Escape from social media
Like plenty others, I’m finally leaving social media, and by that I mean Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest and Reddit. This post is a personal point of view, it’s not intended as an exhaustive analysis on what is going on with social media, nor am I trying to convince anybody. I’m just redirecting my attention and my time to something more productive.
I believe the term social media is an oxymoron. Besides a toxicity that has reached a point of no return, there’s the deliberate addictive mechanisms and the self-declared aim to hog our time as much as they can. The massive problem with personal data is even beyond the point.
The thought process was all about: how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible? This means we had to give you a dopamine hit every once in a while.
— Sean Parker, former Facebook president
The relentless promotion of hateful content such as misogyny, homophobia, racism, and more. The thick nutters peddling debunked conspiracies all day long and getting rewarded for doing that — I’m talking about holocaust deniers, anti-vaccines and a multitude of other dangerous idiocy. Not to mention the sheer amount of highly controversial and polarizing material.
It’s infuriating to the point of leaving me angry all day long. I also don’t want to examine the depressing long list of accusations of altering the course of major elections.
I used to be an avid reader and writer. Over the last ten years, both activities have reduced to a bare minimum. No need to check the mediocre statistics in my Kobo reader: I’m painfully aware of the situation.
The decision of leaving has been brewing for a long while. Because of the release of my concept album last year, I deluded myself into thinking that riding the social media train was right. I have no idea about whether or not that was a good idea, the crucial point is how I allowed myself to be blackmailed into staying put.
Listen to Sean Parker (former Facebook president) and Chamath Palihapitiya (former early senior executive at Facebook), a spine-chilling discussion about how Facebook — and by extension social media — was designed to be as addictive as it could, and is now ripping society apart.
At the moment, I’m back to the roots. I’m blogging again while interacting with other writers like I used to do for most of the 2000s. It’s one of many direct ways to establish a connection with friends and strangers alike. When I want to know what other people are up to, I reach out by email or text, I sign up to their newsletter. I’m having actual conversations.
Imagine watching a sunset without having the urge to take a picture or think about hashtags. Or attending a live concert and avoid shooting pointless videos and photos to simply enjoy the spectacle. You get the gist.
What about my business side?
If anyone is in a similar situation as mine — a professional working as a freelance — I’m sorry I don’t have a recipe. What I’ve done so far is stop blackmailing myself into believing that social media is essential to my career. I’m trying to build stronger relationships in the real world instead. Reach out directly to people. Stop thinking that multinationals handling and centralising all my communications is a good thing. I quit curating a fake persona that has no connection with the real me.
I still don’t know what the lives of my followers really are. What is really going on with them? The point is I’ll never know. I opened up with a few of them, and received enthusiastic reactions. Almost like this is something completely out of the ordinary.
I’m not going off-grid
The most common reaction I get when I tell people I’m leaving social media is:
I think I know why you’re doing it. Bold decision, I admire you. I’d do it too if I could.
I don’t think it’s a bold decision at all. On the contrary. Another common motif is that I’m supposedly going to become a hermit. To put things in context: in 2020,
3.96 billion people — 51% of the entire world population — are using social media (source: We Are Social). For the very first time, there are more people using these tools than do not. This doesn’t automatically mean that the whole 51% are active on social media and the spike is most likely another side effect of COVID-19 and lockdowns. The point is: you can’t attach a hermit label to almost 4 billion people. Especially when I can be found in so many ways.
A few resources
Tristan Harris: your phone is trying to control your life.
Cal Newport: quit social media.
Jaron Lanier: social media is ruining your life.
I’ve been reading Lanier’s most recent book about this very same topic, and it’s brilliant.
I’ll probably post a follow-up in a year or so. Although unlikely, I might end up changing my mind. For now, I’ve been experiencing several positive effects already. I currently am:
- Reading multiple books at the same time.
- Chewing through my ‘read later’ list like I haven’t done in years.
- Feeling less burdened and way less angry.
- Having deeper conversations with a group of people larger than my usual circle.
- Extremely productive.
Update: Follow-up 3 March 2022
Read the follow-up: Life after social networks.
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