About two weeks ago, maybe more, I'm not sure but almost certainly not as long ago as a month, I left Facebook and Twitter. I was an early adopter of both. I used both, Facebook more so, heavily. Initially, my Facebook usage was about staying in touch with people "back home." That was perhaps a year into Facebook, when critical mass had been hit such that I could reach a couple hundred people with a single status update.
Those were the days when Facebook provided the opening to any statement, "I am..." and we all dutifully filled in the blank.
So I posted photos of my daughter, eventually of my son (his birth being what my cousin dubbed The First Live Facebook Birth four days into 2008,) I accepted friend requests from people I hadn't seen since kindergarten and vice versa because that was how it all seemed to work. Former teachers, forgotten childhood friends resurrected, distant fourth cousins... at one point my friend list was approaching 1000.
That's when I realized I needed to cull. Just because I COULD locate the girl who was my "blood sister" (we pricked our fingers with a safety pin and then pressed them together, making our blood forever joined, though when I moved at the end of that grade 2 year I didn't see her again or miss her) I didn't NEED to pull her back into my life. If our lives had gone different ways at 8 years old, it was probably for a reason, right?
But there were people who couldn't be culled. Imagine the ripples of disconnecting from a family member? (Yes, that didn't go well and I won't dredge up that tale here.)
From 2007 up until two weeks ago (or thereabouts,) I used social media to share, to complain, to celebrate, to jump onto a soapbox, to connect, to reach out, to find community... and I began to come to the realization that more of my life was being spent maintaining all that than actually living. Probably hours a day (I didn't count, I'm guessing) went into quick check on timelines, quick updates, a photo upload here and there, a brief comment on someone's status. But there was no actual engagement. A sentence or two don't substitute for a multiple-paged letter to an old friend with whom I want to maintain contact. The click of a 'like' button on a photo is not equivalent to a paragraph asking how the child in the photo is progressing with an issue about which I once knew.
Facebook had become for me too many people, too much information, too many things to follow, and a constant feeling of not being able to keep up with anyone. Keep up with who? A cousin I haven't seen in decades? People I've felt obligated to be 'friends' with for various reasons, friendship not one of them? Hours that might be spent writing some poems, a letter to my grandmother, letters to the old friends I DO want to be in touch with, essays, art... the list goes on. I did not let it interfere with my children; Facebook and Twitter simply took up the majority of my time outside of work and parenting. So it was interfering with my real world. With time with my wife (rather than parallel Facebooking beside my wife.) In short, it was a time suck.
Twitter was worse. Twitter lead me down the road of comments to brief to convey meaningful thoughts and almost all with complete strangers, often twisting into arguments. The "I can't go to sleep, someone on the internet is being stupid" joke was a sad reality of my time on Twitter.
None of this is to say that all interactions on those two social media platforms were bad. Not at all. I DID find community with other people who have autism and/or have children with autism; I DID get to share photos with many people genuinely interested with just one click. I often heard about local or world news (real news, not celebrity births or sports scores) first on those platforms. I often had good conversations with people who debated respectfully, people whose ideas I considered and which sometimes shifted my own in various ways.
That said, for me, the negative elements outweighed the positive. Too much time. Wading through photos of peoples' dinner to get to info about the meat of their lives. Ignoring the racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/transphobic/conservative and frankly, just plain stupid comments made by individuals I felt obligated to maintain as "friends." And the feeling that all of it was just cursory, just a skim of the lives of the individuals I want to engage with, the people I want in my life in a real way, not a single-sentence-about-weather way.
So I jumped. I jumped right off the Facebook train and left the Twitterverse trailing the train.
In the days immediately following my departure, I felt lighter.
In the weeks that followed by departure, I realized that my thoughts had actually changed during the 8 years I spent using primarily Facebook with doses of twitter. I noticed that my thoughts formed as if they had an audience beyond my head, as if they were all potential fodder for tweets or status updates. In fact, my brain was parsing how I viewed the world in soundbites; if I had a complex thought, I automatically began the process of converting it to a shorter, simpler, more one-or-two-sentence sharable tidbit. I say this in the past tense, but it is still happening. I am disturbed by it. I am trying to change it. This blog is part of that attempt.
I haven't written at length, aside from in a professional context, in years now. A paragraph felt like big writing two months ago. So I'm trying to write more and write longer. Here, on this blog but also in letters and my journal and in word processors, resurrecting long-abandonned stories, ideas, unwritten essays.
It will be a process. This little engine needs grease and use, polish and attention, to re-establish herself. Please be patient as I stumble through. I've never gone through the process of recovering from socialmediaitis before.