This comes up often in my writing, my conversations and life in general.
How much social media do we really need? Some say none, like Cal Newport. His TedX talk on deleting social media was nothing short of life-changing for me, and I’ve watched it at least four times.
Last year I wrote about nixing the ol’ smartphone. This year, I’m edging ever closer.
But why? Why in a time of infinite connections and communication possibilities would anyone ever want to behave as such a misanthropic neo-Luddite?
Well, I am that neo-Luddite, and I’ll tell you.
Because it’s taking away from everything else, and someone is getting rich off my addled, distracted brain. Some things that I’ve read in the past year? Social media can make you sad. Anxious. It can permanently rewire your brain to be more distracted all the time, making it harder to focus. It’s meant to make you addicted, like a rat pushing a button for another pellet. But you don’t even get a snack with Twitter.
I can’t focus, and the Zuckerbergs of the world are billionaires, and one is the direct result of the other.
My inability to read books was bugging me. After a successful year in 2015 with the 50 Book Pledge, the number of books each year has been backsliding again. This year, in August, I’ve read something like eight. Meanwhile, having imposed a recent book-buying ban while I spend the next decade as a broke-ass psychology student, I found that I have 87 unread or unfinished books in the house that I’ve spent real cash money on in the last couple years.
A couple of months ago, when I knew I’d be leaving media for good, I started to pull away from social media. Weirdly, Instagram was the first to go (after Snapchat, because I’m 33 years old and making short videos of what I’m doing right this second doesn’t appeal to most of my peers anyway). Instagram is just nice photos though, right?
Wrong. It was making me selfie-obsessed. I’m already a vain person. I don’t need to be more concerned with how I look. There was also the other account – the one that’s just a scrapbook of cat photos. Even still, it was just endless scrolling and exploring other people’s lives instead of making more of my own. I deleted the app from my phone without much stress, and the accounts have been disabled. I’ll delete them fully, I’m sure, once I can confirm that I can download the years’ worth of photos. And I still take photos of my cat. Now I just spam my friends directly, and they don’t seem to mind.
Twitter was already off the phone. Journalism was already in my rear-view mirror and since I wasn’t in the field much, why did I need to engage with every Tom, Dickhead and Harry? Seriously. Twitter is still a toilet full of trolls and I’ve never really been interested. Since it was already off the phone, it wasn’t much more of a problem to fully delete it last week.
Oh, cleansing internet fires.
As of today, I have three days left in the newsroom. By Sunday, it will be over. I’m not looking to delete the last several years of my life, but the feeling persists: If I am to truly succeed in my program, I must take back my focus. My mind, and my attention, are my own. We must be careful not to let corporations suck up the precious, limited moments of our lives with the promise of shiny baubles glazed with FOMO and a need for relevancy.
As Dylan Moran once sagely said, “I’m alive now. How much more up-to-date can I be?”
Today was the day. The behemoth. The dragon that started it all.
As an old millennial, who remembers velour tracksuits and girls who took digital cameras to parties (to what? I don’t know. Document sweaty, glazed, eyebrow-less faces? I will never understand what you’re trying to capture, Courtney), I’ve had Facebook since just after university. I was an adult when I got it, albeit still a childish, dumb one.
What’s on it? Some contacts of people I travelled with a decade ago.Work stuff for the job I’m about to leave. An awful lot of pictures of other people’s cats. I disabled all the news stuff about six months after the 2016 election. I like to keep informed but I just cannot bear to give an utter shit about what great-aunt Vera thinks about the news, because it’s probably racist and short-sighted.
Everyone I still talk to can find another way to contact me. But there’s still a little bit of me that has had this account since 2007, and feels like she’s dumping someone who only ever wanted to be nice to her.
But it’s been dragging on for way too long, and he’s so boring and repetitive and WHAT IF HE ASKS ME TO MARRY HIM AND THEN I’LL HAVE TO SAY NO.
Nope. It’s time to cut that cord.
So I went in and downloaded the few photos I ever uploaded, and left the rest of the content to go to dust.
When the .zip file was neatly packaged onto my laptop, I went back.
And the Zuck Dragon asked, “Delete Profile Permanently?”
And I replied, “YES.”
This all happened 15 minutes ago. My time is my own again – to blog, to get a PhD, to read 87 books, to keep listening to my Revolver record ad nauseum.
I feel like the most significant relationship of my twenties is once and for all over.
And I can’t even post a status update about it.