Leaving Social Media

I think it’s time I depart from social media for a time.

My first steps into “social media” was with Facebook. When I first joined the platform, so many years ago, it seemed like a novel way to keep in touch with a whole bunch of people that I didn’t, or couldn’t see. Old high school and college friends. People I used to work with. Family members. The platform seemed so interesting–does anyone remember when status updates took the form of partial sentences, like:

Dave Shevitz is writing a Facebook post. How meta.

Then, of course, came other platforms: Instagram. Twitter. Tumblr.

But I don’t like what I see on Facebook any more.

An initial assumption might be that this is a direct result of the last election, and the discoveries that–shock and horror–these platforms may have been manipulated for political means. Another assumption might be slightly less Illuminati in nature: that I have grown tired of being in a self-inflicted bubble, in which the only comments and posts I see are ones that I already agree with.

Both are valid assumptions, but neither capture what’s going on in my mind right now.

To explain, we have to go back a number of years. I was just starting out in my career and my marriage, and I discovered a remarkable game: EverQuest. It was expansive. It was online. It was always there. And I quickly became addicted to it. I would spend hours playing–because you had to. It took you at least an hour to find a good group! Another hour to find a good spot to fight digital monsters! And then you had maybe a couple of hours of where the group was working together to actually play the game. Although it was a game, EverQuest was also a social media platform itself–an opportunity for me to talk and engage with a whole community of people.

I was unaware of what was going on. My wife was not. And it became clear that I had let this game consume way too much of my attention. It had to stop. So I stopped playing.

I wish I could say “I stopped playing entirely.” But I can’t. I reduced my playing time. I even quit EverQuest. But, over the years, there were many, many other games. I justified playing them because, well, my wife got into watching her own shows. Shows that I didn’t particularly care for. So an equilibrium was struck: she watched her shows, I played my games. Eventually, I found other interests, such as guitar, shows that I liked myself (hello, Star Trek Discovery!) and, well, there’s always a work. (Which is fine. I like what I do!) So my evenings now are mostly spent playing guitar and working, and my wife still watches shows that creep me out, like Criminal Minds. (Seriously, what is WITH that show?)

What do these last few paragraphs have to do with anything? I guess I’m pointing out that I have gone through having one platform dominate my life, and that experience helps me (sometimes) see when another platform is doing the same.

Let’s return to traditional social media for a moment. (Wait–not just yet. Let’s just marvel at the fact that we can use the phrase “traditional social media.” Because social media has been around THAT long?) My major experience with social media is Facebook. And, as I mentioned, at first it was a novel way of keeping in touch with people. And it still is.

But I’m also discovering that Facebook has become the ONLY way I communicate with some people, or with how some people communicate with me. My own family is not exempt. I find that I check Facebook primarily because I’m curious what’s going on with my family. My immediate family. This stresses me out. First, I want to have direct communication with my family. I want to talk with them, listen to them. I don’t want these events to occur only on Facebook.

I’m also becoming disenchanted with what I call the Scrapbook Lie. (There is probably a better name for this, but I like this one.) When you look through a scrapbook, most of the pictures you see are of people smiling, happy, enjoying themselves. We all know that’s not really how life is. It pains me to see a photo “Look how much fun we are having!” when I know, firsthand, that a few moments ago everyone was in tears. I understand that filters are important. But I don’t understand the line between filters and outright censorship/propaganda, and that bothers me.

I really should say that I don’t consider social media to be a bad thing. It is a tool, a technology, and whatever is good or bad about it is what we bring to it. I’ve stayed on Facebook, for example, because I enjoy the interesting perspectives many of my friends share, and I am glad to provide a word of support when someone mentions that they are suffering. But I can no longer tell if social media, as a whole, is a net-positive influence on my life. And it seems the only way to find out for sure is to step away for a while.

For those of you with whom I communicate with regularly, you know there are plenty of other ways to reach me. For those who would like to communicate with me more regularly but don’t know how, message me here and I’ll happily share some of my contact info. And for those who couldn’t care one way or the other: I commend you for reading this far.