It has been appromately 2 weeks …2 WHOLE WEEKS (lol) …since I abruptly decided to sign out of the Holy Trinity–Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I call them the Holy Trinity because I worshipped them as such. I also signed out of Snapchat. The lifespan of the iPhone battery is short enough as it is, now add my compulsive use of social media to that and you get a battery perpetually hanging in the red zone (for those of you non-iPhone/smartphone users, this means under 20 percent). Yes, it was that bad. One second I was checking Facebook, then Instagram, then Twitter, Facebook again, then Twitter, now Instagram, over and over and over again. I was also sharing a lot; I opened my personal world to more than 2,500 people on Facebook (I’ve done some cleanup since then) , more than 500 on Instagram, and more than 670 on Twitter. Every picture was worth taking, every thought worth divulging, every moment worth announcing. Like many members of my generation, I made it all special (even the most basic dinner and drink at your average bar that anyone can access) …until I realized that by that virtue nothing was special anymore. So I quit cold turkey …for two weeks. Look, if you know me, two weeks is a big deal. It is like being an alcoholic for 30 years, drinking every single night for 30 years, then suddenly going 3 days without imbibing. It was a midnight drunk impulsive decision after a heated argument with a friend, but a good one nonetheless. I had absolutely no regret after I woke up the next morning. Two weeks later, I’m unplugged, AND I AM OK.
Admittedly, it started out as a misanthropic act; I did not want to hear from anyone and I did not want anyone to hear from me after arguing with someone I considered a close friend and feeling (and I’m using “feeling” intently here) betrayed by another close enough to know things about me that at most 5 people know. So perhaps that night I told myself I was done with human beings. Really, I am not. I still love people for better or for worse. I am still a social butterfly, always meeting people and making new acquaintances. I suppose, then, what I was really “done with” are appearances–the appearance of people, including myself. Given that social media is the realm of carefully edited lives, of appearances, I figured a good way to start living more authentically and to seek more genuine human interaction would be to take a break from it.
Being on social media sabbatical has been very refreshing. I hope that you will believe me when I say that it is not hyperbolic of me to say that it has felt like a spiritual journey. When a natural-born thinker like me has not much else to do with his free time but think, having no superficial online distraction, he essentially transforms into Socrates on steroid. OK, maybe that one was an hyperbole. Seriously, ideas are now coming at me faster than a child star rises and falls. I am writing a lot more. I have volunteered my time helping people refine their resumes, and the results are sweet. Shocking: I find myself thinking about God a lot and the idea of it. I usually am more agnostic, but something has been happening. It is weird. Evading the cluttered world of social media has made space for more self-discovery; I am closer to finding what I want in life and what I need to do. I am doing real things with real people. I kid you not, I attended a discussion on drunk driving and the law (moderated by a very stern lady, and since I’m very opinionated myself, we went at it lol) , and my whole life has changed. I walked out with the urge to start being an active crusader against the act. I also finished a whole season of The Good Wife, something I have been putting off for almost 4 years now. I called a friend I had not contacted in over 6 months. I am strengthening my Italian skills, and I am now learning German (again)! I was even able to hold a 3 seconds conversation with a German lady and her granddaughter who did not speak English. She corrected something I said, I loved it. I now just need to keep on working on drinking less, but I am certainly getting my ducks in order. I feel more grown. More mature.
I remember when I was growing up that one of the best feelings ever was being surprised by the radio or television with my favorite song or movie. It was especially wonderful because it was unexpected. It was something to the effect of sweet serendipity. Quick and easy access to the arts, the ability to create playlists, skipping undesired songs, the luxury of simply searching for your favorite song and instantly playing it, has taken that pleasantly surprised factor away. We are more present-oriented, gratified at the speed of light. We are paradoxically ever so in control these days, being able to summon what we want so fast, that we really are not in control insofar as not getting what you want RIGHT NOW is a form of exercising control –over the inconsequential things. Delaying is controlling. Delaying can make it all the more special. That said, some things do not feel that special anymore. Call me grandpa or call me nostalgic, but I do miss the rarity and scarcity that makes some things special. In the same fashion, I missed delighting in running into someone who had been completely out of sight and out of mind. When I see a friend now on the street, at the bar, anywhere, I am now 7 times happier to see them! That is because I had no idea I was going to see them, I do not know what they were doing, where they were on the map every hour of the day, who they were with, how they were, or even when (or if) I would ever see them again. Matt! Tanner! Andrew! Kate! Kelsey! I actually mean these exclamations when I see them now, I mean them more. We no longer have to mutually pretend we don’t know what the other has been up to…as if we didn’t already know from a Facebook status posted 7.2 seconds ago. And I can tell that when they see me, they are now more genuinely and visibly surprised (positively so, I hope). Texting now feels more intimate; I feel closer to the friends I text because they are the only ones who know what is happening with me at any given moment–when they ask and/or when I share. Same thing applies to emailing. That is something else I am learning: make your true friends special by not sharing with the world some things you share with them, give them a modicum of exclusivity.
A friend once told me something about being present at all times and it is echoing in the back of my head louder than ever: you want to give people the chance to miss you. Right. And I also refuse to let my existence and importance be validated by being seen at all times. I shared online not for approval, but to do just that: share. I shared what I liked, not what I think anyone would “like”. Any semblance of attention-whoring may have been accidental. I never doubted, still do not, my relevancy in the larger scheme of things. You and me, we do not need viewers to be great, we do not need to always been seen or heard, we do not always need the applause. An artist in some studio right now recording the next best hit, yet only this artist and the few around him are aware of it; this hit will not be great because we get to hear it and fall in love with it, we hear it and fall in love with it because it is great. It was so from the start. John Lennon said it best: “…For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle, yet most of the audience still sleeps”.
I am OK! Really, I am. Social media is such a big part of our lives nowadays that giving up on Facebook is like giving up on life. People will ask you if everything is OK with you, something must be wrong, you must be deeply depressed, they might even think you are suicidal. They wonder. That is not entirely unreasonable. It is fair. In fact, one of the signs that someone is suicidal according to several trusted sources is a significant change in behavior, like losing interest in activities in which one previously reveled. Pick up on those, pay attention to that when it comes to caring for your loved ones. That said, I am OK. Hell, I am better! I have not given up on life, I have decided to live one more fully and honestly. No filter. I am focusing. I was/am not saying goodbye to social media, I will just be “doing less”. I will be back to trolling on your newsfeed in no time. Just not as much. Lord, give me relapse, but not just now. We all know old habits die hard 😉