Day Two of my Social Media vacation, and I am following in the footsteps of Amal El-Mohtar, who did much the same not too long ago.
In fact, I am the veriest copycat.
My father, a disciple of René Girard, might call this experiment an exercise in “mimetic desire.” (Actually, he’d probably say I was oversimplifying, and then tease me about it.)
See, I’d read Amal’s latest blog posts, which uploaded automatically to Twitter and Facebook–without her having to be present on either platform!–and I’d get all . . . wistful. And jealous! And restless. And confused.
All my old blog longing, which never really went away, was reignited. Recently, when I saw an exchange on Facebook wherein several people on the thread proclaimed, “I MISS LJ–and yet, here I am!” I nodded in abject understanding.
I’d Google things like “How to take a social media break” and then go ahead and post that day’s selfies, or whatever I was cooking, or poetic thoughts on the nature of the sunset (with iPhoto upload simulacra yadayada that could not do justice to the original anyway) and then, frantic I missed something of Extreme Importance in the Lives of EVERYONE I LOVED, I’d spend a few more hours scrolling, scrolling.
And reading any interesting or appalling news articles currently circulating. And circulating a few myself.
(I haven’t stopped reading the news.) (I think it’s important.) (But oh, the news.)
So, my will-power failing, I needed to know how Amal–who’s MUCH more a social media butterfly even than yours truly, C. S. E. Cooney, and who, moreover, is a self-proclaimed EXTROVERT–did it.
But I didn’t want to text her, because I figured if she needs a break from her 1 billion friends and fans on the world wide web, she probably needs a break from ME too. Better to just efface oneself . . .
NO COONEY THIS IS NOT HOW EL-MOHTAR OPERATES, I reminded myself (nicely) (but in ALL CAPS) (perhaps she has scolded me on this subject before?), and texted her.
One of the reasons I knew I needed to get off social media for a while was that, after nine years on Facebook, I was only just starting to get my first visceral inklings of what other friends had described to me over the years: that “loneliness in a crowd” feeling; a sense of being perceived as obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, boastful, vain; and a vague, hideous, peripheral, uncertain and uncomfortable feeling that a few of my loved ones–my friends–no longer really, you know, liked me.
Don’t get me wrong. Nobody was remotely unkind. I was still surrounded by loving, cheerleading, funny, thoughtful, beautiful people, doing their best in the world and for it.
But I had that feeling anyway.
It was time, I thought, for a break. Write letters, emails, text! Pull back. Lay low. Cultivate and curate what my father calls “fertile boredom.”
And so, yes, I texted my Amalface.
What’s more, I texted several other wise friends who occasionally take it upon themselves to vanish from their virtual public, and do it so gracefully that they really ought to be accompanied by glitterbombs, stadium applause, and the serenading of seraphim.
Instead, they blink out like candleflames, and reappear when they’re ready, casting their warmth and light a little farther into the darkness.
My friends Julia and Tiffany gave me great advice about deleting apps from my phone.
Now, Twitter? No problem. GOOD RIDDANCE! Twitter scares me anyway, and I was never any good at it. But I didn’t have a Facebook app. I signed into Facebook through Safari. So it was always there. Waiting for me.
“Sign out,” Julia advised. “Move the Safari opening icon into a faraway corner of your phone on a different page than your home screen.”
Make it harder to get to.
I did that, and opted out of my “automatic log-in.” I very seriously considered disabling my Facebook account for the month, but I do sometimes use it for business and arranging meetings, so I didn’t want to cut myself off entirely.
Voila! The thing was accomplished. (And look! Second blog in TWO DAYS!)
I did duck onto Facebook–but only via my laptop–once yesterday and once tonight, in case anyone had emergency private-messaged me.
Already I feel some of that twitchiness, that unhappy anxiety easing a little. Now is the time for deep quiet, and also for a more specific kind of outreach to my very fine and good and dear friends, to make reparations where I may, and when I may not, to gracefully concede that some distances have grown too great to sustain a meaningful friendship, and to acknowledge my part in that.
I want to leave you with this gorgeous thing Amal texted me about her own hiatus:
This beautiful calm set in.
Oh Claire I cannot recommend this enough…The cycles and brains space it has freed up…
I started READING BOOKS for PLEASURE instead of staring at the internet, and instead of insta-share dopamine cycles of gratification I . . . Yes, blogged more, with photos all in one place . . .
Something to return to and think about instead of just offering up for consumption and vanishment.
Sometimes I just . . . want to be in a still place.
I, too, am searching for that still place.