I quit MySpace in 2006. I stopped texting in 2007. I deactivated my Facebook account in January. And in keeping with tradition and conviction, after a few years in its bonds, I quit Twitter last week.
My journey into a world sans social media seems to strike nerves, even in strangers.
“Why are you trying to shut yourself out from the world?” -an old friend.
“Facebook is an amazing application to keep in touch with old friends. (You have) some social interaction issues to deal with.” -some stranger.
“It sounds like YOU have the issues, not Facebook … you took it too seriously.” -some other stranger.
“You’re just trying to hide from modern inventions.” -guy I’ve never met.
Forgive my being blunt, but way to miss the point.
Social media is to relationships what fast food is to nutrition. It makes us feel like we’re getting what we need, but compared to what we really need, what we get is insubstantial. For the lonely, the bored, the socially awkward or the socially phobic, it — in the long run — perpetuates what it’s supposed to alleviate. It teaches us to value the reaction to what we express more than we value the opportunity to express it. It casts the vote for convenience, further supressing the ability to wait.
It enables us to avoid. It creates an illusion of busy-ness. It distracts us. And I don’t want the use of it to play a big role in my life.
I don’t disagree, though, that social media has benefits. Even I’ve reaped them. I have friends I wouldn’t have without social media. I’ve scored interviews solely because of it. But I can make friends and score interviews without it, too.
I very well may be a neo-luddite. And maybe that means my life will be only more complex for opting out of all extra ways to communicate and my friends won’t be my friends anymore because it’s too much work. Maybe I’ll never be invited to another party because Facebook will monopolize the invitation industry and I’ll be single forever because meeting people like our parents met people is officially passé. Maybe stepping away from social media is condemnation to a life inside a hermitage, a life out of the loop. Maybe the stranger is right: I am the one who takes it all too seriously.
But I doubt it.
One day, I realized how unimportant these loops are. Why do I need to be in them? How do they help me to more wholly live my life? Why do I need to know what TV show so-and-so is watching? How much better is my life for knowing that lead vox in a band at a bar in Ybor just spilled his beer on the stage? Why, when people spend more time uploading photos from a party than fully being present at the party and sleep with their cell phones and read and respond to text messages from behind the steering wheels of moving motor vehicles, am I the one who takes this stuff too seriously?
I understand, though, why it strikes a nerve. And I appreciate the reasons some choose to stay. But for me, stepping away from social media, so far, is like liberation. And I look forward to learning what life really looks like without it.