At times social media has made me feel anxious and quite cross. It wasn’t always like this.
When I first joined platforms like Facebook and Twitter it was a lot of fun; free from ads, pushy influencers and showy-offy projection.
What started as good time in the amusement arcades turned into an unpleasant rollercoaster ride.
I started to feel this weird pressure to tag myself in places or with people, as if it was some sort of validation I was having a good time. ‘Hey, check me out! Having all fun! Living my best life, yo!’
The proliferation of platforms meant more accounts and log-ins. I wasn’t even sure why I was on some of them. Something else would come along and everyone would get on that. And I would too.
Rather than the world opening up, it started to narrow down. I became uncomfortable with the environment in which people said things they’d not dream of saying in reality (or would they?)
I’m tired of seeing polarising rhetoric dressed as ‘free speech’. Let’s honest: being a bigot, homophobe or racist is not freedom of speech. Please let’s stop pretending it is.
Or the pendulum swings the other way and people overshare; spilling gory details like entrails from a gutted fish.
I don’t know when I started to question it. It’s been a while. The journey really kicked off when COVID-19 restrictions came in and digital became a main meeting place.
Online, people morphed into Big Brother-type characters from a George Orwell novel or revealed themselves to be secret epidemiologists. They either wanted to diagnose you or dob you in.
I saw people criticise/accuse others of ‘breaking the rules’ – except, in many cases, the critic had misinterpreted legislation or guidance – or share fake or deliberately inflammatory information. It was like the sickness of Brexit all over again.
Not everyone is a tool, but a great many use social media as tools to agitate.
I just can’t engage with those people anymore. They seem to interpret any pointing out of the facts as an affront and make it about you versus them rather than reasoned, polite conversation.
I no longer want to exhaust myself with paragraph-long explanations aimed at trying to help but leave myself exposed to being shouted down by glorified school prefects and pile-ons from the self-righteous brigade.
You find yourself thinking twice about what to say and where. I figure we just can’t speak to each as grown-ups or equals in many places online.
Yes, you can defriend or block the real wazzocks but even that’s tricky. In real life, some people are you’re connected to are OK (or so you thought) and it’s cringeworthy to think of those awkward ‘have you defriended me?’ questions, especially if it’s a relative making your blood boil or toes curl.
Truthfully? I am a coward. I’d probably deny it or claim I was hacked.
It’s nothing new of course but I felt increasingly disillusioned. This wasn’t fun. It wasn’t enlightening me in new ways. Adverts and sponsored posts crowded my news feeds for stuff I didn’t need or weren’t relevant to me.
And these platforms aren’t forcing me to be on there. It’s not them annoying me or upsetting me: it’s people. Not all people – I’ve got friends and family I love very much who make me laugh with their posts – but equilibrium on the scales of enjoyment and exasperation was more difficult to maintain.
The only thing I could do was set my own boundaries. I asked myself whether it was worth staying on and what would I miss by coming offline.
The answer, surprisingly, was very little of any importance or consequence. So I might not see a photo of a nice run someone did, or a picture of their latest glass of wine, or a selfie by the seaside, or a rant about this or that. I can live with that.
So I’ve paused or deleted accounts with the exception of Instagram (which I love!)
Paradoxically, being online fuelled perpetual feelings of ‘missing out’ or trying to ‘keep up’. Stepping off the digital merry-go-round has stopped that and clarified who I do want to stay in touch with, who I don’t, and what I enjoy and what I don’t.
In cutting out the virtual noise, it’s created space for what matters. I’ve realised that ‘what’s missing’ isn’t half as important as ‘what’s there’.
What about you? Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!