So with apologies to Freddie Mercury and Queen, I can’t seem to get these words out my head these days. For about 6 months now, I’ve been sort of doing a social media withdrawal. At first it was just to ride out a storm and then it was to stop being part of too much drama and then it morphed into not enough time nor interest and now my social media activities have evolved more into a minor hobby than a 24/7 event. I don’t miss it. And here’s why.
More and more I was being bombarded (a strong word, I know, but that’s how I felt sometimes) with stuff I didn’t care about or topics I couldn’t or wouldn’t engage with others on or countless photos of women, teenagers and young girls with the ever-present hand on their hip. (And, as a side note, is the hand-on-the-hip now a chromosome that all women are born with? Discuss amongst yourselves).
I saw people posting dozens of selfies a day. Some people look good although the mouth-open-to-make-it-look-like-I’m-laughing-and-having-a-fabulous-time pose is not a good look on anyone. I have taken 2 decent selfies in my life and I’m grateful I even have that many. I’m OK with stopping there.
I am online friends (a term I use loosely because most times a Facebook friend is not a real friend at all) with people who have too much time on their hands and have decided their new calling in life is to provide non-stop political commentary every day. I get it; we should all be involved and care about out country and its future. But after your tenth post of the day proclaiming Hillary Clinton the devil or reminding me that Donald Trump is the anti-Christ, I don’t care any more. Your world is black and white and there’s no convincing you otherwise. My world – and I suspect a lot of people’s world – is grey but that doesn’t make good copy online.
There’s one person in particular who fancies himself a political pundit and who I only wish had displayed a tiny bit of the passion and commitment he does pushing his agenda online towards his job when he was a former co-worker. There’s a former classmate, who I truly didn’t know at all when we went to school together, who vilified me and threatened me so awfully and publicly on social media to the point where she had to be reported. And then there are just the plain old drama queens. Life is hard; I get it. But everyone’s life is hard to some extent and if you were to hold up your set of problems and compare them to any given person, you’d be ashamed at what we complain about. Sometimes less is more and silence can certainly be golden. But social media means more is not enough and noise generates interest.
A few weeks ago I found myself in a total social media blackout, by chance rather than design. After spending another lovely day with my Mom (me driving her car), I got home and discovered I had left my cell phone in her car’s cupholder. I haven’t had a landline in years so I did a little research and found I could make a call to her through my iPad. Problem solved. But the next morning, when I was going to call her again on the iPad to arrange where we’d meet up, I couldn’t get a connection online. I couldn’t imagine what had happened until I got a lovely pop-up window on my computer from my benevolent cable company telling me my service had been shut off. Somehow I had forgotten to pay my monthly bill (and, by the way, Comcast deserves their reputation as one of the worst companies in America for customer service but that’s another story for another day). I couldn’t pay them until I got my phone back so, once that happened, I had to hop in my car and search my neighborhood to find a WiFi hotspot so I could set up an electronic payment. And even after I paid them, it took a good long time to get my connections back. I was shipwrecked on a social media-free island.
Aside from being an annoyance, the longer it lasted the more liberating it felt. I read a book. I took a nap. I cleaned out my closets. I wrapped my Christmas gifts that need to be shipped off soon. I caught up on laundry. It was great; it was productive; it was a blessing in disguise because having a cell phone is both a blessing and a curse. The blessings are obvious; the curse perhaps less so. Getting into the habit of checking e-mail, looking at Instagram, reading a tweet is a time-sucking and usually non-fulfilling exercise. Not being able to do it was freeing. I was almost sorry when I had access again.
Many of you (and I love you all who have) have e-mailed or texted me privately and asked me why I am less active on social media. I have, of course, other reasons for scaling back, reasons I have shared with those who’ve asked. But ultimately I looked at the time I was spending on all types of social media and weighed it against my priorities, my goals, my downtime, my dreams. And it didn’t even come close. My time left in this world is a running clock and I don’t want to live it behind a screen. It’s not your real life and it’s not mine either. So I’ll happily cheer your success, like your picture, wish you happy birthday, pray for you or your loved ones when you ask. But for now, my real world is out there, not in here and I’m going to do my best to embrace what lives beyond the screen.