I remember the exhilarating experience of choosing my first email address, a Hotmail address, and thinking, “Wow, I’m truly connected to the world.” I still believe in the power of the internet. I love that my projects can exist online, and people from around the world can access them. I love that I can learn about projects and information that some person or group of people have compiled and tumble down a rabbit hole and get lost in their worlds.
I’ve been thinking about social media lately. A few weeks ago, Carolyn and I traveled out to a remote part of Vermont for a long weekend to stay in a cabin. The natural beauty of the place was marvelous. We were flanked by two low mountains and thick green forest and a creek that pitched and carved it’s way through slate, creating breathtaking gullies and waterfalls. Back at the cabin, if we wanted light, the best option was to light a pair of kerosene lanterns. If we needed the toilet, our only option was the outhouse. There was no internet. There was no cell phone reception.
I need to always have some task, some guiding star, driving my day-to-to to be happy. I suppose this is true for most humans. We need an objective. For me, that’s the next class that I’m planning, or perhaps a story idea that I’m working on, or a website or a project that I’m thinking about. And as I get older, and work on these projects, I’m able to reflect and prioritize in ways that I haven’t been able to previously. What matters? What makes me happy? In Vermont, sitting on a porch in front of a fire next to Carolyn, I was happy. I noticed something peculiar while we were in Vermont though.
Especially during the first days, I found myself instinctually grabbing for my phone, turning it on, and checking for updates that weren’t there. This faded over the course of the weekend, but upon further thought and discussion with Carolyn, I came to the troubling conclusion that I have an addiction to social media. It got me thinking about my information diet and the ways that I want to spend my time.
My personal posts are quite infrequent. I use messenger with a few friends, primarily with the guys from the Red Eye Report. 99% of my social media usage is me looking at memes and posting stuff on the Red Eye Report’s Facebook. I make a lot of posts though. As I write this, I feel a tug to pick up my phone. And here’s the question that I’ve been mulling over, is it really worth it? Does social media truly bring value to my life?
The answer is no. It’s actually detracting from my life. I’ve somehow been duped into thinking that social media is the only way to communicate with others in this digital age. This is entirely false. It has changed my expectations for what a personal relationship is and how communication should work. There’s an intricate web of social media standards and etiquette which I must follow. And all of this is actually weakening social bonds between me and those that I truly care about. Don’t even get me started on the threat that social media is posing to American democracy and the mental health of people around the world.
It’s time to take action.
If I have an update that I want to share, a picture, a story about a project that I’m working on, I can A) send it via text, email, or heaven forbid a piece of hand-written correspondence to a specific person or B) I can put it up on this blog. If someone wishes to contact me, they can send me an email, write me a letter, or call my phone.
No more hits of dopamine when I get a like on a post or picture on Facebook. No more time spent scrolling my feed. I’m cleaning up my information diet. I nearly drank myself into an early grave. There were times when I was younger that I smoked cigarettes. I experimented with other drugs. I know what it feels like to cut out addictive substances. Those deep feelings of want and desire, gnawing at your bones and stewing deep in your gut…just take a puff, take a drink you deserve it…I’m feeling those right now about social media. That’s scary. That tells me that my social media habits have just as much of a grip on me as alcohol or tobacco once did.
Day 1. Here we go.