I have a love/hate relationship with social media. The first form I had was a Xanga blog when I was 13 or 14 years old. At that time in my life, I was depressed, anxious (and not medicated yet), angsty, rebellious,… well an all-around pubescent teenage girl, I suppose—but the extreme case scenario. I used my Xanga, aptly called “broken dreams”, as an outlet to complain about my life. I don’t remember anything specific but I’d be embarrassed to read it now. It’s tempting. (Unfortunately, I’ve looked into it, and either it’s been deleted or archived–which I could access for a fee. Maybe someday when I have realistic goals of penning a memoir I will fork over the money to access it. Otherwise, it’s been lost in Internet oblivion).
From the Xanga, I went on to MySpace (with a year or two gap between the two). My MySpace profile had been up and accessible up until about 3 years ago. It was an interesting profile, to say the least. During the duration of that account, I entered my first serious relationship, left town, was shipped around a lot, was treated like complete garbage during said relationship (High School romance FTW), was coping with the death of my dad, and coming back home at 17 years old to so many changes. It was a very vulnerable and volatile time in my life and thanks to MySpace, every Tom, Dick, and Harry could watch it happen. Something just didn’t sit well with me as I was looking back on all my posts. Most of them documented these very personal epiphanies I’d had about myself and changes I wanted to make to become a better person. Maybe I had felt that by putting it out there publicly, someone (particularly my friends), would see it and want to talk about it.
And that’s where I hate social media. It allows people in without asking anything in return of them. It’s a public show and everyone who’s invited gets to just sit back and watch without having to put in any effort. Social media is everything I hate about human interaction. I hate the small talk. I hate the fake friends. I hate the posts that people make to rouse envy and form life comparisons.
Having already somewhat figured this out after my MySpace account, I still went and signed up with Facebook. It was the cool thing to do, OK? I had to try it out. Facebook is “meh.” I mostly used it to try and be humorous or rant about things. But it became a problem of routine for me. Much like people watch the news or read the newspaper, I was scrolling through my feed trying to keep up with things and people I hardly see. I had the app on my phone so would get “binged” anytime someone commented on anything I liked and blah, blah, blah. I’d end up scrolling through my feed any downtime I got. It was.. emotionally draining for me. I felt reliant on it to feel relevant.
So, around 2012 or so, I started dabbling with the idea of living my life without social media. I finally had reached my unwritten bullshit limit. I deleted my account and after a couple days of withdraw (where I’d get on my phone to look at something out of habit), I was freeing up a lot of time to do things like read or crochet. After a couple of months, I’d convinced myself I wouldn’t let “things get bad” again and that I was in a better place emotionally and could handle all the virtual baggage from social media again. I’d reactivate my account and try and catch up on all that’d happened over the past months. And then a pattern appeared where I’d be on and off—loving and hating my time on Facebook. I was off for almost the entirety of 2014 (while Joey was deployed and didn’t need to be on the computer anymore than I was for Skype dates and college coursework). I was off for the later part of my pregnancy in 2015, got back on a month or two after Sylvia was born, and ended up breaking it off again by November of 2015. And I haven’t looked back since.
Can’t say that I am really missing out on much because, as the old adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” I know that I don’t get invited to nearly as many birthday parties because I’m missing out on mass invites (bummer, I really loved the personal touch). I don’t have people acknowledge my birthday as often because they aren’t reminded by Facebook to do so. I don’t go to businesses that only have a Facebook page because I can’t see their store hours (not because I am anti-anyone who has Facebook). I look at the losses and realize they are reasonable. And I’m all for simplifying my life since I’ve had struggles with depression and anxiety for most of my life. I’ve discovered (after many years of thinking I just need to be drunk to be social) that I am an introvert. I like being alone and putting all of my energy into things that I place high value on—like my hobbies, my daughter, my family, my home.
So, what might the advantages be? They are limitless, really. I spend more of my time being on social media in a more therapeutic way (like this blog, for instance). I spend more time getting my news from NPR and not what’s trending on Facebook. I’m outdoors more. I am more productive (I will show you sometime in a future blog just how productive I’ve been!). I am actually present when I’m with Sylvia (instead of sitting around with my nose in my phone). I, in a roundabout way, weeded out the friends that I don’t associate a lot with. I spend my time having more meaningful, direct conversations with my friends because they don’t assume they are up to speed by reading my Facebook profile. My co-workers can’t spy on me and make any assumptions about who I am based on my Facebook profile before they’ve met me. (This was seriously a thing at my last job, and they hated that they couldn’t see what I looked like or form any opinions beforehand! Apparently that’s a common thing? That’s really shitty! I mean I’ve looked people up to put a face to the name, but nothing like trying to dig up dirt. Be sure you moderate your stuff or set it to private!) I don’t sit around and pity myself for all the fun I don’t have (because let’s be honest, the pictures and the show people post are not reality).
And I sure as hell am feeling a lot better about myself. My self-esteem is going strong, and I just feel happier living this “simple, sheltered” life I have now.