A better way to use social media: within it, but detached from events

The best way to use social media is to act like a 19th-century Parisian is an excellent essay, and it’s worth reading the entire thing. The setup:

If you’re not quite ready to quit Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, a more measured approach is to treat virtual spaces more like a bustling street—a place where, like a flâneur, you can pick up a lot of information by observing the action, while being more reticent to offer opinions and circumspect about posting.

The 19th-century German philosopher Walter Benjamin likened the flâneur to an urban investigator, within the city but detached from events, the quintessential modern artist citizen.

I love that phrase “within the city but detached from events.” That would be my desire for my own experience with social media. It’s worth reading up on the concept of a flâneur — sometimes referred to as “a connoisseur of the street” — which is a very apt analogy:

While Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a “gentleman stroller of city streets,” he saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in, and portraying the city. A flâneur thus played a double role in city life and in theory, that is, while remaining a detached observer. This stance, simultaneously part of and apart from, combines sociological, anthropological, literary, and historical notions of the relationship between the individual and the greater populace.

And this is some solid advice right here from the original article:

But operating under the influence of the masses clearly has deleterious effects on our thinking and behavior. By simply refusing to provide the desired engagement, or at least slowing down the pace of our interactions and taking time to think, we can collectively, and very politely, undermine the expectations for empty affirmations and recognize the effects of groupthink. This could change the tenor of the cultural conversation and make actual engagement meaningful again.

Rian van der Merwe Product manager • Designer • Speaker