I Took Two Weeks Off Social Media and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you may have noticed that I took the last two weeks off from social media.

So there were a lot of reasons, but mostly it was my kids being off school for two weeks and the aforementioned big ugly reason I haven't blogged much. (My kids are not related to my anxiety, but both things affect how much time I have to get creative work done).

"Okay, so... what'd you get out of it?"

Right, well first you need to understand how Twitter and Facebook factor into my normal life. 

On a good day, the first thing I do is get through all the e-mails the US sent me while I was sleeping. Then I sift through Twitter/FB (and any associated articles) while I'm eating breakfast. It's my newspaper. I have a couple of lists of people for whom I try to read everything I missed, and for the rest I just read whatever Twitter and Facebook deem important for me to read. I usually do this again at lunch and then at night when I need to decompress.

On a bad day, I will additionally be checking them constantly -- every time Unity compiles, every time Torment loads a new scene, every time I come back from the bathroom, every time I get a glass of water or someone asks me a question or a cat mews outside. Hell, I checked Twitter three times just now while I was writing that sentence.

Lately, I noticed I was having more bad days, hence the social media vacation.

So what happened these two weeks? A list:
  • The first 2-3 days were hard as hell. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. When Unity was compiling, I had to sit there and watch like a chump.
  • I found myself checking fivethirtyeight.com and Izanami's Amazon ranking about ten times more often than their updates can possibly justify.
  • I gathered news from primary news sources. It was super weird.
On the other hand....
  • I had way more time for Torment, my kids, and Shadowrun Hong Kong.
  • I watched the third debate without commentary and it didn't make me mad even a little (exasperated isn't the same as mad, right?).
  • I remembered how to solve Rubik's cube.
  • I didn't get depressed even once.

Let me say that last one again: I DIDN'T GET DEPRESSED EVEN ONCE.

When it came time to get back on, I was actually afraid. Did I want to go back to the monster that sapped 2-3 hours of my day and an immeasurable quantity of my joy?

Well, yes I did. Because among other things, that's how I connect with the world and that's how people connect with me. (The second day of my break, my mom IMed me to say my posts helped her get out of bed in the morning and now she didn't have a reason. I love my mommy.)

But I didn't want to do it the way I had been doing it, so I decided to change a few things.

Limiting the time is easy (for certain values of easy). For one thing, I don't need to read every single damn post that went up since the last time I checked. If I'm afraid of missing something? Hey, look: actual news! For another, I really really really really need to stop checking every time I'm in mid-thought.

Yeah okay, that part's not actually easy. But you know what they say.

How to limit anxiety? I spent a lot of time thinking about that (because I had time, you see). Turns out social media can cause depression (shocker), but why? Well, for me it was mostly all the outrage. There are a lot of legitimate things to be outraged about, but when you're scrolling The Endless Browser of Outrage, it kinda bores into your skull. I mean, that's why you're not supposed to read the comments.

I needed to remember that the world is not outrage. It's mostly pretty mundane -- or even happy -- especially the part of the world that has any effect at all on my life.

So for now, I'm trying to pay closer attention to my emotions as I read. Am I getting upset? Bored? Depressed? Maybe it's time to stop scrolling.

Will I stick with it? God, I hope so. Maybe you can help keep me accountable on that.

I don't know how or whether this applies to anyone else. But having done so I would definitely recommend a break from social media from time to time. And if you do take a long break (like a few days or more), before you turn it on again stop and think about how you want to consume it.

So what's your deal with social media? How do you handle the terrible signal-to-outrage ratio?


Matthew MacNish said...

This is going to be super over-simplified, but I think of it much in the way I think of the real world, and real relationships.

Most of the people you meet in life are not worth knowing. I know that's depressing, but it's true. The vast majority of people are a-holes who will only take from you, take your relationship for granted, and use you for what they can get out of you. Greed is very human by its nature.

However, I have found, and this my only apply to me, I don't know, it's certainly only anecdotal, but I have found, in my life experiences, that one out of every ten people or so that you meet in life is so amazing, for any number of different reasons, and brings so much joy or laughter or information or just plain love, that it fills you up, and it makes all the other crappy relationships worth putting up with.

I actually got a little misty writing that, but it's true.

That's why I don't quit social media. I could do without the bad, without the depression, without taking offense to things that people didn't mean to be offensive, but then I would miss the good too.

Steve MC said...

First, glad to have you back. But definitely want you to be in a good space. I've had the same problem with checking in too often, so I've set up rules like "no e-mail or internet before lunch," and that helps keep me focused.

What you wrote brought to mind an episode of "MASH" in which Hawkeye says he's going to quit drinking for a week. Five days later he has a horrible day, sits down at the bar, and says, "Look, I admit it, I need this drink, all right?" Then he looks at the drink, puts it down, and says, "I'll be back when I want it, not when I need it." Using social media as a choice is totally different than the empty hours of addiction.

And I agree with Matt - often I think of going somewhere and think, well, there's just going to be jerks there. But there might be one person I'll really like. Same with books and movies and music - just keep looking and you'll find something that connects for you that makes it all worth it.

By the way, there should be an optional section within a video game called The Endless Browser of Outrage. Where the player stands there and clicks a scroll button and reads all this bickering, for hours on end, until he realizes he's wasting time and moves on. It's not like the players can say its title was misleading. :p

Cap'n Heine said...

This is one of the reasons I post my thankful posts and so many animal related things. They are my way to fight the ugliness of the Internet with positivity. They help me feel a lot better and I'm hoping that they help other people smile just a little bit more often during their day. You can tell how bad the Internet is making me feel by just how much stuff I'm posting (unless it's just a day where I discovered too much that I must share).