My recent time away was beneficial, and of the many thoughts that came to mind once I had an opportunity to think again was that I should find some way to disembark the social media train at the next station. It was a relief just to think it.
For years now I have harbored a secret fantasy of going off the grid and living a simple life in relative obscurity, and I’m pretty sure that fantasy is fueled by the complications produced by the time I have invested in social media. I’m not exactly sure what possessed a private person to lead a fairly public life, but I am pretty sure that it was not the smartest idea.
I had already dipped my toe in the water just a tiny bit. When the pandemic hit I upped my social media game and tried to post more content, telling myself that I was encouraging others. But when the deeply important racism conversation erupted—a conversation that I care about very much—I was soon exhausted and, to be candid, frustrated at rhetoric from a wide range of people that I love who vote differently from one another. So I shared less and less, and I wanted to see what others shared less and less, and I cared about social media less and less. So stepping away is no great sacrifice. It is more a move to maintain some measure of sanity.
And I get the irony that I am sharing this post on various forms of social media. Given my history, I felt it was kind to provide some type of notice.
There are positive attributes of social media, of course, which explains its ability to take over the world. But of the downsides, the most troubling may be the invitation to social comparison that has led to what Jonathan Haidt argues as the “decline of wisdom.” (Note: Haidt wrote “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks” in the December 2019 issue of The Atlantic—just before this crazy year began.) I kept trying to convince myself that I was aware of and immune to social media dangers, but I now confess that I was wrong.
This will be a work in progress, so the following is subject to change:
- I don’t plan to delete my Facebook or Instagram accounts (i.e., my primary drinks of choice), but I do plan to stop both posting and scrolling. Instead, I will simply use them as some sort of 21st century phone book and respond to messages.
- I don’t plan to stop my blog entirely, but I do plan to stop posting on a schedule, and I do plan to stop sharing my blog posts on Facebook. I will write and post when the feeling strikes and not worry about who sees what I write (for those who want to read what I write, you can sign up by email to receive the posts when they happen).
- Finally, I think I will keep sharing my running information with running friends on Nike Run Club and Strava as a little virtual running club, but if that ever turns into me trying to impress others, I’m out there, too.
That’s the plan for now. It is interesting how just the plan provides genuine stress relief.
“Social distancing” is the phrase of the year, of course, but I am employing “social media distancing.” If that catches on, trends, goes viral, or gets an incredible number of likes or retweets…well, to tell the truth, I don’t need to know.