Scrolling through Facebook. Scrolling through Instagram. Scrolling through Twitter. Seeing far too many people spending more time showcasing their lives rather than actually living them. Every twenty five minutes, I waste ten minutes (at the minimum) scrolling. All day long. And sometimes in the middle of the night.
I admit it. I’m guilty. I fell in line (like all good lemmings). I post on Instagram and comment on Facebook and retweet on Twitter. Out of the three social media apps, in my opinion, Twitter is the most innocuous and funny.
A while back, I stopped posting on Facebook. Easy enough. Incremental change. Then, a few weeks ago, I resolutely pressed and held the home button on my iPhone for that extra second. My app icons trembled with fear. I pressed x, x, x and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter fell off my screen. Sucked back into app store limbo for eternity.
For a few minutes afterwards, I felt powerful, courageous and triumphant. Twenty five minutes later, I felt a twinge of panic and confusion. Fear rolled in like London fog. (more on that to come)
What precipitated the social media wipe out? It wasn’t an impulsive act. A few things contributed to sweep-age, but mostly it was this. A month ago, my daughter’s phone was stolen. During the following three weeks, she learned how to live without a phone. On one of those days, she had to navigate the Tokyo bus and train system in order to meet her friend outside of customs at Narita. We chatted on the laptop the night before and we walked through the process of how to meet someone old-school style and how to navigate the world without google maps and google, for that matter.
We (mostly she) developed a plan and communicated said plan to her friend who was coming in from Hong Kong. She was right nervous about venturing out sans phone.This girl is Gen Z. She has always had access to instant information. Her generation doesn’t talk to people (that they don’t know). Instead, they ask their phone for the information. I don’t blame her for being nervous and feeling slightly out of control.
Of course, the airport pickup was a success. She learned two things during the respite from the phone.
- There is freedom gained in the unplug.
- Life is possible without a smartphone. No one died.
I became curious and wondered about her experience. It’s been a long time since I knew that freedom. Was there more kindling that led to setting my social media on fire? Oh yeah. Last month, I was shocked when a woman posted a personal Facebook messenger conversation and asked for social commentary on a Facebook group page. The conversation she posted was relatively normal. Nothing horrific there, except the public shaming that occurred afterwards. That was appalling. Why in the world would someone air a private conversation? To what end?
The entrepreneur porn on Instagram is the worst. “Be an influencer! Follow me to learn how to make money doing this…bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.” For the most part, Instagram is a fabricated fantasy. I’m not saying every account is an illusion, but I have a feeling there is more pain than is apparent behind all the smiles, fancy stuff and beautiful surroundings. I can only imagine people sitting in their normal suburban homes living their normal lives comparing themselves with the world they are seeing on Instagram. Few can compare and the comparisons lead to genuine feelings of inadequacy and despair. The worst part about the phenomenon is that people are comparing themselves to an image that is anything but real.
Social media wasn’t always this way. It’s changed from a simple and congenial way to communicate to this scary monster of deceit and deplorable behavior that is being normalized all over the globe. WTF is going on?
Back to the fear I felt when I denied myself access to the social world of the internet. The fear was real. I felt disconnected and a wee bit lost.
What happened, though? Nothing, really.
The disruption resulted in a re-connection with the parts of life that matter. Free time flowed back like a butterfly. “Lalala, here I am floating from place to place. Want to do something?” (That was the butterfly talking in a high voice)
In week one, I realized my phone addiction. It is unacceptable how many times I peer into my phone in one day. But eventually, the “need to know what’s going on in the world” addiction melted away.
In week two, I realized that concentrating on my life and the people around me is way more important than seeing and experiencing the world through someone else’s fake-ass social media account.
Look up from your smartphone. Notice what is going on around you. It’s marvelous. This life.