My first forays into social media were in 2007, when my sister Victoria encouraged me to join FACEBOOK to find old pals. Having had this blog/website since 2001, I thought anyone who’d wanted to find me could already do so with a simple search on Netscape (or whatever the prevailing search engine was back then) but joined anyway.
Almost immediately, I found old friends, and others were able to find me, just as my sister had promised. For someone who’d lived and worked all around the world when we didn’t yet have cellphones and email addresses (and consequently losing touch was commonplace) this reconnection with old friends from different phases of my life was a great joy. Fast forward past fun years of playing silly games throwing sheep, ‘pokes,’ and laughing at everyone’s high school photos.. Next, I got first hand experience in what a powerful tool for human connection social media can be, when I was a housebound shut-in recuperating from a long term medical disaster. In those troubled years, social media gave me a lifeline to sanity, and my activity expanded to other platforms as a consequence.
In this year when the entire planet is in lockdown, social media could be a fantastic tool for replacing human connection lost due to quarantine isolation, but it seems to be driving people apart instead. Nowadays, people do the air quotes finger gesture as they say the phrase; “social” media, because it hasn’t felt social for quite sometime. The brittle crankiness out there is understandable given the harrowing events of 2020, but online interactions were already snarky years ago. I might go for months without encountering objectionable behavior in the real world, but hostility & hatefulness is ever-present online, and these days, that contrast is harder to bear, simply because my real interactions with actual humans are rare during lockdown and online interactions have become everything.
FACEBOOK in particular has grown into something other than the fun platform it used to be, and now feels like a real life “MAFIA WARS”. Not just the constant name calling, but the corporate entity itself. I was certainly warned many times over the years, by wary friends grimly alluding to data tracking and other nefarious shenanigans of the Zuckbot.. but my feeling at the time was that if a corporation wanted to track my eyeballs on their advertising, so what? Wasn’t that always what they’d done, as I’d soaked in a bath of their advertising my entire life? But now I do feel a part of some dysfunctional toxic ecosystem, and need to PAUSE social media, at least for a while.
Social media might simply be be a representation of the collective ID of the human race, a nonstop jabbering stream of consciousness, with all the rabid raw anxieties that implies. Perhaps it’s a fantastic diagnostic tool for taking the pulse of the human race, but looking steadily into the white hot glare of that pulsating cyclopean maw for too long becomes exhausting, possibly even dangerous, and it’s important to step away to other things.
I’ve periodically done fasting or ‘cleanses’ for my physical health in the past, and now it’s time for a media cleanse, when I lay off the social media candy. As with any real life fast, the goal is to reset. I’d like to get back to blogging, writing, personal creative projects, and things I used to do more consistently in the pre social media era. Blogging gave me fun, both writing my own blog and reading posts of others, and I hope to do that again. I’ve quit Facebook but still have a few active social media accounts. Instagram in particular is one I greatly enjoy, as its image-based interactions favour the sharing of drawings and photos, which I love.