Let’s admit it, the last fifteen years have been a time of experimental growth for humans and their technology. Zuckerberg and his pals in Social Media Land rolled a tiny pair of dice and took the house. It is in everything we do. Its how we communicate, how we share, how we learn about each other (or at least what we choose to tell people in our half-truth screen life). It’s also how advertisers find us, how personal information is given out to people we never intended it for, and how the dangerous Echo Chamber was born.
I decided, last week, to step off of that particular merry-go-round. Yes, it hurts my online presence as a writer. But let’s be honest, not many people read my work anyway, so its not like I’m at a huge loss there. Yes, I miss seeing pictures of my friends and their funny posts, or catching up with my mom via Messenger. I miss seeing my nephew grow like a weed, and laugh at the geeky memes from my writer and nerd friends.
But one of the biggest reasons I left was that I realized how much I would miss the immediate gratification of a thumbs up sign to the comments, or pictures, or jokes that I used to post.
You see, FaceBook didn’t just sell us “connectivity” with our friends, family, and community. It sells us self-esteem, self-empowerment, even self-justification. And it reinforces those things by allowing us to filter out the people and sites we don’t agree with, and keep us comfortably surrounded by our already accepted beliefs.
Fifty likes on a post made me feel like I was some sort of rock start writer, or that I was cared about after a rough day.
Three made me feel like no one was listening and I didn’t matter.
None at all, I admit, somedays made me wonder if I existed at all…
I became a person who measured her self-worth by how many people were paying attention to me.
I became a person who was in need of the treat, like a dog who’s been clicker trained. Combine that with the perfectly filtered photos of friends, their lofty career accomplishments, their ‘humble’ retelling of good deeds done and I often felt self-stigma as to why I was not doing, being, having more. I teetered on the edge of what was real. I dove directly into self-loathing on more than one occasion.
Then, life threw in a few major world-events, the dividing lines between friends and family started cutting deeper and deeper and every post became something that set you apart from or joined you to one side or the other. Just like the Kardashians, FaceBook thrives the most when it’s got a healthy plate of drama in front of it.
We are a nation and world in the midst of a health crisis as well as sitting on the precipice of FINALLY understanding what America has been doing wrong since the creation of our country. I began to realize that no matter how loud I shouted on-line that racism was real, that being white and poor is not the same as being black and poor, that white children will never know the fear and limits that have been placed on black children, I would never change the minds of people who were not ready to accept it.
And watching that disheartening ignorance was just as bad as seeing well-MEANING friends post the trendiest slogan and know that that was the extent of their epiphany on the matter.
So I left. Not because I don’t love pictures of toe-headed babies and Star Wars Memes. I didn’t leave because I don’t like reading well-thought out and civil discussions on hard topics (a few of those do exist). I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to connect with all kinds of people from all spectrums of the scale.
I left because it’s not real. There’s always an angle, even from the most well-intentioned person.
I left because I don’t trust Zuckerberg to fact-check if it doesn’t suit his bottom line.
I left because most of the conversations I read or engaged in, have devolved into ugly name calling and personal attacks that have nothing to do with compassionate communication or the intention of trying to understand.
I left because in the last week I’ve actually connected on a personal level with friends I hadn’t talked to in years.
I left because I want to be more real and not just someone hiding myself behind a glossy filter of anonymity.
I left because I know that all those perfect people out there aren’t so perfect.
I left because I am enough and I don’t need someone else’s approval to justify my worth.
I left because FaceBook is fucking addictive and I don’t need another addiction in my life.
I left because I can’t change the hatred driven opinions of anyone, and I’m done trying to at the expense of my mental health.
I left because my time is better spent working towards a new, hopefully better, future for every human in this country.
I left because I want to make a difference, not just crow about it for the ‘likes’.
I don’t have a writing exercise for you, but I would encourage you to give up FaceBook for one week. (They even have a ‘take a break’ option if you’re not ready to throw in the towel completely like me).
See how much time it frees up. See how much mental space it frees up. Enjoy a meal without having to share a picture. Enjoy a song and call the person who it reminds you of, instead of posting it. Try being a real person for a bit, and see how your mental health improves. Remember, we actually all got along pretty well before it came around, you won’t die without it.