Life without Facebook 2

September 5, 2019 at 12:09 pm (By Amba) (, )

I am so used to being involved in the far-flung water cooler chatter that most of spend an inordinate portion of our days in that when I read the news I have a strong (I won’t say irresistible) impulse to comment on it (wittily if I can, to get hits of admiration dopamine) and share it. Nowadays, this almost feels like a responsibility of citizenship, a way to turn being informed into a participatory activity. To leave social media is to abandon one’s small part in the work of weaving the collective consciousness of our time, day by day—a task that has become democratized by social media, so now it’s not just pundits opining and the reactions of breakfasters over their newspapers mostly lost to oblivion. Social media is the letter to the editor metastasizing like The Thing, the inmates swarming all over the asylum and a good thing too.

So to give up one’s part in this feels seductively perverse—why would you?

Well, because time sunk in social media hinders you from gathering any more-substantial contribution (if you even aspired to that, which is pretty futile for most of us, and things are moving too fast anyway; the contribution to social media, however ephemeral, is more of a turn on the mind-stage than most of us would ever have taken without it. Maybe only those of us who used to write, or blog, feel reduced rather than enhanced by it).

And because, as has been amply documented, social media makes you unhappier, and lonelier. It reduces “making your mark” to a new kind of daily rat race, feeling your existence and impact and your very “like”-ability validated or not; a new kind of micro-success and failure, of nano–manic depression. It reduces the trajectory of a week, a month, or a lifetime to a rubble of moments, a Brownian motion of little ups and downs that never gathers to a wave. It shatters long rhythms, yanking you down from anything that is building by the gut-clutch of addiction. Addiction has the patience of a hungry newborn; it constantly hijacks your attention from things that might be more full-filling, longer-term (like more than five minutes), to give your attention to.

I deleted a thread from Twitter this morning. I don’t want to swap one social medium for another. My experiment is to get off social media near-totally. At least I’ll force my impulse to comment, snark, lament into a longer form here, where it will be read by two or three people instead of, say, fifteen, and so will be closer to being a way I’m keeping my attention for what makes me risk and does me good instead of pimping it out for the cost-free illusion of companionship.

It’s finally, for all these fancy words, a matter of mental health.

(When I say “near-totally,” I might set a high bar for what demands to be shared, and set a quota: no more than one tweet a week.)

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2 Comments

  1. amba12 said,

    Yeah, right. So far so bad (though nothing like Facebook; I’ve never had a Twitter habit).

  2. amba12 said,

    Twitter’s at most a bulletin board to me. Not a hangout.

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