Social media is bad. There’s no denying it’s bad. It’s been a major source of the disinformation which earned us Orange, a prolonged pandemic, and Q supporters. It’s also incredibly distracting, makes people compare their lives to illusions, and can be alienating. The companies that run the social media ecosphere are villainous with little respect for their users, only seeking to commoditize attention. This is no secret. No one doubts this.
And yet, social media used to be fun. When I first signed up for Facebook—which I assume was most people’s first major social media exposure—it was great. It was fun to see what people who I hadn’t seen or spoken with in ages were up to. I enjoyed looking at people’s silly photos and reading about their trips and lives and ups and downs. It was nice to bullshit with people in a way that allowed me not to face my crippling phone anxiety (sorry, everyone, I still love you). It often felt a lot like real connection. Distant, sure, but genuine still.
Then we had Twitter, Instagram, and a whole host of also-rans which worked themselves into our daily lives. And they were pretty fun, too! Each in their own way. Twitter was a fun way to interact as succinctly as possible. Instagram was a fun way to get a photostream of in-the-moment photos of what people were up to. That was pretty cool!
But then things started to change. Slowly. Imperceptibly. Yet change they did.
People started to perform for social media, instead of allowing their social media pages to reflect how they actually behaved. We saw the beginnings of what would come to be called “influencers”, a term nearly as cynical and heartbreaking as “content creator”. Soon after the advertisers came. And with advertisers came real money. And with real money, the platform was doomed.
Users transformed from participants in a network of real people, to click-throughs and eyes for a new generation of internet advertising. Sure, the new ads weren’t the old pop-ups everyone rightfully hated so much, but they were just as intrusive, just as in-your-face. And, worse, it was often harder to tell what was an ad and what was genuine. They learned to dress ads and news and lies in a friendly disguise. Those of us who were savvy understood the difference, but your uncle who grew up in a world without any internet at all didn’t.
Now, my Facebook feed is full of ads, suggested posts, and nonsense. I use an ad blocker and an additional browser plugin that cleans up the feed and it’s still filled with nonsense. Where we once got posts in a chronological order, the algorithm now puts them in some impenetrable order which is decipherable only to its machine intelligence. Why can I not just see what the most recent post is, by default, all the time? My well-curated selection of liked pages means nothing when Zuck & Crew just put whatever the hell they want in front of me any time they please. My eyes are vastly more valuable as a target for ads than I am as a contributor to the platform.
Instagram, now also owned by Facebook, is just as bad. Suggested posts slipped seamlessly into my feed, an unending stream of reels which I didn’t sign up for, ads shoved into ever crevice, and posts presented into the algorithm’s order.
All the old pleasures of the platforms are gone. It has been a death from a thousand cuts, but, finally, now, it has reached a point where it’s just not worth it any more. All social media gives me now is anxiety from yet another political post or someone else asking for me to be outraged about something or some dire click-bait news about something I have no power over shoved in my face. If I have to see one more photo of Mitch McConnell’s wattle in my social media feeds I will lose my mind.
It all just stresses me out. We have a duty as adults not to subject ourselves to things that make us crazy for no reason. Many things in life are unavoidably crazy-making. Why not eliminate the things we can?
With that, my theme for 2022 will be:
The Year Without Social Media
Seems simple, right? It’s not! Stupid social media has become such an easy crutch for me, my most favorite of all time-wasters even if it constantly makes me feel bad. Many of you have had me leave stupid comments on your posts or click through your Instagram stories (without my sound off) or whatever this or whatever that. This year I’ll be having none of that. For me, it’s time poorly spent avoiding doing things that would ultimately make me feel better even if they are more difficult in the short run. Like writing here on The Black Laser.
I won’t be checking my feeds this year. At all. None of them. If I had a way to check to see what my friends are family are posting without being subjected to endless aggravating noise, I would. All day! But I can’t. Clearing out that section of my head will be helpful. If your trash can was full, you’d take the trash out, right? Same thing.
I’m not glassing the earth, however. I still think my accounts will be a good way to direct people here. I still want to share and no one reads blogs anymore without being pointed to them. So, the accounts will stay with handy signposts to come here to The Black Laser to follow-up and see what I am doing.
I don’t know if I will eventually come back after the year is up. I am not even sure how it will make me feel. Better? Worse? More isolated? Less aware of my isolation? The whole point is to detox to see how I feel. Get some things done. Make some stuff. If I get to the halfway point in the year and I find myself direly missing social media, I’ll come back. Or if this year ends and I realize some utility for enduring the misery, I’ll come back. However, in the meantime, the break will be nice.
You want to see cute pictures of the girls? They’ll be here! You want to read my inane, messy thoughts about my life? This is the place! You want to comment on something I wrote or shared? Do it here! I’ve already got a platform; I built it myself thirteen years ago. There are no ads, no trackers, no algorithms. This is what it is and I encourage you to make yourself at home here with me.