Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

History of a Social Media Addiction

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Reading Time: 3 minutes

So anyone who knows me probably can guess I have a social media addiction. Howard Rheingold writes about people like me in Net Smart. It can be a dangerous thing. Unless you’re a cyborg. In which case, it’s just an extension of your identity, of your way of interacting with people. No, really.

I mean, I was not one of the first people on facebook. I only joined in 2007 because one friend told me it had educational uses. I was living in Houston at the time and it was a great way to stay in touch with people all over the world when I didn’t have their email addresses and didn’t have to make deliberate actions to connect with each one. Of course, it means that people more active on facebook became easier to stay in touch with. For example, a distant cousin of mine and I were working on our PhDs and spending a lot of time on facebook and became really close in 2010 when I was living in the UK and he in Canada.

Then there was the revolution in Egypt 2011. Once the internet was back, you’d think facebook was where the revolution was happening (I wasn’t on Twitter back then; I could not participate physically because I was in the early stages of a precious and difficult pregnancy and not very mobile).

Then there was my 2-year maternity leave. For a lot of different reasons I could not go out a lot. The best way to stay in touch with people was facebook. In the second year of maternity leave as I was finishing my PhD, I got on Twitter and it changed my professional life. Like, completely. Check out the DML commons hangout where we discuss social media or young scholars:

And now. Why am I so addicted now? I stopped sleeping well after my daughter was born. While working one late night on my dissertation, something happened (online) that made me really excited. I realized I couldn’t tell my husband or mom (asleep) and so I posted on facebook that I was excited about something. I got a reply from someone in the US and this was when I realized I could use the timezone thing to my advantage. Since I was up all hours of the night, I could really benefit from friends who were normally awake on a later timezone. It’s been working great so far 😉

I’m also addicted because my mind needs hyperstimulation or I get bored. I’ve had to live abroad following my husband’s career twice. My second day in Norwich, UK, I had toured the entire city center area, created a bank account, joined the library, discovered the museum, etc. When I had to spend months without formally working, I did volunteer online teaching, worked on my thesis, attended any free lecture I could find, joined reading groups at the library, visited museums, went to the gym regularly, and chatted with people on the bus. I can’t sit there and watch TV, but I can read a lot. But I have a hunger for connecting and for keeping my mind stimulated.

Now, being a mom of a 3-year old is exhausting. It’s actually mentally stimulating too, but not always in a good way. I need adult conversation on adult thoughts and I need to talk about things I care about. My husband and mom are medical doctors. No offense, but their perspective on most of what I think and care about (professionally) are too far away and I need the community I have online for this. At work I have some of this, but again my views are a little too radical to keep doing this all the time or they’ll all just flip, probably.

Basically, #rhizo15, don’t count my tweets, retweets, mentions, etc. But count the depths of my relationships with people. That’s what matters. And lots of it happens privately in DMs and emails and PMs and private hangouts and no one needs to know about it 🙂

So thank you to all my online friends. I’m addicted to YOU, not to social media 🙂 As Laura Gogia says in the hangout I embedded above – we’re not sitting on computers/mobile devices: we’re connecting to PEOPLE

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