[February 1, 2020] U.S. Air Force Lieutenant J.J. Johnson is a smart, insightful officer with an English college degree from Princeton University. I was headed to another meeting with senior officers when I passed his unassuming cubicle, where he sits for work as a Civil Engineer. Hanging on a string was a pad of paper with a pen attached. Scribbled across the top were two words; fighter and bomber. Below each were tally marks and a few scribbled remarks left by passersby voicing their opinions.
Lt Johnson deleted his Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts several months ago. In its place, he had developed his own, new form of social media that engages anyone willing to give an opinion. The “pad of paper” debates are lively, thoughtful ponderings about various topics of military and widespread interest. These debates have recreated the friendly arguments and conversations that had been promised by social media platforms. LT Johnson told me that he found social media to be self-promoting, ego-boosting, and rife with other adverse features.
Increasingly, social media is a platform for self-promotion and personal branding. Additionally, it is massively time-consuming. He did not like the idea of spending enormous amounts of time on what is, arguably, an oppressive form of communication. LT Johnson was concerned about the way social media led him to treat other people. No longer was social media a truly social platform but a self-centered network of a loosely-connected people with marginal interests on what he thought necessary.
It was hard, but after some soul-searching, LT Johnson decided that social media was no longer worth it. Several scientific studies have recently found a disconcerting relationship between social media use and an increase in suicide rates. He deleted all his accounts. Initially, he missed a few aspects of social media but remained happy about his decision to leave it behind.
Finding a pad of paper leftover from a previous cubicle occupant, LT Johnson decided to spark up conversations about U.S. Air Force topics and old philosophical debates long forgotten. His new social media (pad of paper) forum was much easier to monitor and moderate. Importantly, it did not allow for the “false self-promotion narrative” as he called his fresh form of communication. LT Johnson is on his sixth or seventh two-word topic and he has become an office “superstar.”
By closing the social media door, LT Johnson discovered an old but now innovative way to keep the interesting parts of social media. His method has been good-natured and light-hearted while dispensing with its negative effects. He encourages others to consider a similar course of action. I like this officer.