Do you remember what it was like before social media? Do you remember what it was like before we all fancied ourselves as freelance photographers and historians?
I do. It was glorious. I remember what it was like to go out without a cell phone. I remember what it was like to have an amazing day with your friends, and not one person took a photograph. I wasn’t busy documenting my day like it was going to be indexed as the only historical record of human existence. No, I just lived. I’m always so grateful that my messy days as a teenager weren’t broadcast for the world to see, and my mistakes were never used against me in an app filled with mean girls. We got to live our lives, kids, and only rumors remained as evidence.
A couple of months ago, I was in the emergency room sick with the flu and pneumonia unable to breathe, and I was laying there trying to figure out just how I would let my whopping two hundred or so followers know about it. As they were x-raying my lung, it occurred to me just how encompassing and crazy the premise of posting about my daily life is.
How ridiculous it is to take a picture of myself, and to then watch the lurkers (aka girls I went to school with, who will not speak to me in real life, but watch my profile like it’s their job) view, but never “like” my pictures. It never felt good, and I hated that people I know, but don’t particularly care for had access to my life in the same way only a close friend would. I hated that whenever my son did or said something adorable, one of my first thoughts was, “I should post this.” It’s pure insanity, and I am convinced that if I went back in time and explained Instagram to my sixteen-year-old self, she would look at me perplexed and smack the cell phone out of my hand, and yell, “Sorcery!” (Despite my propensity for Beethoven’s symphonies, I was not born in the 1800s. I just think she’d be disappointed in me allowing myself to get wrapped up in an app that preys on our narcissistic, self-deprecating, and capitalist tendencies. To be fair, I was a lot more “judgy” as a teenager, so teenage me would most likely be disappointed in anything.)
So, I immediately deleted all of my social media accounts. (In reality, about eight months prior to that, I had already inactivated my Facebook account, because I was beginning to sense that that privacy nightmare was becoming an ever-evolving dumpster fire of gaslighting fodder.)
Do you know what happened when I deleted all of my social media accounts? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world did not explode. I am not unaware of what is happening in the world. I still talk to my friends. I am absolutely fine. In fact, the only thing that did happen is I discovered just how toxic social media was for me. I had no idea how much I was using it to be “seen.” I would post pictures of artwork, or writings that I’ve done in an effort to gauge how “good” I am at either of those things. I would repeatedly look at posts of people doing things that I couldn’t do due to the limitations of my chronic illnesses, and feel inadequate. I would sit around in a self-loathing, existential crisis as I perused picture after picture, and tweet after tweet, completely unaware that I was damaging myself. I thought that I was just casually perusing Insta or Twitter on my downtime. I thought I was “too smart” to ever let social media affect me in anything other than a positive manner. However, like anything else that is absolutely terrible for you, I didn’t realize how deep I was in it until I got out, and It is absolutely lovely on the outside.
I no longer wonder about posts, or worry about the arbitrary nature of social media. I just live my life. I just eat my lunch, draw, parent, write, bake, read, color, travel, and all sorts of life without posting a quip or a picture like some clandestine rebel, and I love every second of it.
*Full disclosure: I do maintain a LinkedIn profile, because I work in public relations, so it would be difficult to do my job if I were unable to creep on CEOs and journos.