I know this is not an airport
This piece was originally published on Medium in September, 2020.
Last night and early this morning, I watched a documentary on Netflix called “The Social Dilemma”. It left me disquieted in a way that I wasn’t fully expecting. It also made me fully realize something I know has been true for a long time: I need to take a social media break. Specifically, a Facebook break. Facebook has long been my crutch, my addiction, my connection and so much more. It’s time for us to take a break.
It’s not that I learned anything new from the documentary, it’s that some of my greatest fears were brought into cold, stark reality. The level at which we are being manipulated is staggering. Of course, we see this with things like politics very clearly, but what’s happening in the background isn’t always so clear. I started to notice this when I left my part-time job in March and was removed from the related FB groups. As soon as I was no longer in the circle, many of my FB friends/colleagues from that circle simply vanished from my timeline. I simply stopped being shown their posts. It was immediate and it was obvious.
One of the side effects of leaving my part-time job was that I no longer needed to focus on creating social media content for it and I found that to be such a relief, that once I had made the planned transitions for my own business, I stopped making social media content for it, as well. I hadn’t realized how much pressure I felt. But, looking at it now, of course I did. We’re talking about things that thrive on likes and shares and how to get more attention than the competition. Looking back, I think I thought I liked doing it more than I actually did. I love being creative, but much of what I created was driven by those likes, those shares and that attention. Being free of that feels, well…free. I am ready to extend that to my personal feed (I think, I hope). But before I move onto that, I want to say something that’s been on my mind for a while. For a long time, I actively and enthusiastically encouraged my colleagues to use social media for their businesses. And for many businesses, it can be extremely beneficial. It was for mine, even when I was using it in the most slackerish of ways. But I owe that in part to years of building goodwill within my community more than my mad skillz. I recently had a conversation with a colleague in which she was telling me how busy she was in her business, despite the pandemic. She has been the go-to in her area for a long time. She is trusted and for good reason-she is highly skilled. I could hear the exhaustion (and maybe a bit of shame) in her voice when she said she knew she needed to step up her social media game. I said hold up, K, why do you think that? She said because that’s what we are told is important, you have given me so many pointers along the way and I don’t take advantage of them, I feel like it’s something I am supposed to do as a business owner. I asked if she was happy with the amount of business she had. She said yes. I asked if it felt reliable. She said yes. So I told her to stop. Put social media out of her mind, don’t worry about blogging. Focus on what you want to do, and if at some point, the level of reliable clients changes, revisit. Some people like to use social media to educate. I said that if that’s something you feel called to do, go for it. But your actual clients are your responsibility. Everything else is gravy. I apologized for having added any additional pressure along the way. And then said, Go forth, train dogs and change lives, girl. As the kids say “You do you.”
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor really hit me hard. For good reason, for sure. And it’s obvious how hard these things hit so many of my friends. For good reason. But in both cases, what started out feeling like a shared sense of grief has boiled over to an impotent sense of rage. And rather than letting that rage burn me even more, I need to step away from the fire. Not the fight. The fire. Reading threads full of arguments between people (in some cases-in others, bots) of different political affiliations has begun to wear me down. And because of the ease of access to it all, I am so easily sucked in. And there’s other things, too. It seems no matter how many filters I put in place or how many posts I hide, posts depicting cruelty to animals sneak in. My heart is long past being able to handle those things.
I do sometimes wonder why I have stayed so long in the first place. The simple, honest truth is that I am addicted (they talk about this in the documentary). I also feel like people like my dog and that I am sometimes funny. I like to write and take pictures, so FB has been my primary place to share. Maybe I am a creeper, and I like keeping tabs on people. But mostly, it’s because I actually, really, truly do like so many of you. I have 520 friends but, I have no illusions about the fact that not everyone on a friend list is actually a friend. Plus mindless scrolling makes for an excellent time-wasting and depression-inducing way to watch your life slip away from you.
So here’s the deal. I will be deactivating my account tonight. I HOPE to keep it that way until right around the election, but who knows. Maybe I will find the freedom so freeing I will stay away indefinitely. Maybe I will be back tomorrow. 🤷🏼♀️ Lest you think I am more virtuous than I actually am or ever will be, I will be using Instagram. My new handle over there is LFSNanan. I won’t be doing any follows of friend’s businesses, just personal accounts. I want to know about your LIFE, your adventures, your joys, your food. I have a few news outlets, authors and people that inspire me chosen and plan to keep it that way. This is not because I don’t love and support you. It’s that I love me more. Thank you, Samantha Jones. (And in the interest of transparency, I also have a Pinterest that I never use. I’m not an equal opportunity addict. 😉)
I do want to stay in touch with whoever would like to do so. In addition to Insta, I use Voxer, which is an app that allows you to talk in real time or will record your messages for later. You can add attachments, GIFS (my fave!) and pictures. I’m lnanan408 over there. I’d love to hear your voice! That feels like real connection to me. My email address is email@example.com and a lot tends to go on over there, but if that’s your preferred method of communication, feel free to say hi that way, just know I do tend to miss stuff. Want to text but don’t have my #? Just ask.
This feels like good timing for me in a lot of ways. It’s been on my mind for, I don’t know, 10 years or so? I am deeply invested in the upcoming election, but the fighting, even in groups of like-minded people (and probably bots) is wearing me down. I don’t use social media for my business anymore (and it’s doing just fine!) so I don’t have that as an excuse anymore. Paul and I are getting ready to move and are excited about making choices and making a new home our own. I don’t need distractions in the middle of stores and pick the wrong tile as a result. The pandemic has drawn me more closely to my local friends-my “pod” if you will. Don’t let me fool you, I am still largely an introvert and a loner, but our small socially distant get-togethers have taken on new meaning and significance.
I definitely recommend watching the documentary. And if social media has become as much of a hobby/habit/addiction as it has for me, my newly found wisdom (🙄) has helped me recognize that I need to continue to invest in actual hobbies. This is actually also been a surprising gift of the pandemic: a turning inwards, making a commitment to things I previously I would have thought about but probably not done: growing plants, making reading goals, crafts and learning all the words and moves to every song in Hamilton.
One of the things that has had the biggest impact on me is reading. Or listening. I don’t have the attention span to actually read in most cases, so audiobooks are a godsend! I’ve been reading A LOT of Brené Brown lately, as I hadn’t realized I missed a few along the way. I’m currently listening to The Gifts of Imperfection (make sure you get the 10th anniversary edition!) and love this graphic that I literally hung right next to me as a constant reminder to engage in things that bring me closer to the person that I actually want to be, not the one I let Facebook create.
I also HIGHLY recommend How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi (this links to the large print edition), Untamed by Glennon Doyle (this link adds her old last name, which I suspect she wouldn’t love), and both of Mark Manson’s books, all of which helped me through the pandemic early on for different reasons.