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On Social Media "Detox"-ing
What is it that's REALLY toxic here?
It's strange, having taken a break from social media.
I haven’t been around Facebook or Instagram for a while because I got tired of advertisements telling me I wasn’t thin enough or productive enough or handling various aspects of my life well enough. And the apps’ secondary roles as secondary inboxes was stressful and overwhelming.
Conversely, I initially only took the break from Twitter because I couldn't bring myself to open an app that had been renamed to appease someone's ego — I didn't know what to call it (Twitter? X? Ex-Twitter?), and I didn’t know whether I wanted to participate in something that was small and ultimately insignificant, but nevertheless representative of all the regressive changes in the world I couldn't bear to see, things far outside of my control.
But over the past several weeks, I've felt significantly removed — from a conversation, from a community — significantly alone, and I think that, in part, I need social media in my life. Which is troubling in a different way.
And it's not just that someone else owns (and demands financial profit from) the spaces where we exist online. It's not just that I'm yet another artsy-type bemoaning the trappings of late-stage capitalism.
I've had impulses to jump back onto Twitter, thoughts bracketed by the notion, "I should tweet this!" But I have stopped myself every time, partly for the reasons noted above, but also partly because I got caught up in what it meant, ultimately, to exist online in someone else's monetized space. It was too much to think about, or too difficult to think about, given… *waves a hand* everything going on.
I think I've been depressed (or maybe I am, very obviously, currently experiencing depression), which is nothing new for me — but it’s relevant to the subject because the means by which I deal with it have shifted.
I used to gravitate toward online community — if not to talk about how I felt outright, then to simply exist as part of something larger than myself, and not feel so alone.
However, a person of questionable ethics owns and (theoretically) profits from this space and others, from platforms where I share my thoughts, where we all share our thoughts, and through those thoughts exist and live and commune.
It began to upset me, during my absence from social media, how many of my friendships were dependent on digital platforms. How much of the vibrancy of my life was — is — contained there.
Without it, I realized, I exist in a fundamentally different way — by which I mean, my life has been noticeably different sans digital interaction. I grew up without it (even into the early 2000s, the internet wasn’t an expense my family could afford). But that changed when I went to college. I had, for the first time, a computer with an internet connection, and campus was wired.
And for the first time, I began to discover and navigate through spaces where I felt I actually belonged. Where I could actually communicate and be understood. Where I could write out my thoughts, and participate in many of the social interactions I was too weird and awkward in real life to manage.
So I wonder now (or maybe it’s a fear): what if this is the only way I know how to connect with people, through text on a screen?
What if the only place I feel I truly and fully exist is digital? And what does it mean, if that digital space can be bought, sold, rebranded, changed, or erased?
My life feels emptier, even lesser, without social media. And that's a terrifying thing to admit. I miss you, if you're still out there. I haven't been there. But I need to be.
And I need to find out how to make my peace with that.
Words & warmth,
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please feel free to reply to this email or leave a comment on this post on substack. Thanks for reading.
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