Thoughts on social media.
I watched illustrator Julia Bausenhardt’s video on giving up social media the other day, and it really struck a chord with me. I’ve tried hard to quit social media before, countless times (if you’re a long time reader of the blog you might know!), always lasting just a few weeks before limping back to that shiny endless scroll. Even now, I’m officially taking a social media break, but still find myself lurking, liking and occasionally posting – which in turn makes me feel even worse for not being able to stick to even my own goal.
Julia spoke of social media in terms of energy and effort – putting time and creativity into a platform where the return is infinitesimal. She quit social media a year ago, and wrote two blog posts here and here answering questions about it.
The biggest thing I took away was being able to fill the time with something else. When I quit social media, I never planned in anything to replace those hours I’d spent mindlessly scrolling. The twitch, the need for distraction, the short attention span – those things were all still very present for me, and I had no backup plan to deal with them. Julia says it is a slow process, and we need to re-learn and be gentle with ourselves. Know that social media is designed to be addictive, designed to feed us short, fast pieces of information. No wonder we lose our ability to concentrate or go deeper into topics. It’s all about a quick reaction, an instant dopamine hit. Eventually, our brains crave it.
I really don’t like the person I’ve become when it comes to social media. I spend hours, every day, glued to a little screen reading other people’s opinions, other people’s rules. I caught myself answering questions with “this person on Twitter said….” without being able to define what I thought about it, myself. It is terrifying me. Living through other’s surface level, reactionary opinions has stopped me being able to find enough depth to be able to formulate my own opinions. What do I think? Why don’t I know?
Being tossed about in the stormy sea of everyone else’s arguments has blurred the edges of the person I am. Julia talks about losing focus, not just online but in all areas of life, as our attention spans get shorter and shorter, fuelled by those addictive dopamine bites. I remember spending hours in flow, drawing, writing, playing music. Now my attention span is shot, ragged, flimsy. I struggle with that addictive unlock of phone, that need for instant gratification instead of deep satisfaction.
That effort put into posting on social media could be directed towards things that truly give me satisfaction. My blog, my study, my health. Those photos I take with Instagram in mind can appear here, on One Empty Shelf. The links I find interesting to post on Twitter can be analysed, talked about and shared in a blog post. Facebook, following and gathering data, serves only to goad me that my occasional cross post is only being shown to an audience of single figures, unless I pay for it.
The energy I spend is sucked in, with nothing to show for it.
I was worried about directing people to my blog, but nearly everyone finds the site via search, not social. If I’m really honest, although my 1000 Twitter followers is a very small number in the grand comparative Twitter-scape, I am proud that I managed to build up even that many and don’t want to just leave it behind. Although algorithms now control reach, and every little bit of energy spent dissipates into that large, shouty void. I compare myself to bigger accounts on all platforms. I tell myself I love looking at cosy cottage interiors Instagram accounts when really I feel inadequate comparing my dusty windowsills to their shiny, hyper-real setups.
Is it time to really give up social media for good? I’ve struggled with this question for years, and the answer is always yes. The problem is having something to replace it as I slowly come back to life. I found it a lifeline during depression – a distraction and a window on the world I couldn’t quite face at that time. Maybe I’m a little scared to let that go, too.
Instead of a knee-jerk all or nothing, (which is usually my default setting for pretty much everything!) I need to ensure I have an alternative set up before leaving that social media world behind. I worry about people being able to find my blog and engage with it – so I have a newsletter on the go behind the scenes, (you can register here!) and am thinking of new ways to talk in a deeper way about issues. Maybe videos? Recordings? Podcasts?
I worry about just letting go. Leaving it behind. But spending so much energy on something that really doesn’t bring me any benefit isn’t sustainable. I’d rather spend energy on those that want to read the blog, a like-minded community, a place free from comparison and pressure. I want to read, I want to move, I want to regain my attention and flow.
In short, I think I want my life back.