So, I finally did it: I got rid of all of my social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and (soon) LinkedIn. I deleted my Gmail account, my Outlook account and have moved all of my e-mail to a hosted solution where I own the domain name and rent server space. It feels strange.
The first few days I had definite FOMO – especially as it was over the Christmas period and there were likely to be more posts than usual from family and friends. In order to ‘stay strong’, I reminded myself why I left them behind: they added no value to my life. Every time I went onto Facebook or scrolled Instagram I always came away with a sense that I had just wasted time. Even when I used the platforms to connect with people, it felt like a cheapened version of the real thing.
I have always had a love/hate relationship with social media. From the very beginning, I would find it a strange and often scary place. About once a year I lost my temper and deleted everything only to come back a few months later, like a jilted boyfriend to ask my mean girlfriend for one more chance, proclaiming that I now realised the issue was me and not her. If only I would learn to use social media correctly then I would find that it added all kinds of value to my life. There are, after all, many people who proclaim the wonderful, life-enhancing qualities of being ‘connected’; and yet, when I really dig in to it, I don’t really like any of those people and none of them are persons with whom I would want to ‘connect’. That has to mean something.
I’m not saying that social media in and of itself is a bad thing. I am saying that it isn’t a good thing for me – with my personality and way of relating to the world. I like to talk to people. I like to hear their voices. I like to hug them and leave them with no doubt that they are loved. I do not enjoy ‘liking’ their pictures or reading a message that was intended to be thrown out into the world and not written with me in mind. Compare this to a text message from a friend letting you know that they were thinking about you, or a beer shared together, or a call just to catch up.
I am ‘woke’ to the argument that my ability to forgo social media is an act of privilege. I do not rely on social media platforms to ensure my voice is heard, to give me a platform in an otherwise platform-less society or to amplify my message. In my day-to-day life I have a voice, a platform and have the privilege to be able to speak and be listened to. My one worry in stepping away from social media is that I will cut myself off from voices that I need to hear, that will challenge and refine my thinking. That’s why I signed up to Medium. I know there are issues with Medium – there are issues with everything (and I am aware that it could be regarded as a form of ‘social media’), but, that being accepted, reading longer form pieces from writers I would otherwise never hear from seems to me to be a good way of ensuring that I am not cutting myself off from a vital source of learning. Most of what I read on there I disagree with, that has to be a good thing. I also read newspapers, but the issue there is one of privilege again. Journalists are, almost exclusively, white and middle-class. While they may write about other groups, they do so from their own vantage point which is too much like my own to be of any use to be.
So, here I am, in social-media-less world writing a blog post. There is something pathetically hipster about the whole process; something deliberately and affectedly counter-cultural. Alas, it is what it is. Sitting here and putting my thoughts down in a longer form does two things: it helps me to clarify what I am thinking, and; it (hopefully) is pleasurable for you to receive. Writing in longer form is something I have always enjoyed; it gives one the change to exchange and build on ideas in a way that is different to other forms of communication. Note I didn’t say superior, just different.