W(h)ither Social Media?

Around the turn of the calendar to this new year I finally acted upon a decision I’d made some time ago: I cut my social media presence down to almost zero.

I removed all but a couple of generic photos and all but a couple of posts from my Facebook profile (it’s been set to private from the get-go so you’ll need to be a designated friend on Facebook to see anything). Some posts that are still there are photos posted by friends in which I’m tagged, and for whatever reason Facebook won’t let me hide them from my feed (I removed all other similar posts with no problem). Believe me, I tried. And I haven’t had the Facebook app on my phone in many years so that wasn’t an issue.

I also deleted the Twitter app from my phone but kept my account. I kept that mostly because I don’t want to lose the account name in case Twitter cleans up its act and I see a reason to return. Not likely, but it could happen.

And I deleted my personal Instagram account but kept the account I created for my boat, just in case I end up sailing away and want to create an online presence based on boat life.

If these actions all seem rather arbitrary, well, they are. They’re what work for me at this time. I’ve hidden my Facebook profile in years past but this time that didn’t seem like enough. And I chose not to completely delete my account because the platform is the only way to reach a certain handful of friends with whom I want to keep the ability to stay in contact. But I’m not going to get on the site on a daily (or to be honest: much-more-than-daily) basis any more. I’ll check in once every couple of weeks, see if a friend has sent me a message and sign out again.

I never posted much to Twitter. That platform was never anything more than a tool for reading what people of like mind who are more eloquent and/or informed than me were saying—the very definition of an echo chamber. And I’m tired of listening to echoes.

Instagram had grown on me in recent months but I got fed up with their algorithm that, for some reason, would re-feed me old posts by a handful of friends rather than most recent posts from others I followed. And then there were the incessant ads that had become more intrusive that the never-ending cacophony on television.

Relatively speaking, I don’t think I was as involved in the world of social media as most. Much of the reason I kept my presence on the platforms was for professional reasons: the jobs I’ve had in the past and those I’ve been putting in for recently all require social-media proficiency. If I want to be the digital director for a TV news station again, or some other similar occupation, I have to know what works on social media. The thing is: my job search, which goes back to well before the pandemic, has been a frustrating exercise in futility. Yeah, I know what works on social media; that’s the least of my worries. What I don’t know is how to get some HR bot to let me talk to the hiring manager about a position I am both very interested in and very qualified for. Yes, there have been a few of those, and I have nothing to show for it.

Whoops, sorry. Rant over. Where was I?

By giving up these modern-day talk boxes all I’ve really done is save myself from developing digital addictions. It’s an intervention, really, designed to benefit my health. I don’t have any delusions that because I’m no longer a daily user of Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg is going to see the error of his ways—and to be sure, I firmly believe that he and his counterparts across the social-media spectrum are guilty of at best a complete abdication of civil responsibility and at worst a sinister and immoral exacerbation of the worst traits common to homo sapiens all in the quest for ungodly amounts of wealth. But hey, in our current societal system, that’s certainly their right. But it doesn’t mean I need to contribute to it.

Hmmm, maybe that was another rant. Again: where was I?

Anyway, yeah, I’m done on social media without completely abandoning it. It feels kinda like I’ve grown up, gotten married and had a family, but I kept my old flat from my crash-pad days and stashed the key in some drawer in my kitchen. Every now and then I’ll head over there and make sure the dust hasn’t built up to the point of being a fire hazard. But beyond that, nope.

The thing is: yes, social media allows me to stay in touch with far-flung friends. But so does email. You know what else does that? The phone. And even in-person interaction (once this damned pandemic is over). Seriously. I’m going offline (he says in his online website…oh, irony). Snail mail, anyone?

Another irony: I’d have thought in these pandemic days when in-person contact is all but forbidden that social media would have been an ideal way to bridge the space between people and make us feel more connected. Instead, all it’s done is widen the chasm and make us all more isolated in our own little bubbles of similar rants and raves. A mile wide and an inch deep, indeed.

To those who remain on social media I say: enjoy. “To each his own,” my mother always used to recite. Have fun. I hope you get out of those platforms whatever it is you seek. I care about you and how you and your families are doing, but I’d rather talk with you about your company or your favorite football team or your political posturing, not listen to you spout all that stuff from up on some electronic soap box. Better yet, I’d rather chat with you about YOU: what you’ve been doing, how you feel, your beliefs. Let’s set a time and catch up. I look forward to it. I’ve missed you.

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