It wasn’t a new year’s resolution or anything, because I didn’t do it in the New Year, but I deleted all my social media on the 22nd of December.
So that included Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat – all apps I peruse daily when I am procrastinating doing things that are more important. I just like to pick up my phone to see what is going on in the world of humans. Just the daily world, not the news world. You know, what are people eating for lunch, what are they doing with their friends, what they are doing with their families and their dogs and at home alone and which restaurants are they eating at, and oh, what on earth are they doing at the gym?
It’s checking in, really. It feels like connecting, but without the effort of speaking or thinking, just observing other humans silently. I don’t post anything of my own, I just nosy at what my friends and acquaintances and that girl from college back in the day are doing, and my goodness that girl I know has a £1,200 pram, let me judge her while I peruse a cheaper version of the same pram second hand on eBay…
I don’t know why I am so obsessed with social media. There is a hunger for it that can never be satiated, and after I have spent hours (literally, according to the screen time tracker they now have on iPhones) scrolling past endless updates, and swiping across an infinity of instastories and snapchat stories, I feel empty.
And the more I think about it, the more confused I get.
There seems to be this need, with the current generation, to be constantly present. To be constantly entertained. To be constantly engaged in something. The mind has to be constantly focused on something, but only for a short amount of time. We can’t work for several hours on something without checking our phones for a ‘breather’, and ending up spending hours on our phones, because there is an endless stream of new information to process.
THAT is what it is. Constant distraction.
Constant leaping from one notion to another.
Constant, never-ending, and serving no purpose.
The brain files this into short term memory and then gets rid of it as it has a mountain of new things to digest and take apart.
Anyway. So I deleted everything and my fingers are itching. It’s like I have phantom limb syndrome. You know when they cut off someone’s limb, and that person still feels it itching but can’t itch it because it doesn’t exist?
I feel that way.
I keep picking up my phone and swipe across my home screen, past all the productive apps like Kindle and iBooks and Audible and Podcasts and News, my eyeballs searching for the familiar orange and pink of instagram or the solid, faithful blue of Facebook or even the alluring yellow of Snapchat, and when I don’t see those apps I remember I deleted them and I feel an odd mixture of smugness and frustration.
I think, what am I to do with myself now??
There is a large pile of books on my bedside table that I now attack more than I did before. I write in my diary way more often, and I always wash up after dinner now, instead of lounging on the sofa after a meal scrolling through social media to nosy at what everybody else had for dinner and what their mums thought of the lasagne they made.
I feel a lot of negativity.
Social media felt a bit like my lifeline when I was lonely.
I am certainly less lonely now, but I still feel like I’ve lost a dear connection.
I feel like the reason we are all so addicted to social media is because we feel connected to the people on it. And then we get disillusioned because we don’t feel as happy as those portrayed on it. And it’s just a vicious endless cycle of scrolling, searching for the joy, the serotonin, the addiction release, the activation of that part of the brain, and then pouff, it isn’t there, it isn’t real, and the desolation sets in.
So we start the scroll cycle again, refreshing the page, new stories, aha, I like these people, but it is the same old crap, regurgitated and shared a trillion times, same quotes said a million different ways, bubble butts and long captions being ‘open and raw and honest’ but filled with vanity and vague allusions to nonexistent issues. It is all meaningless. Like those vanity cakes Laura Ingalls’ mother used to make. The ones that are all decorative and stunning on the outside but filled with air when you bite into it. Yum.
Anyway. I don’t want to go back to that. I realised that the people I interact with on social media aren’t even my real friends, because those are the ones who call and text me.
I miss social media a lot, but it depresses me.
So that is just what I have been thinking about it all, really.
There is plenty of good in it, of course, but all I keep thinking of is how people back in the day used to drop by each other’s houses and there would be cake and tea and they would talk about all the goings on, and just get to know each other better and take care of each other. Like my grandma and my mum would always have people over at their homes, and serve them dinners and lunches, even if they turned up unannounced, and then I would listen to the chatter and the natter, and it was very lively and joyful, even if sometimes the visits themselves weren’t. Like that woman who had a nervous breakdown and her daughter was desolate, but my grandma and mother took them both in and there was talking all night and calling of relatives and taking care of daughters, and Len would you give your bed to her and then it was a sleepover and we did colouring and played games and then she was laughing even while an ambulance arrived silently downstairs to take her mother away from a while.
There was this warmth. Blankets and care and attention and love.
And I feel like maybe this is what I am trying to get from social media, but because I am an outsider looking into someone else’s private life, I feel empty and left out.
And we don’t do this ‘dropping by to someone’s house for a natter’ thing anymore. It’s seen as rude. I tried to get to know my neighbour by taking her a cake and she blanked me. I wasn’t offended, I get it, everybody is suspicious now, but back in the day, all the neighbours knew each other, at least where I was from, and looked out for each other, and knew each other’s kids and routines and there was this social element to life that is severely lacking now.
And this might not be relevant but today I was in Starbucks helping my husband write a research proposal, and there was this dad with two daughters who came in to get some drinks and sit together, and the whole time he sat in silence watching them scroll down their phones, and I just watched them in fascination, because I didn’t have anything to scroll down on my phone, and it looked so odd and strange and I felt a little bit sad? Except the dad didn’t look at all sad, he just looked normal. Sipping his coffee. Leaning back, crossing his legs. They were all out together but they were completely silent, in their own little bubble worlds, like a Venn diagram but no intersections.
Maybe I lost connection because I was trying to connect to something unattainable? Maybe I lost the real connection that matters, because I was engrossed in something else? Like making friends at college and Uni, and real life opportunities that I could have taken but didn’t because I had the safety net of online friends and online gratification?
So, I just thought about all of this when I deleted my social media.
And, I am glad I did it.
I don’t like the feeling I have of emptiness and frustration, but social media won’t fix that, real life living will.
What do you think, if you managed to get this far?