After reading this title, many of you probably said, “thank the gods!” or “great, now I don’t have to see your posts distracting me from good cat videos” or “did they fire you from Facebook too?” Since moving this blog over from a travelogue to whatever the hell it is now, I have linked my WordPress and Facebook accounts, so any update to the blog is also published on Facebook. This was done primarily to get more people to read my posts and pad my ego with likes. After today, no more.
Having thought about the decision for weeks, I have decided to delete my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. I’ll be going social media cold turkey a couple days after publishing this post (gotta get that last fix in).
My social media usage can be categorized under the “stalker” or “lurker” variety. Up until recently sharing blog posts, it was rare for me to tell my networks what I was doing with my days or how I was feeling or what color poop was coming out of my son’s butt. Knowing Facebook can be addictive (and having a somewhat addictive personality), I didn’t want to get sucked into the virtual world, sharing lots, but living little. This is what I told myself anyway when the urge to tell my entire feed about the amazing restaurant, beach, or mountain I had visited came over me.
Instead of commenting, I preferred to move in the shadows, clicking on your profile while you weren’t watching and getting a glimpse into the wonderful personal life you are living. When I’m not peeping into the bedroom of your social media life, I’m browsing my newsfeed for something “good” to distract me from, well, anything. For me, Facebook and all my social media channels are simply a voyeuristic tool to utilize when I’m bored, feeling down or just curious about the world outside of my own little bubble. When times are more challenging, social media is a crutch, propping me up to get “through” my days.
Recently, with my continued work on the blog, my Facebook habits have changed significantly. No longer a crutch, Facebook became a wheelchair, taking me from one fix to the next. This fix was “likes.” I quickly found I don’t like “likes”, I love them.
This love story begins in October of 2017, after posting the “Identity Theft” blog post to Facebook. This post shared the story of my firing and was deeply personal for me. Whether it was the Pulitzer level writing of the post or my friends’ schadenfreude into a difficult period of my life, the story was “liked” by over 200 people and received over 30 comments. During the week in October after posting, it was read online over 1,000 times. For someone who rarely says anything in the social media world, this was like getting top score at Skeeball down at the Ocean City Boardwalk and then having the score televised non-stop during the commercial break for Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s. Said another way – the likes and comments made me feel damn good and gave me validation for putting something personal online.
Since the Identity Theft post, I have felt myself wanting more. More likes. More comments. More attention. I started this blog for none of that. I legitimately enjoy the process of writing and do so to gain a little meaning in my search for greater purpose. If anyone else can benefit as a byproduct of my writing, then that’s all well and good too. I started using Facebook as I thought it was a tool, working for me. However, the constant quest for that endorphin hit in the form of more smiling emojis has shown me, I was working for “it.”
You can argue that I should have known what I was getting myself into when I started posting and you might be right. However, looking back on my change, I feel as though Facebook infected me with a virus that attacked my psyche at its weak points (namely, it’s desire to be loved). Once bitten with the zombie virus, I turned into a zombie myself and then proceeded to write more content for Facebook (free of charge) to further attack and infect other unwilling (or willing) casualties.
Coincidentally, as I found myself logging on multiple times in an hour to check on “how my posts were doing” (code for – there better be some “likes”!), I started to come across publications and videos talking about the lengths at which social media sites, Google, and others go to keep our eyeballs glued to their screens. After reading several news articles like this one and this one, the zombie apocalypse alarm went off in my head. After watching this speech from Tristan Harris, former Design Ethicist at Google, I knew the alarm was real and the zombies were coming for me.
Whether it’s my ego constantly striving for control or a healthy fear, I have tried to live a life free of addiction. Learning about how some of the brightest people on the planet have worked to addict me to a platform I’m not quite sure I need anyway, has me asking the question, “what do I actually want from social media and can I get it from somewhere else?”
Thinking about this question a good bit, here is what I came up with:
- I want to use social media as a means to stay informed about the lives of my friends and family
However, what I am currently getting out of social media is:
- An outlet to kill time by way of videos, articles, and photos – few of which I really “want”;
- A place to stroke my ego;
- A newsfeed filled with clickbait or people having less than robust yelling matches about politics; and
- Advertisements telling me I need to buy: a drone, a tent you setup within the trees, the latest Tim Ferriss book, tickets to ride a zipline, a portable windmill to power my phone while camping, and a flame thrower.
For me, the answer is obvious. Social media and specifically, Facebook, isn’t giving me what I want or need. It’s giving me what “it” wants to give me. As a publicly traded company, Facebook is beholden to their shareholders and their shareholders want profit. Currently, Facebook’s business model is to generate profit through advertisements. In my opinion, as long as this is the case, what Facebook “wants” to give me, is anything that will return the highest profit. Zuck isn’t fighting the Zombie Apocalypse, he infected himself and is the one leading it.
In the final throws of my thirties, I think I know myself pretty well. If I just delete my Facebook account, I’ll find ways to get my time wasting, ego stroking, voyeuristic fix on another platform. Therefore, I’m deciding to delete the accounts I have for LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram as well. Come to think of it, I should probably delete my Friendster, Myspace, and Match.com profiles too…
Like any addict before entering rehab, I’m nervous about making this change. I’ve always been someone who has enjoyed “being a part of the conversation.” FOMO is something I certainly struggle with. However, I am optimistic this is the right move. Giving me hope is my last prolonged break from social media.
In September of 2016, I attended a week long silent retreat in upstate New York. For the entire 7 days, I lived in silence, not saying a word (except for “excuse me” one time) and only hearing the voice of the facilitator and a couple others for the duration. The week was powerful on so many different levels, but what hit me was how connected I felt to the group who I was living in silence with. With my phone off and in the car, I didn’t feel ostracized or separate from the world, I felt completely immersed in the present world I was living in, even in silence. It sounds completely cliché and something from a greeting card, but during the week, the sounds of the leaves crinkling under my feet sounded more poignant and the colors of the trees seemed more vibrant. Looking back on what I want social media to provide, it’s connection. Connection both to the people who are meaningful in my life now and those who I have yet to meet. Seeing how connected I felt during my retreat, I’m hopeful a separation from social media can still provide the connection I am looking for.
Still needing outside validation, I recently found it from Cal Newport and his Ted Talk here (yes, I’m a Ted Talk fiend). Sometimes it seems like content has a way of finding you when you need it most. Then again, maybe it was the algorithms knowing this is what I wanted to see…
That’s it everyone. Time to go dark!
If my hermit like approach to all of this hasn’t turned you off and you still want to contact me, please do so here. You can also signup for email updates on the bottom right hand section of this page to receive Fired & Free posts as they are published (expect one a week). Also, I live outside of Washington DC (not in a cave, but in a house) and I’m always interested in catching up over a drink. I hope to see you in person real soon. Just watch yourself though – I’m apparently carrying an untreated Zombie virus from the 1990’s.