Let me start by saying it’s not the medium, it’s me (…how every bad breakup occurs in the history of humanity. Yeah!).
Social media can be an undeniably useful tool.
But it can be dangerously addictive for an extroverted introvert.
I’ve been on social media for a long time now. If we’re going to include sites like Myspace here, then I’ve been on it since middle school. I can remember the hours I spent on it, trying to make myself look cool for all my friends–hours I didn’t spend getting to know myself because I was too busy trying to become who my friends were. Who I thought they wanted me to be.
When I started writing in college and grad school I created a Twitter and developed a solid following through my journalism career.
Starting in late high school I also used Facebook almost every day to keep track of friends and family, a use that continued to grow when I moved to D.C. once I finished my Master’s. My college roommates can also tell you how I used it to procrastinate when writing papers or articles. All. The. Time.
Social media was, sadly, connected to me in ways I never saw until I actually deleted my Facebook yesterday. My mom loved browsing my page, as well as my brother’s and sister’s, so she could keep up with us. I loved seeing pictures of my nephews and nieces. I also met some great people and colleagues through Twitter and could easily communicate with friends who lived abroad. Would quitting mean losing all of these things?
And yet I didn’t feel like I was getting much, at least emotionally, from these interactions. Like what I would normally get spending time talking with someone over the phone, hearing the small inflections in their voice, listening to their feelings not simply through semantics but through vibrations and sound.
And isn’t that the point of it all anyway? Of social connections? Of friendships and relationships? To feel emotionally fulfilled. To have purpose. To love. To share passions. Those things that so often define humanity.
So when you have interactions that are bereft from that–interactions that can keep you or distract you from having fulfilling ones–what’s the point?
And yet still, with these thoughts, quitting was disconcerting to me. It was a distraction I used when I was anxious. It was instant gratification. It was an ego-booster. It was an excuse.
It was an excuse.
As a journalist wasn’t it necessary to have Twitter? Would my writing even exist without it? Would I simply be typing into a massive black hole on some lonely corner of the internet? What if I can’t access breaking news on my feed?
….because everything on Twitter brims with ubiquitous credibility. Totally.
Am I a communist? My brother still believes that I wanted to quit everything because I was abducted by North Korea. Obviously communists don’t do social media.
Am I becoming an isolationist? Hah. Ha. Ha…
Would I lose touch with loved ones and professional connections? … the question I feared the most about quitting. But even people with cellphone suitcases had friends!
For a long while now, I’ve felt like I needed to share my life on social media. A feeling that I think has made me miss a lot of what was happening around me. I found myself getting distracted when I should have been productive. Reading articles when I should be writing them. I found myself losing opportunities of life and thought while I tried to get the perfect picture that was taken not with the purpose of memory, but the purpose of posting on Instagram.
For me, social media has become an overwhelming void of miscellaneous connections and @ replies. And I don’t want it to be that way anymore.
I want overwhelming. I want connections. I want to stay connected. But I want to be inundated with what and who truly matters. With what’s real and not simply cultivated. With real and raw people that I love and charities that I support. I don’t want to be surrounded tumultuous white noise, which again, is what it has become for me.
This past weekend I went to visit some friends and see Cabaret in New York, an event I was very much looking forward to. Attending my first Broadway show with a front-row table and meeting Emma Stone, a woman who has been a comedic and general role model of mine, was a memory I wanted to relish and remember.
And yet, on the train ride into the city, all I could think of were the pictures I could get to from the experience to share with my friends.
I was already thinking about how I would be sharing my experience. I was not thinking of actually living within it.
When this realization hit me, I removed social media from phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to share anything. I wanted to try and preserve a memory because of the emotions I recalled surrounding it… not the physicality of it. It was an experience. A weekend where I wanted to share everything the instant is happened, but share nothing.
I think, now at least, that in many contexts it’s more important to remember the experience of a memory than anything else. Some of my favorite pictures aren’t ones that are taken well. They don’t have the best focus or lighting. They are the ones that evoke a nostalgic emotion.
Maybe it’s a placebo effect. But the simple act of removing everything from my phone made me focus much more on what I was doing in the present. I enjoyed time simply walking around the streets. I watched other people. I noticed things… and though maybe I noticed those things before, I was not overwhelmed and distracted outside of the moment. Without the need to pull out my phone and tweet about how much I loved the city, I was able take time to dwell on my own thoughts. To take off my shell of extroversion and simply think within myself.
It was such a strange and simple feeling of clarity.
I can’t remember the last time I had a weekend as relaxing and emotionally fulfilling. Cabaret was breathtaking; never have I ever experienced so much raw energy in one place. Alan Cumming completely rocked it, as he does. Emma Stone was phenomenal as the tragic Sally (I may have cried, Sally is such a fantastic female role). And when we met her after the show, I wasn’t concerned about anything else but being there. She’s absolutely fantastic. And I will forever remember the rush of that entire day because I never wanted it to end.
Given this past weekend and the way I have been treating social media, I am making an early New Year’s resolution. Starting tomorrow morning, I am leaving all forms of social media for 30 days, and if that works, permanently. I find myself often not living in moments because of wanting to share them. I find myself getting distracted when I should be productive. I find myself losing opportunities of life and thought.
One time I used the excuse that things like Twitter were good for me as a writer, as a people watcher… but when it actually keeps you from writing and watching the people right in front of you, that’s not much of one.
So I’ve run out of excuses.
For the 200 friends that I actually know on Facebook, I plan to use my phone and Skype more.
For others, I still love you, especially those people I barely remember from middle school. Good times.
I love watching to see how we change… how our lives move in so many different unpredictable directions, but I’d rather do that in person than through a computer screen. I’d rather pay attention to details that challenge my memory–even the mundane, because more often than not, that’s where we find miracles and excitement. Where we find comfort and peace.
I will still be writing, blogging, and posting articles. I will be present on the internet because I’m addicted to shopping on Amazon. I want to make sure to truly keep in touch with you, so if you keep getting annoying texts from me all the time asking how you are, know it’s because I’m probably lost and confused without Facebook. The same applies to emails. And perhaps even pen pals if I decide to invest in that 1940’s typewriter I’ve been eyeing.
I’m here. The absurdity of the fact that I thought I wasn’t here without a social media presence to begin with is, in fact, one of the reasons I need to get rid of it. I might be back, but if anything, my goal is to change the way in which I view and utilize social media.