|a picture of my friends list|
I've never been the social media type.
I resisted Facebook to the point that two of my friends made me a profile one night the week before I left for college. It's time, they said. I was peer-pressured into creating a Twitter account my second year of college. I dabbled around in it for a few weeks and then deleted it. It was dumb. (Though I did sign up again years later when I was peer-pressured by fellow bloggers. Different year, same story.) I didn't actually realize Instagram was a social media platform until a few people started following me. I thought it was just a fun collection of photos you could filter and play around with, and I had a nice album of aerial photos of Miami I had taken before our plane landed, and a smattering of pictures from our Jamaican honeymoon.
A Luddite, they call us. Anti-technology, or something like that. It's true to an extent. I often think the internet complicates things more than it helps, but I did just order my groceries online so I don't have to traipse around my local Kroger while recovering from a virus. I'm a fair-weather internet fan.
But social media is a special kind of beast. You know the proverbial family dinner table where people are arguing about politics and religion and demanding answers and leveling expectations and throwing shade and judgment? That's what social media has become to me. Except it's not just on holidays; it's everyday. It became exhausting. My brain felt clogged with everyone else's thoughts and not enough of my own. I would try to set it aside for a day, but a habit is a habit and I've never been particularly stellar at breaking them. There was a certain muscle memory to sipping my coffee with one hand and scrolling with the other.
So much damned scrolling!
What am I even looking at? Why do I care? Do I care? Do I need to know what my friend's brother's ex-girlfriend's sister's aunt's next door neighbor thinks about the dead gorilla at the zoo? I totally do not. And yet, I know. It took up precious brain space that could've been filled with re-memorizing the Napoleon Dynamite dance moves, and instead I find myself in a make believe argument in my head over someone's post about the blasted Women's March (THE DRAMA). The election nearly killed social media for me, but I do believe the Women's March buried it six feet under.
My body was living in reality, but my mind was living on the internet. I felt divided. And don't even get me started on Instagram and the effort people put into it. There was a time I thought Instagram was so fun. And I still do, to an extent. I love the idea, the concept, the interacting with other people and seeing their lives. But it's exhausting. Pictures are cropped and filtered and adjusted so we can see the brilliantly decorated, all-white interior of their living room that somehow is free of cracker crumbs even though they have five kids, all of them dressed in organic hand-dyed linen outfits from Etsy. I mean, I don't want to see a stack of dirty diapers, but a few toys on the floor is not going to make anyone clutch their pearls. Why is is such a rat race? It's a rat race! I didn't feel this sort of pressure in the corporate world, and I worked with some intense people. I'm not innocent here, please hear me. I love a pretty picture, but at the same time I was never going to stress about it. And it's not just an endless onslaught of unrealistic photos. Oh no. It's now blog posts longer than this typed in a tiny font under a picture that is completely irrelevant to the diatribe on The Next Big Thing I'm supposed to be getting enraged about or that I should be buying. Remember when it used to be pictures of everyone's lunch, and that was something to get annoyed about?
I'm an introvert to the extreme. I know the introvert/extrovert conversation has been beat with a dead horse, but go with it. The Myers-Brigg test told me I'm a 100% introvert more than once. My parents said they could tell since I was an infant when I would scream if they took me into a room with more than a handful of people. There's just no denying that people drain the lifeblood out of me. Even my most favorite people in the world (though they refresh me at the same time, it's confusing, I know). Social media is like being stuck in a room full of opinionated extroverts. Everyone is shouting about something and my head starts buzzing and everyone is demanding my attention. I unfollow, I hide, I mute. Still, I'm tired. Sometimes I love it. I love to follow the hashtags while watching The Bachelor. The commentary is better than the actual show. I love to retweet someone who says something I'm thinking but words it perfectly. But then I think--is this weird? To fill a profile with the words of someone else? Is this disingenuous? Does anyone care? Do I care? DOES ANYTHING MATTER?
Welcome to my daily existential crisis.
Maybe I'm overthinking it. Probably. But it plays such a big role in our lives and society that I think it's worth thinking about. The words we take in during the day affect us more than we realize. And I think it truly affects my blood pressure. It's a wonder I didn't have a heart attack during the election. My political views are certainly in the minority, but people on both sides of the spectrum can just get downright nasty. I tell myself I'm not going to say anything. I'm going to stay quiet. But then I see people saying different versions of the same thing across every platform, and it gets to be too much, so I say something. I want to show the other side. Especially when it comes to abortion. I have zero chill when it comes to abortion and I will fight it until my dying day. Everyone is just so angry all the time, and I felt like I was becoming the same way. Everyone has an agenda, something to sell, something to brag about.
I read something during the election that said something about how we never used to know someone's political leaning until we sat down with them in person and had a conversation. That can certainly get heated as well, but at least you can read tone and body language. It's so much easier to understand each other that way and to have love and compassion. Instead, we get 140-character sound bites on Twitter and memes on Facebook, and it gets real easy to lose respect for people you once thought highly of. We should never judge each other based on memes and quips, but on the internet, what else is there?
I'm just weary of the whole thing.
No one is their best self on the internet. If you get involved in the political discussions, people hate you. If you stay quiet or just post pictures of your coffee, people think you're not "being real." If you don't post anything anywhere ever...well...are you Amish?
So back to the whole karate-chopping Twitter thing. I've been dancing around the deactivate button for months. The Women's March bickering pushed me over the edge, and I did the darn thing. There was instant relief. I deleted the Instagram app on my phone while I was at it. Another weight lifted. I haven't done anything with Facebook yet except try to ignore it. I deactivated it 5 or so years ago, and I didn't look back for years. I finally dusted it off when Gracie was a few months old since family members out west wanted a way to see pictures. The first thing I did was whittle my friends list down from hundreds to 75. Suddenly, Facebook didn't bother me much anymore. I need to cut some more people loose, but it bores me in general so I tend to stay way from it more than the other social media monsters.
Anyway, I laid in bed the night I cut Twitter and Instagram from the team. I thought about getting rid of Facebook too--but, no I can't get rid of all my social media accounts...
...can I? Is that even allowed in 2017?
I'm not even kidding, the thought made me feel giddy. NO MORE SOCIAL MEDIA? (and let me be clear--the blog is not included in this). The thought still makes me giddy with a twirly sort of glee. No more long-winded rants about the new President (I didn't vote for him so go ahead and chill)? No more passive-agressive hashtags? No more "like and share if you agree!" posts? It's practically heaven!
I'm not there yet, and I'm not sure if I ever will be. I mean yes, I am reading the Little House on the Prairie series and borderline lusting after the way they make their own food and feed the horses and the cows every evening and knit by the wood stove on snowy nights. But I also like seeing what's going on in my friends' lives. I've never exactly had FOMO in real life (don't invite me to the party--that way I don't have to make an excuse for why I'll be home in my pajamas instead), but I get a smidge of it online. I've met some of my best friends online! But the ones I would want to keep up with email me or text me every day anyway.
Long story very long, I got rid of some social media apps and my brain calmed down. Honestly, it doesn't feel like it's running a million miles a minute anymore (or maybe that's the virus slowly killing it). My brain is no longer so full of other people's thoughts that I can't hear my own. I'm sure I'll still post a picture on Instagram here and there (my kid IS cute, after all) and I still use Facebook to keep in touch with a few people, but this is such a huge improvement. I don't want to scroll mindlessly anymore. I don't ever want my daughter or my husband to have to compete with the scrolling. I don't want to ever give a thought to likes, comments, and followers. I want to use my hands to do more important things, like read a book, cook dinner, knit a blanket, and turn on Netflix (jokes...but really). James is staunchly anti-social media, so I guess we'll be writing letters by beeswax candlelight if you need us.
Let me be clear, I don't count blogs as social media. Blogs feel more like having a virtual conversation than on social media, which is more hearing someone yell at you out the window of a passing car. I love blogging. It feels more old-fashioned, more writing-a-letter-during-the-days-of-Jane-Austen sort of old-fashioned compared to social media and the culture of instant gratification. And we all know my dream is to be Amish.
Don't be concerned until you see me wearing a plain blue dress and a black Amish bonnet to the grocery store. And don't think I won't do it. You can tweet the pictures and I'll never even know.