I’m just not gonna go anymore
My love affair with social media started twelve years ago. A very brief recap:
Then: I joined Facebook in 2007, when I was 29. It was cute and fresh then. Even the name sounded cute, aww, Facebook? Kinda like a yearbook. I was newly divorced and reeling from it (I was married at 19, which is a future post all to its own) but I appreciated the novelty of hearing if someone else was also bored at work. And much like an interactive, realtime yearbook, I liked the potential reconnection with friends and possible partners / suitors.
Now: Age, 41. A baby, a second divorce, a bout with ovarian cancer, and a split from my family’s church later — I’m noticing some things about social media that aren’t so favorable.
Social Media Causes Hyper-Division
It’s no surprise that social media is a life-comparison tool as much as it is deemed “social.” And as the saying goes, Comparison is the thief of joy. (Theodore Roosevelt)
But it goes beyond comparison. I believe that the hyper-comparison social media lures us into with something so simple as a never-ending-scroll-newsfeed is causing hyper-division.
We all want a gold star for our “Life Masterpiece.”
With every seemingly innocent, boredom-induced casual scroll, we are taking in and subconsciously digesting other people’s Life Masterpieces on a daily basis, when we scroll the newsfeed.
We are unwittingly holding up ours next to theirs and thinking, Is mine okay? Is mine better? Is theirs better? Am I doing life wrong?
Facebook and social media, in general, is the land of Us and Them.
And nobody wants to be them.
We all want to be right. We want to gain the most supporters, and therefore, be the “us.”
It can be on the smallest scale, I’m a Target shopper, see? I am taking a selfie at Target with this cute jacket I was surprised to find… (P.S. That’s based on one of my own dumb posts) to a more societal level, I’m a Democrat and all Trump supporters are douchebags… (A fictional post summarizing most of my political-posting friends.)
Or it can be a church group shunning a former member by no longer liking their posts. Ahem, yes, also one of my experiences.
Division isn’t new. But hyper-division is.
Yep, these divisions already exist in the real world. They always have. But social media has given us a platform, a tool, to passive-aggressively shout our stance. Or whisper it, i.e. “liking” someone’s divisive post. And it does so exponentially, due to the sheer quantity of posts and reach of each post.
And it goes deeper.
Social media further divides us. It calls out our differences, where we didn’t necessarily need the reminder. On a familial level: The most innocent post of a “nuclear family” at Disney World can be another unwillingly divorced person’s personal emotional trigger leading to an evening of self-loathing and sadness.
And yet, it’s addicting.
The new slot machines are notifications.
I’ve read that the action of checking for notifications is being compared to slot machines.
And I was so in it. I needed my fix.
I had three Instagram accounts (two for business, one for pleasure) and of course Facebook. I would check them all repeatedly, all day, as well as craft posts and images to share with my followers and friends.
My screen time averaged 8 hours. Per. Freaking. Day.
That appalled me.
I’ve recently taken a personal hiatus from it. I deleted Facebook and Instagram from my phone, due to the obvious addiction I have, and blocked Facebook on my computer browser. I began to wonder if I could be happy without the regular dopamine hit I was getting.
And then I started to wonder, after doing some reading on the topic, if I could actually be a lot happier without this in my life.
Comparison still happens, but it’s lighter.
Tonight I met two of my girlfriends for dinner, both with different life situations than mine (i.e., aren’t single).
What I noticed is that comparison still happens, even among close friends. On a small or large scale, we are always trying to justify our life choices, looking for validation to feel good about what we’ve made our lives into.
I found myself talking up my single life, doing what I want, dabbling in dating, reading books in my underwear at the table with kleenex in my nose, while my coupled-friends talked about the security and support they feel, the cute / annoying things their partners do but they still are so thankful for them, and so on.
But unlike after finishing a session on Facebook, I left the restaurant feeling good. Reconnected. Loved.
So, how’s life on the outside?
It’s been only a week, and I’ve been enjoying my newfound freedom.
Now I see that when I was “on social media” I was living in a state of constant distraction. I would describe it as always being on the surface of life, never going deep. Now I find myself thinking about real life stuff. Things I’d like to do. What my future looks like. I’m more present, too. I’m not thinking about taking a shot of ‘what I’m doing’ to post to my story, to portray my ‘oh-so-normal-but-amazing Sunday’ — [eye roll].
My anxiety is way down.
I played guitar this morning instead of scrolling the news feed.
I’m less aware of what’s going on in the world, and I don’t miss it. I might watch the news or get an actual newspaper.
I have a new awareness for who I want to spend time with. Social media makes it seem like you have all these friends. But they’re just distant avatars of people that like things your avatar posts sometimes. The people who’d actually call or text you to hang out? Those are the people I want to be around.
I like the newfound privacy I feel. My safe little world is truly mine. I enjoy it, and I don’t need to or want to share it anymore. If someone gains access, it’s because they’ve earned it, not because they’re bored and want me to entertain them.
I have a newfound respect for the friends I have that have quit or eschewed social media before me, now that I see the other side. This is real living. Not ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of living. Experiencing, connecting, finding purpose. Resting.
So where do we go from here?
We all want a star for our Life Masterpiece, even if it looks really different from someone else’s.
But do we need that on a larger scale? Isn’t it hard enough to feel that disparity among friends?
Well, I call bullshit on social media. And like the dude on Office Space so nonchalantly says when he quits his job, “I’m just not gonna go anymore.” And proceeds to live his life, fearlessly and with fervor. Going so far as to bring a fish he caught to filet on his old desk.
Life isn’t perfect, until you see that it is.
It’s only now that I’ve stepped away that I see my life is perfect. It is mine, only. And I have nobody else’s to compare it to. I just live my days, enjoy the time I have with my sweet boy, and spend time with friends and myself.
Have you also stepped away from social media? If you have, or are thinking about it, I would love to hear your experience in the comments.