I’m going to take a break from social media for a little while…as much as I’ve come to depend on sites like Facebook and Twitter for exposing untold numbers of people to my work, carrying on all manner of fascinating and illuminating conversations, organizing all manner of fantastic events, and more, I’ve reached a point where they’re taking a lot more out of me than I’m getting out them, literally and metaphorically.
In addition to the monumental amounts of data that are sucked out from under every keystroke and every mouse click, social media is draining the vitality out of me like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s doing it to all of us, even if we can’t notice it. Like any other garden variety addict, spending the exorbitant amounts of time in social media that I have over the years has made me more sullen, more paranoid, more insecure, and more hostile than I ever was in its absence. The only abatement to those impulses is to lazily scroll or swipe through my feeds, eyes glazed over, watching other people exist in real-time while I pretend to do the same.
Once upon a time, my level of social media consumption was once reserved only for the very geekiest. But we’re all addicts geeks now, and it’s making us meaner, sicker, and poorer than it seems we’ve ever been. And I want out.
Despite what you might think about the people on your “friends” list and how much they like/agree with/support you, social media ultimately comes down to every person for their self. Your lived experience versus everyone else’s. Your ideas versus their ideas. Cultivating “healthy” relationships and communities online really comes down to how well you can cultivate a “brand identity,” and how well you can market that identity to the people on what is essentially your mailing list.
Generally, this all happens pretty smoothly most of the time; any self-respecting social media website strives to guarantee that your experience with their service will fail to ruffle your feathers in any way you don’t prefer. But that’s part of the problem, especially when interactions between fellow Internet travelers inevitably go wrong.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be surrounded by virtual “yes men,” allowing us to agree with each other and disagree with others in more or less perfect harmony. Woe be to those who fail or refuse to sing in key, for many of whom merely being disregarded by their subscribers is a mercy. What happens with far greater frequency is that we turn our perfect harmonies against those who can or will not maintain them, with equal vigor and lack of restraint. It’s easier than ever, when we’re all camped behind the safe anonymity of computer screens. Even when it comes to people we know offline.
Now clearly, this phenomenon hasn’t been without its upsides; I know I’ve benefited plenty from being able to weed most of the bigots and conspiracy weirdos and just-plain-assholes out of my social media spaces, as have untold others. But there is no end to the pursuit and elimination of those people from your presence on social media, especially when doing so feels so damned satisfying. “Friendly fire” isn’t a question of if so much as when. But casualties are inevitable in the Culture War, and you’ll surprise yourself time and again with just how easy it is to justify using emotional violence to quell dissent in the ranks of your mailing list. After all, you’ve got a brand to maintain.
I know that quitting social media isn’t exactly going to do wonders for my already beleaguered blog statistics. I just don’t give a shit. There’s nothing inherently redeemable about social media for me any longer, and I’d rather turn my back and focus on creating the content for my own sake rather than for a bunch of strangers on the Internet. The only reason why I give a shit about most of you is because Facebook told me to.
If that’s not a good reason to take a break, I don’t know what is.