I should have known long ago that social media wasn’t going to work for me. I should have known that being part of so many fake lives, conservative spewers, and uppity trolls wasn’t going to add positivity to the construct of my everyday life, and would only serve to make me bitter and depressed.
I would say the signs that social media probably wasn’t going to be my thing started more than a decade ago. My sisters had both moved away from home and started blogs so we could keep up with their lives. I read their blogs occasionally and sometimes left comments. At one point, my sister posted about how much she disliked hearing about “Twilight” and could people please stop talking about “Twilight”. I was also extremely over hearing about it, and this was before the movies had even been made. I left a comment akin to, “The only people I know who have read ‘Twilight’ and think it’s the greatest book ever written have pretty much never read any other books in their entire lives.” My comment wasn’t long. It wasn’t slanderous against one particular person. It was just an observation I had made, because a couple of the people I knew who were practically illiterate felt the need to tell me what an amazing book “Twilight” was. My sister told me shortly thereafter that her mother-in-law had been offended by my comment, because she and her daughters all liked “Twilight”, so my sister had deleted my comment. I was honestly quite perplexed. In sharing what I viewed as a pretty mild and not-that-big-of-a-deal opinion, I had been censored. It was not long after that when a friend of mine mentioned to me that another friend of ours was “upset” because I didn’t read or comment on her blog. 1. Why did she even notice? 2. Why did she care? I decided from then on that I wouldn’t leave comments on anyone’s blogs. I was done. Within the next several months, I pretty much never read blogs anymore.
It was around this time that I joined MySpace. What a weird community. I don’t even know if it could be called a community. I didn’t personally know many people who were actually using it, but several of the bands and musicians I liked were on the platform, so I followed them and even corresponded with a couple. It lost its luster rather quickly for me though. It didn’t seem like a sustainable platform. Shortly thereafter, in early 2009, I created a Facebook account. I had said to many, many people that I would never join Facebook. I weighed the pros and cons for months. I’ve never been one to give into peer pressure. In fact, I’m more likely to not do something everyone else is doing. Pros: I would be able to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I would be able to share random thoughts I had during the day. (Many of my thoughts are pretty amusing.) I could better organize an upcoming class reunion. I could see pictures of my friends’ babies and my nieces. After a while, the pros seemed to outweigh the cons. I look back now at how fun it was when I first joined. Back in those days, people weren’t posting links to news stories. Fake news was many years from coming into existence. I don’t even remember seeing many politically charged comments. Re-posts and memes weren’t in heavy rotation yet. It seemed like most people still had original thoughts. Eventually, both of my best friends joined as well. Since they both live out of state, this made me extremely happy. I ended up reconnecting with a handful of people I hadn’t seen or talked to in ages. I was working from home at the time, so it helped me actually feel social. There was probably a juncture, which I’m embarrassed to admit, when I would spend hours a day on Facebook. I would log in at night and hope some of my friends from San Francisco would be online so we could chat. I would post random comments or thoughts on friends’ walls. I had a good time in the medium. I didn’t have a smartphone yet, so the only time I was on Facebook was when I was on a computer. It wasn’t always with me. It wasn’t sending me a continuous stream of notifications. Not everyone I knew was even using it.
I eventually joined Instagram. I was a fairly early adopter of the tool and created an account about a year after it came into being. I liked the cleanliness of the Instagram format. Facebook had started to lose its appeal, because of the changes they had made to their algorithms. I don’t want to see what my friends were liking or what comments they were making on a public link. I found that I was hiding more and more posts and people. I also had some Facebook battles with former high school classmates about what myself and a couple other individuals had planned for our 20-year reunion. The nonsense of it all was quite miserable. Once the reunion was over, I removed myself from our reunion group. Before that, I had taken extended breaks from Facebook, a couple which occurred in conjunction with squabbles with my brother-in-law over religious matters. I won’t go into details regarding this, because it could be a post unto itself. I eventually ended up unfriending him, which he didn’t figure out for about six months. But once he noticed, feelings were hurt and my sister said it was awkward. (I didn’t think it was at all.) There are just some people who can’t retain a sense of decorum in online forums. I was also upset because given the context of why I unfriended him, I felt like my sister should be on my side, but she clearly wasn’t. I felt like myself and my friends who felt the way I did and voiced opinions about particular subjects were being trolled. This past September, I started one of my extended hiatuses from Facebook. I didn’t do it thinking “this is election season”, the fact that it was just constituted as a bonus. After the election, my sister left a comment about the election results on one of my Instagram posts. We had a major difference of opinion. I had a lot to say to her, but it wouldn’t have ended well. I knew that eventually, I wouldn’t be able to keep silent. I would bottle my annoyances, and end up exploding at one or more people, potentially damaging relationships. I am a passionate person and rarely ride the gray line in any regard. If I believe something, I believe it with all of my heart, so it’s a wonder that I lasted as long as I did without getting into serious altercations with certain individuals who were spouting racist or sexist ideas or propagating fake news or extreme alt-right views. I couldn’t sleep on election night. Once again, I weighed the pros and cons of social media, and this time, the cons far outweighed the pros. I knew I was done with it all. At 1am on November 9, 2016; I deactivated my social media accounts.
People keep asking me if I miss it. I miss a couple aspects of it, like seeing pictures of my nieces and nephews, but I make a more concerted effort to send them snail mail or talk to them on the phone. I also created folders in my cloud so that I can see pictures of them whenever I want. For me, the benefit of expunging social media has led me to a sense of peace and calm I had forgotten was possible. It’s made life slow down and not feel so crazed. It’s created a greater sense of patience for me. I spend more time reading and thinking. After the election, I felt such deflation and sadness that it was hard for me to sit at the keyboard without crying, but I am now feeling compelled to get back into writing as well. One of my biggest accomplishments since exiting social media is that I have lost 20 pounds. Instead of lounging around checking my accounts, I’m up and moving and logging my steps, water, and calorie intakes.
Mark Zuckerberg thinks the world cannot survive with Facebook. I read an article in a magazine not long ago which stated that he thinks everyone on this planet should have access to a computer so they can be on Facebook. I am living proof that not only is survival possible, but living life to the fullest is more possible when one casts off the tether of social media. I have been making a concerted effort to get together in person with friends. To hold social gatherings — something that’s difficult for me given my proclivity for wanting alone time. To write letters, cards, or send packages. To call or text someone directly when I am thinking about them. All these things seem more personal to me than social media ever did. Some of these things seem like lost arts with all that social media has lead us to believe is “normal”. I have also found more time to devote to causes which matter to me. If you don’t think you want to delete or deactivate your social media accounts, I recommend taking a break from them to reconnect with yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised with what you find and suddenly remember a simpler time that you didn’t realize still existed.