What is it that's REALLY toxic here?
I wonder if life really does feel emptier or lesser without social media or is social media simply covering up those feelings by distracting us? Or even imperceptibly, gradually exacerbating those feelings over time via continual exposure to angry and polarising content the algorithms favour to increase engagement? I'm not sure if the sense of belonging is real or manufactured either, since these systems are designed to hold our attention and exploit these sorts of desires. At the moment, I'm too cynical to use social media except when it's absolutely unavoidable. It really grinds my gears the way users are manipulated and exploited... especially with Twitter. I haven't been on there in an age.
Dearest Sarah, excuse the familiarity, but after years of your enthusiastic support of my writing through the Write Now podcast, I hope my words - and those before and after me - will buoy your perspective during a difficult time. Social media has gone the way of political discourse - it's complicated. We've lost our center on- and offline, and what is left is sometimes just edges. Think of the big donut in Everything, Everywhere, All at Once - it can suck us in if we're not paying attention. But you are, clearly, paying attention and still making connections with writers of all kinds, and I'm grateful for it.
Thoughtful insights on a complex subject! I, too, think about the role that social media plays in my own life. I have been thinking about this topic because I'd like to write about it in relation to happiness and well-being. You've given me a few more thoughts to consider as I prepare to write that blog post.
Even though many of us have come to rely on social media to stay connected with certain friends and loved ones, I'm convinced that we don't need it for everyone. I have several close friends who aren't on any social media platform. It's more work to stay in touch with them, but we have deeper conversations when we do talk. I don't think that's a coincidence.
One thing that I learned some time ago is that being disconnected and FEELING disconnected are unrelated. The key to being OK is in learning how to feel connected even when we are alone. That's a skill that can be learned. To be frank, I think that most younger folks have never learned how and those of us who didn't grow up with social media have simply forgotten how we used to connect to others.
I wondered if I was a narcissist by posting like a person who wants/needs to be noticed. I quit social media and started writing letters to the editor of my newspaper as my little way of supporting local news and found that letter writing is something I'd like to see return.
I also learned to enjoy my own company and just finished an essay in defense of boredom (the rarest thing on earth!). Being without social media feels like experiencing a radical reality. Enjoy!
Hi Sara. As I move into the next phase of my life. A slower, hopefully more relaxed phase I worked hard to delete just about all of my subscriptions. I had filled my Inbox and my life with information. There was no way that I could ever keep up with everything. There were posts on leadership, writing and a lot of professional blogs. It is been cathartic. I had created a world of information overload which likely contributed to some of my exhaustion. About 6 years ago I went a bit crazy and rather than having a rest from social media, I decided to defriend scores of people who I no longer really had any contact with. In some cases that did not go well 🤪.
I did not delete your subscription. I love your posts and enjoyed your podcasts. I feel like I 'get you'. I have no advice about x/twitter. Never been there...sounds like that was a good plan. Keep writing whenever you can. I will keep reading. Take care and thank you!
Not having grown up with the Internet, let alone social media, I think social media is okay, but one can get easily addicted to it.
I went through a helluva depression for a time and simply had to stop doing it for a while. Especially FB, which I can't stand for a variety of reasons.
Anyway, don't beat yourself up over this stuff. Just focus on creating and being your best you. Does that make sense? I hope. :)
I have been getting off online also for short periods of time. I tried reading a book and listened to audio short stories. Then I turned everything off and listened to my surroundings. My surroundings were more important than what I looked and read online.
You totally underrate yourself. When I retired, I was totally lost. My wife asked me what I wanted to do and I indicated art and write. Try listening to pot casts she suggested. You got me writing; you provided the energy I knew I had but could not find. So you were the path I could not find, but did so by listening to your podcasts. No, I did not want to sell books, I just wanted to run my imagination fast. So on my book shelf are three books that no one but me and a few close friends have read. So when people ask me how I wrote those books, I tell them, “I had a lot of help.” Thank you for your help. Sorry if I’m a little off track here but wanted to say this for a long time.
Hi Sarah. I couldn't help but think that although your writing about social media, you're not just writing about social media. Much of what you mentioned in your post, pertains to IRL institutions as well. For decades we've gone out to restaurants, bars, clubs and other public places to engage with others, to meet new people and create and maintain relationships. All of those places are owned by someone else and we generally have know idea if they are good decent people or not. Sales people conduct business in those very same places with just as little control over said establishments. I rarely remember anyone being concerned about this method of social interaction. The only issue was that it catered to extroverts. I don't see how social media is different except that it democratizes the interactions. It welcomes extroverts and introverts alike. I think it's a good thing. Like anything else, it's how you use it that matters. That's good news because it puts you in far more control than you might think. It means that you can use the tools available to you in the way that works best for you to your benefit as long as they're available. And let's face it, we're not moving away from social media, so there is likely going to be an available platform for the foreseeable future. I don't see any shame in this being where you exist best. Also, you have a partner and family and friends so clearly you can exist in real life social situations too. I hope this perspective is helpful to you. Thanks for doing what you do. I really enjoy your writing and thinking and podcasting. Stay well!
I'm also waiting in a land of inbetween for a new platform to rise in popularity to where it can begin to replace x (because FFS, that name change was E giving us a regular reminder of why we should stay away. I really thought a new alternative would have been migrated to en masse by now. 🙃
I'm not totally off x... I still value the group of scientists and experts I have access to there. The school board for my kids also still uses x for announcements 🙄... I've found many writers I value here on ss... (hi! 👋).
I also deleted FB from my phone last week for a wee bit. It was supposed to be for a 2 day protest against meta blocking all news to all Canadians. I haven't installed it back though.
I'm considering shifting my social media to my laptop and deleting the apps from the ubiquitous cell phone. Perhaps it will be a step far enough away to make mysure use more intentional so that I'm seeking community more mindfully, rather than a slave to notifications.
I already accidentally started with FB. Maybe I'll add Twitter next and see how that feels.
My kids are teaching me to reevaluate some of my gen x biases against "screens" since screens can mean so many different things these days. They have found genuine social connections that are primarily virtual, but are in practice not SO different from much younger me pulling the long, coiled phone cord into the bathroom for marathon phone calls. It keeps me from shame spiraling when I feel bad for seeking connections in these commodified spaces that do not match my values.
Now I need to tease out the valuable connections and information and people and *ideas* from the toxic and commodified hot mess that these mega corporations have built. There is value there, I'm sure of it... because it's full of people! It's just gotten harder to find it: the town square feels full of drunk out of towners!
I'm hoping to stumble into a clearing filled with the people I miss connecting with... people who are gathering a ways away from the noisy and increasingly angry town square! I'll keep checking back in the usual haunts to look for breadcrumbs leading.... somewhere better?
Hmm…I live a pretty isolated life. It has been coming on gradually but I was very aware of it during the pandemic. A couple of weeks ago I realized my FB account had been hijacked. I panicked, I felt violated, I was angry and I knew I had to do something so I deleted accounts, started new accounts etc but the most disturbing thing was the realization that I depended so heavily on something like a social media account to have human interaction. I am still thinking this through, somehow it seems wrong but I was very quick to fix the situation. It is troubling how dependent I was on the internet in general and social media specifically.
Thank you for this post.
It's sad but true that most of our human interaction is online.
Rather than looking eye to eye we starr down at our screens.
There's a better way to live and we need to fight for it.