It’s been a little over four months since I deactivated my personal Facebook page and stopped posting on Instagram. Once active on the sites, it can seem strange to my friends and family. My grandmother asked if it had anything to do with what I considered minor family drama. My mother, who liked to show her coworkers the posts of mine shared by brands, couldn’t understand why I stopped sharing my photography so suddenly.
In truth, it wasn’t suddenly at all. Stepping away from those spaces is something I considered doing for years, but always had a different excuse. First, I worked in social media. I couldn’t deactivate my Facebook page or I wouldn’t be able to post for the businesses I represented. Second, how would I share my blog to a bigger audience? How would I encourage readership? Is that even possible without social media? Third, how would I stay connected to people whom this was my only method?
It started as an experiment
When I took a few hiatuses from Facebook during the election, I immediately noticed how my productivity increased and my mood was better. As someone who suffers from bouts of depression, this wasn’t taken with a grain of salt–I’m always looking for ways to subtly improve my life before going through another fight with negative thoughts and deep sadness.
In addition to the countless articles I’ve read over the years about how use of these sites aren’t good for us, there were three other smaller incidents that helped me kick the habit long term.
- I saw Black Mirror’s ‘Nosedive,‘ and my sister and brother-in-law joked that if the world really was like that, I’d probably be super competitive and have a really high score. If you’ve seen the episode, you know that this isn’t a compliment: in efforts to raise social score and status, the characters are self-obsessed, inconsiderate, and phony. Yuck.
- My ten year high school reunion happened. I would have gone if I lived in Houston, but it was on Halloween weekend (and y’all KNOW how important Halloween is to me!), so I opted out. I realized the people that I’d really want to see would be those who aren’t on Facebook, who I once cared about but don’t know anything about a decade later. I then realized that Facebook doesn’t really show you who a person is and that those people may think they know me based on my posts, when they really don’t know me at all. And, honestly, there are a lot of people in that digital list of “friends” that don’t even deserve to know anything about me.
- Just when I was ready to take the plunge, I read Create & Cultivate’s article on Social Media Detoxes, and that sealed the deal.
Making space for my values
My highest value, outside of my family, is to be surrounded by beauty: be it natural beauty or man made. This can manifest itself in an object that catches my eye, art I surround myself with in my home, a chance encounter with solitude at the local beach, or someone opening their heart to me and expressing their deepest desires, fears, and sadness.
I’ve been exploring minimalism in a way that suits me and fulfills me since I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up two years ago. Though I’ll never have one of those oh-so-‘grammable abodes with lots of white space, I’ve already felt so many benefits from this, most importantly, the power of deciding what I want in my life.
I mentioned in my post about my creative journey how over-committing myself is my go-to. It’s my backup way of living, and as someone with severe ADHD and procrastination ALSO as a natural state of being, my go-to is stress induced, to say the least.
In The Artist’s Way, the author would argue that these are my chosen “blocks” to creativity. That not creating is painful, but I’ve been accustomed to pain, so I seek it out and choose to stay blocked. Perhaps that’s the case.
I do know that in decluttering beyond physical objects into the things I do and the media I consume, I’m making more space for creating. I’m cultivating beauty within myself and becoming the person I’ve been striving to be. I’ve become more organized and methodical with my actions, yet constantly creative.
“If you want to work on your art, work on your life”
And that’s precisely what I’ve been doing.
When I created space by not scrolling, it was also the dead of winter and I was getting ready to visit Texas to run the 2017 Houston Half Marathon. I was stressed about the short visit, guilty about not being able to see everyone I missed and lonely in Connecticut at a time when most are locking themselves away from the harsh cold. After the tears dried up and the trip was over, I learned about what escapism was.
It was then that I realized that in 2010, when I read The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure, it was at the same time that I had gotten my first iPhone. I had merely switched from one bad habit to another, from alcoholism as a bartender to internet addiction as a student. I was addicted to portraying myself in the most positive way via social media, and addicted to the feeling of validation I would receive as a result.
Encouraging authentic connection
I noticed it was when I’d step away from social media that I’d make a conscious effort to get out and meet people in my new community. Social media was a placeholder–or, faceholder, if you will–in a time that was devoid of real connection for me. I was exhausted by constantly meeting new people and exchanging pleasantries, speaking of the weather daily and never getting anywhere deeper. It was draining, but yet I’d head over to Instagram & scroll more shallow depths, try to get some more followers, and head on.
After I didn’t have the faceholder, I opened myself up more often, made more deep connections, and developed fulfilling friendships here in Connecticut.
It didn’t feel important enough
As a writer, sometimes it’s hard to admit when you don’t have words. When the U.S. elected our president and he came into office, I felt like there was a lot that needed to be said. Never one to air my politics, I didn’t really feel like social media was the right outlet.
How was I going to post about my latest DIY when hate crimes are increasing? What could I say to make it known that I was in alliance with people who are being oppressed? How was I going to be silent about that, but talk about some cutesy thing I made?
I chose social media silence instead and am letting my voice be heard through my elected officials and actions I take IRL.
About those people I only speak to through Facebook
Yes, I miss them. One woman, Elizabeth, reached out to me after years of silence right before my departure from the sites. We had a great talk, and it’s those moments that kept me hooked. I’d love to stay connected with her, and with everyone. There is always email, text and this blog, and if someone really wants to find me, I’m quite accessible.
The experiment continues
At first, I thought I’d be off of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat (my drugs of choice) for a month. Then, it was decidedly three months. I returned to Snapchat (username: tinykelsie) after some urging and interpersonal connection that occurred through it. Instagram was always my favorite way to present my curated life, but I thought I’d put it off until the One Room Challenge. Now, it might be before I attend Create and Cultivate Conference in New York. Who knows.
Curiosity is what leads one to experiment. It’s what led me to learn more about Facebook, Inc.’s practices, and that with all their data, their underlying value isn’t “do the right thing” as it is for Google. In fact, though everyone changes, I don’t know if I can get over this quote from young Zuck:
Now, the experiment is this: can I be a blogger without traditional social media channels? Can I provide value without needing the validation of posted number of followers?
I don’t think I care about those things. I don’t think I want to be a professional lifestyle blogger, I just love to write. I write for small businesses and this is the space I write to bare a part of me that’s usually hidden. It’s a resource for others in creating, exploring, and creative exploration. It’s a space to share things with others so they don’t have to learn the hard way.
Does that need social media? Do I? We’ll see.
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