Digital life reporter Katie Humphrey covers all things Internet and culture, from apps and social media to goofy memes and studies proclaiming tech will doom/save us all. Chat with her on Twitter: @HumphreyKatie.

Selfies? No way, says a former reality TV contestant

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: July 18, 2014 - 4:07 PM

Kim Stolz has all kinds of examples of social media gone too far.

Among them: friends who wouldn't go to dinner with her unless she promised to put down her phone, mood swings provoked by Instagram photos of parties to which she wasn't invited, even a breakup sparked by her then-girlfriend's discovery that Stolz was flirting with an ex online.

Now Stolz, known for her stint as a contestant on "America's Next Top Model" and as a correspondent for MTV news, has written a book about her social media obsession. "Unfriending My Ex and Other Things I'll Never Do" is a collection of stories -- gleaned from her friends' experiences and frequently referencing her exes -- about how being too connected can be harmful to relationships. (She's now happily married and works in finance.)

She talked with the Star Tribune recently about reality TV, her week-long digital detox and her social media pet peeve -- selfies.

Q: You're a former reality television contestant, and in the book you say social media is a lot like reality TV. How so?

A: We're all in this worldwide, interconnected reality television game show. We're all contestants competing to see who has the best friends and the best vacation and the best boyfriend and the best girlfriend and the best house and the best puppies or whatever.

We're valuing ourselves at this point in a large way because of "likes" and comments and followers and "friends." Reality television has also played a part in that. You become famous for who you are and some silly things that you do in a house with some people.

Everyone has this kind of idea that they're just one tweet away from becoming famous. Obviously, that's not true, but we think that because every time we get a new follower we feel like we're another step closer.

Q: Do you have a digital pet peeve?

A: Yes, the selfie. I think it stands for the growing narcissism in our society. It's incredibly self-absorbed. If you post a terrible selfie and you get a lot of likes, that's false hope. If you post a great selfie and you get a lot of likes, you're kind of bragging.

Q: But you were on a reality show for models. Do you ever take selfies?

A: Once in a while I'll post a picture of me and someone else. I don't have a problem with someone being, like, climbing a mountain or playing sports and some else took a photo of them. It isn't really a selfie.

A selfie, to me, is when your face is taking up more than 50 percent of the screen and it's obvious that you're snapping it yourself. My friend took a picture of me the other day and I thought it was funny, so I posted it. But I wasn't the main event in that photo.

Q: What do you suggest for people who want to try a digital detox?

A: Don't put [your phone] in a drawer and tell yourself you're not going to look at it. Give you phone to someone else and have them hide it form you.

The first couple of days were what felt like a true withdrawal. I was antsy and anxious and I was seeing my phone places that it wasn't. Then on days three and four I started seeing the world around me and I started absorbing things and having genuine conversations with people. If you can just push through the first couple of days, you do end up in a place where you're actually starting to enjoy it.

Q: You jumped back into social media after your break, and admit you still struggle to put your phone down. What does a day with balanced technology use look like?

A: If I am walking down the street and see something really beautiful or I see something really funny, to stand there and look at it and have genuine emotions about it without taking out my phone and taking a photo of it -- that is balanced.

I remember being at a Fleetwood Mac concert a couple years ago. I was in, like, the second row. They played my favorite Fleetwood Mac song and I missed it because I was trying too hard to take photos of it and record it for my other friend who loves that song.

That was one of those moments when I was like, "God, I'm missing out on so many things because I'm trying to broadcast them."

When you wake up in the morning, take at least three minutes before you grab your phone. Whatever emotions you're experiencing, whatever your brain worked out overnight, let yourself absorb that. There are these little things that you can do and they really do improve your self-awareness and lives in general.

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