to face. This kind of communication would be unheard-of 200 years ago. Reading technological news articles on Reddit or Hacker News exposes me to new happenings in the technology scene that I otherwise would not be in touch with.

The adverse effects can be the time wasted. Especially if I am on Reddit, sometimes I run into interesting threads, look up a topic on Wikipedia, then go down rabbit holes for about an hour. I don’t find this too bad, since I’m being intellectually stimulated by the things I learn on Wikipedia, but it still can be a huge time drain.

One change I’d like to make is to contribute to discussions more. Participating in intellectually stimulating conversations is good for personal growth, and finding a space on social media where this can happen is a good way to make good use of time online, especially once you graduate from school and no longer have a central location you regularly attend that’s filled with people willing to debate.