I remember my childhood best friend, who I’d moved away from 7 years before, telling me about this new website called Facebook that could help us stay in touch. I checked it out, thought it looked like a bore, but I joined and found a couple people to friend anyway.
And so it began.
I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded how huge and how fast Facebook began creeping into our lives like morning glory on a trellis. Then people started saying things like, “Pics or it didn’t happen!” and “Tag me!” and “Add me!”
It was so exciting to feel like I was hanging out with all the people I’d met in my 18 years of life in the comfort of pajamas and not leaving my bedroom.
But pretty soon it was pretty terrible and decidedly unpretty. I had to find out on Facebook that my boyfriend cheated on me (by a relationship status update!). I began learning many of my *friends* unflattering sides, where they spew vitriol through their keyboard. With others, I only saw their perfect sides with carefully curated image crafting. Was I guilty of both of these? Of course I was! How else could I keep up?
Between the two, I found myself feeling worse off for having looked at Facebook almost every single time. Haughty, because I was so much more enlightened on that topic of their uneducated— and grammatically abysmal—rant. Unworthy, because they have got their life all figured out while I was looking a mess.
I honestly am not sure what social media would be like in a perfect world. I’d say that people should be authentic, and show the highs and lows of life without trying to fish for a comment, but people openly admit they don’t want to see how boring your life usually is and people also don’t want to see only the beautiful and exciting in your life either, at least they don't on a subliminal level. How to win? Don’t ask me because I quit the game.
I put it off for so long because I adored staying in touch and easily being able to connect with those I loved. But I became unnerved with the feeling of voyeurism I couldn’t shake. I was tired of feeling embarrassed if my update or photo didn’t get many likes.
So I quit Facebook, and threw myself into Instagram.
That was quite nice for awhile, because my group was much smaller, and I felt it was a much more positive place than Facebook, because you don’t really find many rants or political opinions being bandied about. It was a refreshing change of pace, until those same feelings of being ‘less than’ crept back in.
I was not going enough exciting places! I was not eating enough enough exciting food! I was not doing enough exciting things! That picture didn’t get enough likes! It wasn’t pretty/witty/interesting enough! I am not enough!
I noticed myself planning things that would make a good post. Admitting that makes me cringe, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t taking pleasure out of experiencing life. Instead, I was anxious until I could try to capture it, but only if it was staged well enough.
So while on a heavily-documented vacation, I decided one day as I sat on the beach that I would give it all up. I mostly just wanted to see what would happen. Can I tell you something? It was beautiful. I honestly felt more alive, because I was no longer trying to squeeze life into pixels. I could blow out the candles, eat the food while it was hot, and kiss my baby while she was laughing, all without worrying that the moment would pass before I could get my phone out. I just lived it.
I also found that I really did miss getting the scoop from the people I care about, so it forced me to actually talk to them directly, to meet for lunch or schedule a FaceTime. The quality of these back-to-basics interactions makes my social cup runneth o’er.
I have no feelings of ‘my way or the highway’ on this issue. You do you. But for me, I needed to find my way and my worth in the world away from ever pervasive social media platforms.
You won’t find me saying “Pics or it didn’t happen!” or hash tagging anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find you fascinating.