I recently made the decision to quit social media cold turkey. And yes, I realize how ironic that is, considering you’re likely accessing this post through a social media channel of one form or another. My awesome husband manages this site’s social media pages, so no, I’m not lying when I say that I’m personally not active on social media any longer.
Why the abrupt departure? Well, it’s actually not all that abrupt. At the beginning of 2017, I made the drastic (for me) decision to quit Facebook. I did, and honestly I don’t even remotely miss it now nine months later. I can’t ever see myself returning.
Unfortunately, the Facebook void eventually filled itself with Twitter and Instagram activity. I needed a place to post my witty thoughts and pictures of my adorable kids, after all! Plus, how does the world even rotate on its axis when people don’t update their friends and followers with pictures of their life-changing smoothies as they drink them?? (No seriously, I don’t even know how to drink smoothies anymore… Did it actually happen if I didn’t share it?)
In my defense, it took a while for me to fill my time back up with social media activity. When I first cut the Facebook cord, I got an embarrassing amount of my time back. I was involved in a lot of groups, which sucked literal hours of my day that I did not have to spare. In fact, I go so much time back from quitting Facebook that I was able to devote time to my freelancing and built up enough work within three months that I was able to quit my job to pursue my writing career.
Plus, I was happier.
For a while, other social media platforms didn’t stress me out the way that Facebook had over time. There weren’t the subtle judgy mom games. Politics were there, sure, but they were way easier to ignore.
And then I started feeling some of the old Facebook feelings creeping back. The mom games were there, absolutely; Instagram is teeming with perfect moms who have perfect children and a jillion followers. Twitter is the troll capital of the universe, and subtweets are possibly more obnoxious even than the actual stupid things that happen in this world.
After a while, social media simply wears me out. Especially emotionally.
Pangs of jealousy when other parents take their kids on yet another vacation or special trip while mine watch more Chuggington than they should while my husband and I work fiendishly on our startup. Eye rolls so hard at people’s ridiculous spewed opinions that my eyes feel like they’re going to fall out of my head. Tears at another “human interest” story featuring hurt children.
All of that adds up. Especially if you’re also dealing with pregnant emotions, like I am.
I’d started using social media scrolling time as “me time” aka that hour after the kids go to bed and I can openly play with my phone without feeling like a jerk. But shockingly, social media isn’t all that pleasant a distraction. And it’s not all that relaxing.
Social media time was making me more tired than a day full of wrestling my baby alligator son into diapers and talking my overly dramatic toddler off of various ledges (tables). I really had to make a change.
I wasn’t necessarily consciously thinking about these things as they were happening, minus the time suck aspect. I’ve always been pretty aware of that, even as I’d refresh Twitter in a second pane while I worked on projects in my primary browser window.
Then one night I had a dream that really made me think. In my dream, I was younger, maybe early elementary school aged. I was doing a lot of the things that I did for real during that part of my life: taking ballet classes, starting a new school, regular seven-year-old things.
However, in my dream, my mom was glued to her phone on some early iterations of Facebook and Instagram. She and her friends would talk about kid stuff on there or ask weird questions about their husbands’ ex girlfriends that they happened to come across in old posts.
It was a surreal dream. But it really got me thinking. My oldest is at the age where she’s aware that I’m taking pictures of her or talking about her. I think she has some vague concept of sharing pictures online, although she’s not really sure what that entails.
By the time she’s seven, like dream me was, I have no doubt she’ll get the concept of social media. And I’m really not at all sure how I feel about that.
The morning after the dream, I decided that I simply didn’t care about social media anymore. And I don’t.
I don’t care about sharing a bunch of pictures of my kids with strangers, plus a couple of people I also know in real life. It’s not that hard to text a picture if it’s really that important.
I don’t care about tweeting 140 character blips about my feelings on Baptist theology (hint: they’re not fuzzy feelings). I don’t want to put the emotional energy into people telling me that I don’t understand this “truth” or that “reality” when I say something objectionable. Pro tip: everything on Twitter is objectionable to someone.
I’ve been tired of social media for a long, long time. And I’ve been doing the social media thing for over a decade. I’m a Millennial, after all – I was around for the days of AIM and MySpace.
It’s so overwhelming to constantly feel the pressure to maintain my online persona as well as my real one. And it’s not like I was sitting around on social media trying to be some version of myself that I’m not. But even hashtags like “Authentic Living” don’t tell you that, yes, my left side is my “good” side, or that sometimes I bribe my kids with gummy bears to look at the camera.
Because of my writing and the absurd pressure of 21st century publishing to develop a following ages before anyone considers the things that you write, I’ve played the game. I’ve made the posts and used the hashtags, and studied social media strategies that are constantly changing and not all that effective for average people who don’t feel like spending hours a day creating beautiful content that’s slightly based on their lives for mostly strangers to enjoy.
And you know what? I suck at actually doing what the “experts” recommend, when it comes to my own brand (this does not apply to non-human brands I manage, BTW).
But why do I have to be a brand, rather than a human who has ideas and says things? I apparently can’t fake enough of my life to make people fall in love with me through glass box interaction. And the writing? It’s not getting done, well, because social media…
I’m just done with the idiotic games. I deleted my Facebook, as previously mentioned. Then, I deactivated my Twitter. I deleted my Instagram app, which is as effective as deleting Instagram because I don’t remember my stupid password so I can’t access it anywhere.
(I’m still on Pinterest, because how else could I cook anything ever in my life? And also, Pinterest isn’t full of stupid political rants and news stories of people leaving their kids in hot cars. I like it there.)
Maybe I’ll never be able to achieve my writing goals because I refuse to play the social media game. And you know what? I’m actually okay with that. If being a writer in this day and age really comes down to how many damn followers you have on a social media platform, then I don’t want to be a part of that. That’s not what the craft of writing is about.
Maybe I’m just a sucky writer and otherwise lame person and the reason I hate building a following is because I’m not an interesting person to follow. I’m also okay with that. If me being me doesn’t float the popular vote on Instagram or some other platform, then whatever. There’s a lot more to my life than what something someone views through a glass box could ever possibly convey.
For the first few days of my social media blackout aka the rest of my existence (possibly an exaggeration), I felt some obligation. Like, do they know I’m not out there anymore? Do I need permission from someone to break the social convention of sharing tidbits of my life on social media platforms?
The answer to both of those questions, by the way, is “no”.
I don’t need permission to live my life the way I feel is best. Or to parent my children the way I see fit. I don’t need to violate their privacy for likes, or even take away from the time that I’m spending with them to check my phone or mentally rehearse a thought until it fits into a certain length requirement for tweeting.
I know these things sound ridiculous. And I really think that my social media use had gotten a little out of control. Or at the very least, the way I mentally and emotionally interacted with social media was out of hand.
Will I go back? Probably not. Or if I do, it’ll be with some massive boundaries in place.
I will continue to post here. I enjoy sharing my thoughts about mothering, working, cooking, and all of the other things I come across in an average day. After all, it’s the writing that I care about.