social exodus

A few months ago – maybe around Halloween – I started questioning my use of social media. I’d spend hours hunched over the tiny screen, scrolling Instagram mindlessly. I didn’t like it. It hurt my neck. It hurt my soul.

I started to try and catch myself and ask what I was trying to achieve while I was there. Sometimes I was successful, and I would have to answer myself:

Why was I there?

Sometimes that’s an easy answer. Because I’m in a waiting room. Because it’s 10 minutes until a meeting and I want to not think. Because I want to see specific series of updates from a friend I know is traveling. Other times it would be more nebulous – I’d be looking for social connection or – most often – I was distracting myself from having to make a decision in my workday.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had these questions about my own digital practices. I did this exercise once before, back in 2017 when the Facebook outrage machine was in full force. Ultimately, it resulted in an enormous cutback in my time spent on the site and within the mobile app. Because what was I doing there? Why was I reading breathless updates and endless shares about the same topics ad nauseum?

I started to realize much of my Instagram use was reflexive. I’d be deep into the 3rd or 4th story before I realized I’d even opened the app. My thumbs took me there without my instruction. I’d grab my phone to check the weather and suddenly I’m watching a video of a sunset I could go outside and look at myself.

As the holiday shopping season ramped up and my feed was increasingly filled with buy! buy! buy!, I was ready for the next step. I deleted the apps from their folders. I deleted the whole “Social Media” folder. The apps are still there – but I need to search for them to open them.

The result? It’s been well over a month since I’ve scrolled Instagram.

I’ve checked back in a couple of times – I have some IRL friends who only reach out on that platform, and I popped in to answer DMs with some form of “I’m not here anymore!”

It’s been odd to quit. I’ll see friends and they have no idea I haven’t seen their latest posts. They’ll refer to another friend’s post from weeks ago – “Did he break his arm?” and I’m forced to say one of the most foreign phrases in a Millennial’s vocabulary: I haven’t been on Instagram.

I admit I miss keeping up with people I love. But I was also keeping up with people I don’t know, people I don’t like, endless meme accounts, and companies that want me to buy their products. And increasingly the content from the people I love was making me feel even less connected to them. Then you feel it: you’re a voyeur. And voyeuristic friendships are inherently without depth.

Until last fall, I was a frequent poster of stories. I would posted pictures from my garden, pictures of my dogs snuggling, or other daily errata. When I decided to consciously uncouple from Instagram, I wasn’t sure where to put these moments from my life. I’m still not. It’s part of why I’m trying to transition to blogging – a goal I’ve long held but never committed to.

But it isn’t the same.

Blogs need context. Blogs need thought. Blogs need editing.

But mostly blogs need sharing, and I haven’t shared mine.

Perhaps it’s time to make one of those cringe-worthy announcements: “FOLLOW MY BLOG BECAUSE I QUIT THIS APP.” Or maybe a softer touch – changing my profile to “I’m not here anymore 🙃.”

In reality I don’t know that I will do either. A blog is a vastly different media from filtered snapshots of a life. Do I want all those followers to know my inner turmoils? Will bringing my mom’s attention to this platform result in less transparent posts? I’m already struggling to bring my inner world into blog posts – will it be harder with an audience that’s only ever seen my exterior world?

I guess I’ll eventually find out.

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