Can you remember life before social media? Try to take your mind back to a time of meeting friends at a set location at a set time, or of having to remember everyone’s birthdays individually, or of having to ask people what they have been up to, and actually not knowing what they have been up to.
Difficult to remember isn’t it?
Not for me. I am a self- marginalized member of society, who is less connected to the sticky social web. Three years ago I quit my personal facebook account. *Shock Horror*. The world did not end. My own world did not even crumble. However, it has to be said that no one remembers my birthday anymore. I can’t blame them really, because I also can’t remember their birthdays. Maybe I need a well filled-in calender on my wall instead. Either way, I have never looked back.
After three years abstinence from the social realm, I feel like perhaps I can offer a perspective that is, not so much unique, but at least rare. I can remember a life with no social media. Rather, I am living one. I can also remember my life with social media, though thankfully the memories are beginning to blur. This allows me to make comparisons that, alas, those who have forgotten one way or the other cannot make.
Do I Miss It?
There are many interesting facets to this comparison. In a world so reliant, so absorbed almost by the social media realm, quitting facebook definitely has marked consequences. What do I miss the most? Probably my interactions and contact with those people who I see rarely, but who I still enjoy very much. Those people who I would contact, but for some reason would seldom call.
Also, when I meet new people facebook and other social media seem pretty standard tools for the beginning stages of interaction. Sure, you can exchange phone numbers, and tell someone, “I just don’t use facebook”, but it is less likely that you will ever speak again, and somehow you both know it.
But then, you have to try to imagine life before social media. What is life but a flow of interactions and ascribed meaning? Those people that I am “meant” to speak to again, I will speak to again, or rather those people who I really want to speak to again, and those people who really want to speak to me again, will make the effort. Besides, the real life encounters have their own meaning at the time, and that is enough for me. Why do we feel like we have to collect contacts, like we used to collect stickers for our sticker books?
Non-Attachment And Social Media
Non-attachment is something that I practice in my life. I think it is largely misunderstood, and I confess I misunderstood it myself for a long time, taking it to mean that I shouldn’t care about anyone, and therefore rejecting the idea. Non-attachment is much more highly related to an attempt to reduce the feeling of having to hold on to everyone and everything, as if life is a matter of accumulation. This might seem like a digression, but this is not so.
Having been free from social media for three years, I feel like I have a better perspective of what relationships really mean to me. When I meet up with people, I actually get to ask them questions and not know the answer. I can talk to them genuinely, and I can see them as they are in the present, rather than seeing them with a super-imposed social image over the top. I enjoy them while I am with them, and when I am not with them I don’t have to think about what they have had for dinner, or what they will be having for dinner, or what they looked like when they were munted at 5am the other night. I don’t even have to think about ANY social tangles, arguments, gossip, or any of the other bullshit that is fed daily to the screens of billions. Simples.
Mental Clarity, Or Social Storm Clouds?
Quitting facebook and other social media sites, has a ring of minimalism to it. It is about making reductions to my life, in order to obtain the mental and physical clarity that is, in my opinion, needed to live happily. The people who are shocked by the idea of quitting social media, are the ones who do not understand, or have never considered, the possible benefits of minimalism, and who have forgotten what mental clarity feels like.
Mental clarity is that state of being which allows for you to know your own thoughts, and for you to experience life free from mental clutter, which serves to cause the mind grief, and drag you out of the present moment with worry and thoughts that have no context. I found that a lot of the cause of mental clutter in my life came from social media, though I did not know the full extent of this until I finally quit. After a sustained period without social media, it felt like the social storm cloud that had been hanging sneakily over my head, was blown away. I was left free from the world of social images, and free to focus my thoughts with clarity.
Do You Understand My Motives?
A surprising number of people that I speak to can understand my motives for quitting social media, and I am met largely with respect for my decision; though I am yet to find a close friend or family member who has succeeded in making the full move to social media liberation. Many more people who acknowledge the problems, would rather moan about it. The sacrifice is simply too much for them, despite their intuitive urge to quit. I also know many people who may as well have quit, given that they use it so rarely. In a way I envy those people.
It is a difficult choice to make. It requires sacrifice. It is not for everyone. Social media can be used wisely. If I could trust myself to use it wisely, then I might consider it. If everyone else also used it wisely, then I would consider it further. If real, socially moving content, traveled faster than videos of people drinking their own piss, then I would be all over it. But the sad truth is that the most interesting people, information, and ideas, take a back seat to slapstick humor, whiny statuses, celebs, and social game playing. This is a complete waste of the potential power of the net. At least that is how I see it.
And I am not even going to stroll down the road of personal privacy, which is intruded upon on every level on facebook, even when settings are controlled. The data is sold to companies daily, and you should be particularly careful to avoid apps; they are owned by third-parties who have even less respect for your data.
It is not all bad though. I used to be a part of a group called “ideas worth spreading,” (unrelated to TED), which began as a bunch of friends, and grew into extended circles, all sharing inspirational messages and videos to each other, which pleased me for years, and helped me to think that I was changing the world… the early stages of the online lethargy that tricked me into thinking I could make changes from my bedroom, simply by sharing highly bias youtube videos. I have been a member of several groups that I find interesting, and can see the appeal to this customized income of information.
It has to be better than those moany facebook statuses anyway.
Get Back On Facebook – I Need To Organize A Party
I have to say, there have been a couple of times that I was tempted to go back to facebook, and one time when I did go back. I was having a birthday party, and needed to invite everyone who I wanted to be there in one foul swoop. I reactivated my profile for a day or two, and shut it down again shortly after. It helped.
Could this be seen as rude by the people on facebook who I had not spoken to for ages? Probably. Does this make me a hypocrite in the eyes of my reader? Maybe, but then again those who would love to pin me down as a hypocrite, are the ones who see what I am saying, but don’t want to make the move to quit. Now is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to do so, to detract from the issue at hand, get out of jail free in their mind, and resume their normal life.
I can tell you something even more hypocritical if you want? I am going to have a facebook group up and running for this website, and I hope you all join it. Maybe you won’t after reading this. You might think, “what a ****” and find something better to browse, like a story about a horse who kicked a woman in the face, or something. Or you might not join because you want to quit facebook. That is fine, I wouldn’t blame you either way.
I can see the value, or rather the pure potency of social media in terms of sharing information to a relevant audience, and to the more commercial goal of making some money. Billions of people all under one metaphorical roof. It’s a start-ups wet dream. I would never tell Joe the Builder not to have a social media campaign for his business. I would also never tell you to stop using social media yourself, though I would ask you to consider it from all angles.
The RULES Of Responsible Facebook Use
Like I said before, if it could be a responsible tool, and I could use it that way, then I would do. A bit of direction never hurt anyone. At least this stops the mindlessness. Using it for private messaging also seems less strange than public messaging; one-to-one contact, sans social games. For responsible use of your personal account I would recommend then that you:
- NEVER update your status – there can never be anything that you need to say to all of your contacts at once. A status update is an ego display. Period.
- NEVER share the intimacies of your life. Semi-strangers do not need to see you giving birth. No one needs to see that apart from the sperm donor.
- NEVER use facebook for vanity. Everyone knows you look like shit in real life anyway.
- NEVER use facebook to incite public gossip, slandering, and so on. Subversive social game playing it extremely destructive for everyone involved, including the perpetrator. Facebook takes all of this to the next level, and I am continually dismayed at how big a part of some people’s lives that this seems to be. If you find yourself stirring something up, I can assure you it is a reflection of your insecurities.
- NEVER be forceful with your views, not to a general audience. What you consider a heartfelt political point, is simply an angry rant to someone else. Try to fine-tune your information output so that it finds people who will appreciate it.
- NEVER scroll down the status pages in a mindless slumber. Get a grip and find something better to do. This uses of social media is perhaps the worst for mental cluttering. All information that you absorb is processed on the subconscious level. You are taking in a high amount of clutter by scrolling statuses.
- NEVER succumb to the desire to stalk the people you fancy, or your ex, or your friend who you are jealous of, or your friend’s girlfriend who has become like a piece of forbidden fruit that you can take a tiny bite of online. I believe it is bad for the mind to live in a fantasy world. If you like someone enough to look through their entire picture collection, then message them and tell them so. If you don’t know them well enough to message them, then what are you doing looking through all of their pictures, and why are you even “friends?”
- NEVER moan about your pathetic earthly problems on a public feed. Have you no self-respect or perspective for the real problems in the world? No one cares. If you have a real problem then reach out to someone who you want to help you. Do not reach out in a cry of attention for the general population.
I am sure there are more uses that can be avoided if you want to be responsible with social media, but you will have to work them out for yourself. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were so many ways to use it irresponsibly (and in my eyes only one way to use it responsibly- i.e. private messaging) that it wasn’t worth the hassle trying to take care of each individual NEVER. I quit. Much easier. Email takes care of the bit that I need, and my blog writing gives me a relevant output.
An Illusion Within An Illusion
What I have done is made a personal choice to quit facebook. It has improved my life. It has cleared my mind of all need to create a social image for myself, and all need to worship the social images of others. It has stopped me from posting embarrassing status updates, and it stops me from being subjected to them. It has encouraged me to find a different use of my time, and to reduce such behaviors as social stalking, internet flirting, and desperate scanning of the realm of illusion.
Because that is what you are looking at. An illusion. Maybe even an illusion within an illusion of you want to go that far. Nobody shows themselves on social media. Not their real self. Trust me. Only the shiny pictures go up. Unless someone wants to look dirty, and then the dirty ones go up. Only the good looking angles hit the net, unless of course you want to look rough from a great night on the town.
Facebook gives people the unique opportunity to present their life in story book format for the world to see. You can omit and include whatever you want. Statuses do not reflect you, they reflect what you want people to see. If you are unaware of this aspect of the social realm then God help you. If someone “likes” your picture, then it is not only because they like your picture, but also because they want other people to see that they have “liked” your picture. Or perhaps they think that “liking” enough pictures will eventually lead to something more. Like a share. Or getting laid. Haha. Oh dear.
Quitting my personal facebook was a big sacrifice. The world did not end. My friends did not abandon me, and I did not abandon them, though shamefully I don’t have 380 of them anymore.
I can safely say that I will not go back. I can say that because I have done both for long enough to know how I feel. I feel much better now.
Can you say the same? That you know how it feels to live without social media, aswell as with it? Or have you forgotten? You could be addicted to the fantasy land of social bullshit. Dangerous stuff.
Until you have given up social media for long enough to feel the effects on your mind and your life, you do not truly know what is best for you, and you cannot truly relate to the feeling of social and mental clarity that follows. My words will simply bounce off your thick virtual skin. So, if there is anything that I could recommend to conclude this article, it is to quit facebook for a few weeks, and just see how you feel.
Just don’t expect anyone to remember your birthday.