I deactivated my Twitter and Facebook three months ago. I told myself it was because I needed to concentrate on writing, and social media provided too many opportunities to distract and distance myself from the work. I’m compulsive and obsessive by nature, so once I’m into something, it takes a lot of work not to immerse myself completely. It also takes an all-or-nothing cold turkey approach to quitting whatever random, relatively harmless thing onto which my addictive personality has latched.
Although it was easy to get rid of Facebook and Twitter, I’m not made of stone, so I’m still on Instagram. Comparatively, it doesn’t take a massive amount of time or require much interaction, and I don’t fall easily into black holes.
I know many studies say that Instagram photos trigger depression because of the envy caused by staged photos. But I never understood that because the photos clearly look staged. I mean, who is in the room taking photos of couples cuddling on the couch? I’ve made plenty of smoothie bowls, and it is impossible for them to be pretty.
I have no desire to do any of those things, so seeing perfectly staged photos does nothing but make me want to know how long it took to stage them. The only problem with Instagram is that damn explorer page ... you watch one video clip of white children dancing to “Finesse” and next thing you know, IG is convinced that all you ever want to see is white folks doing well-choreographed, yet somehow still spastic, dance routines.
And it’s not completely wrong because—what?
Being off Twitter specifically has been a blessing. Over the last year, the constant influx of political news and random outrage had me in a constant state of anxiety. The anxiety was so prevalent that I didn’t notice I was constantly trembling with nerves.
The last three months, I have avoided being inundated with tweets by Toupee Fiasco and then the hurricane of responses and analysis of his tweets or actions. The need to know something as soon as it happens has lessened. I assume that if we are in a nuclear war, someone will tell me or text me or post a selfie on Instagram with an inspirational caption and fitting hashtag.
There’s no real reason for me to watch every single false alarm and frenzy.
What I also appreciate is the conversations I have with friends about current events. I’m not completely out of the room, but I have a moment to process information and remember nuance before firing off a 140-character (wait; it’s like 400 characters now, right?) half-formed thought. I can really sit with and develop an opinion without the hurried, pressurized “Tell me what you think about this RIGHT NOW.”
It helps me avoid stating how I’m supposed to feel based on the opinions around me and instead gives me a chance to actually process nuance and context before I decide what I think. I also get the benefit of hearing other opinions and voices and weigh them against my own. I’m not as prone to performative outrage as I was.
It’s only been a few months, and the change in my process has been significant.
This was driven home the day of the Las Vegas terror attack. I was at the library all day, so I didn’t even know it had occurred until around 8 p.m. that evening. By then, the bodies had been counted and the major questions had been answered.
I didn’t have to watch the body count grow as bodies were collected. I didn’t have to watch the shell-shocked survivors being forced by greedy newspeople to recount their traumas. Or read endless Twitter discussions and “hot takes” from people whose ill-informed opinions take on a 30-tweet thread that may or may not even be relevant.
I found out what happened, sent love to those affected and said a prayer for something to be done to stop the sale of automatic weapons.
I do kind of miss Facebook because sometimes I just want to talk about my day or make an observation, but I’ve learned that instead of putting it in a status message, I should put it in a Word document and see if it turns into a story for the book or an essay for something else.
Being off Facebook does make me miss all the birthdays and life events. I’m constantly sending “belated” greetings for birthdays, book deals and babies. But aside from that, I can pretty much do without Facebook, too.
I’ve recommended unplugging and stepping back in this space before, but that was more or less a suggestion to log off and spend a few hours away. Actually deactivating was a load off my shoulders that had been there for so long and weighed so heavily on me that I was numb to it.
I appreciate and often miss the variety of discourse offered by social media, but I don’t miss the constant influx of not just opinions but also the level of toxicity and outrage that is just too much for me these days.
I will have to eventually return to it, but for now, controlling, not only the flow of information, but giving myself space from attempting to make sense of it or sharing my thoughts immediately, has been helpful; I think (hope) that how I use social media will change when I do.
I hope I retain the same amount of thoughtfulness and introspection without falling into the typing-fast-and-saying-nothing way I’d used it before.