I did a Social Media fast. Here's what happened.
The week before Easter, my writing buddy and possible catfish, Dave Connis, suggested we disconnect from the two most time-consuming social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook. We did it for different reasons, had different experiences, and decided on different strategies moving forward. Here’s my side.
Why: Because I had a sneaking suspicion that I looked to Social Media to fill some hole in my life, but deep down I knew it wasn’t really working.
I probably check Twitter two hundred times a day with one overriding purpose: validation. Could be a new follower, a “heart” on something (supposedly) hilarious I said, or a mention—anything to let me know what I so desperately hope to be true: that people think I'm awesome. That I am funny, desired, sought after. That what I am doing with this whole writing thing matters and makes me important. Validation.
But I wondered: If Twitter could do that, why wasn’t it actually doing that for longer than 10 seconds? Meaning: Why did the small bits of validation which resulted from my perpetual Twitter checking not result in any long term validation—a peace, or sorts? More worrisome was this question: Why did I actually feel more anxious the more I was on Twitter? I realized these are all good questions for my therapist, but they were more important questions to directly ask myself. Maybe they’re important questions to ask yourself/your therapist too. I’m sure the answers will differ, as you and I probably struggle with different strains of whatever this is, but it might help to expose some things. For me, it was a deep and abiding insecurity I hoped Twitter would abate, but which it in fact exacerbated. So I decided to take a break.
The experience: Like the sweet relief of a long hoped for bowel movement.
It was almost as if my soul was craving to be starved from Twitter, which might not actually make any sense. But it’s true: the relief was undeniable. It rushed in when I deleted the app and grew over the next ten days. Yeah, I felt unconnected, but within a day I realized that the connection didn’t really matter for the overarching narrative of my life. I’m not saying Twitter is inconsequential—though it’s fo shizzle less consequential than we’re all making it. I’m saying that the place it had in my life was suddenly exposed to be unimportant. More specifically, the fast exposed Twitter as an obstacle to real peace. To go Biblical on you, when I stopped looking for meaning in this thing that couldn't deliver, my anxiety over how funny/awesome/likable people think I am dropped significantly. I didn't waste as much mental space crafting (supposedly) clever tweets whose reception I later agonized over. My phone in general competed far less with my family, incessant puppy filter Snapchats of my daughter aside. I'm only human.
Avoiding Facebook gave me another type of relief: a break from my cringingly shameful condescension. While fasting, I couldn’t fall into my default mode of “judge the crap out of pretty much everybody” for posting things that I’d never post out of fear people would judge the crap out of me. That is to say: I was unable to project my natural insecurities onto others because I wasn’t giving the worst version of myself repeated opportunities to do so. And yes, I missed out on some cool stuff that probably happened to my friends, but to be completely honest, I didn’t feel like I missed a thing. I felt free.
Moving forward: I will attempt to occasionally swim in the Social Media ocean instead of purposefully drowning myself in it.
I can’t avoid Twitter or Facebook forever, and I don’t think I need to. I also can’t dismiss the positive things the platforms can bring: without Twitter, I’d have never met Dave. Yes, he/she is probably a fifty-eight-year-old Norwegian expat having a hilarious time catfishing me from his/her basement apartment in Denver, but the friendship has given us a space to share the ups and downs of an industry that is, at times, the very definition of soul crushing. I rely on that, and I have it because of Twitter.
My plan is kind of aggressive: to check Twitter/Facebook once a day, for no longer than it would take a moderately in shape person to run a mile. Eight minutes, say. Maybe nine. I’m sure this will ebb and flow as life happens, but it’s a necessary step for now. I just can’t continue on like I was because the fast proved something I can't ignore without becoming the very definition of a fool: that which I seek to make me whole often leaves me a little more hollow.
And now, I’m off to binge Daredevil Season 2 on Netlfix.