Exploration of one’s self is an all important endeavor. For me, much of my exploration of late has been in the realms of my writing, of how, why, and what am I writing. There’s been a need for me to turn inward to find and fight the demons keeping me from being successful, both in a financial sense as well as a personal sense. Feeling good about what I write is certainly more important than the financial. I do not believe I can achieve the second without achieving the first.
One of the many areas that I fall into questioning every so often is social media. Of the many things in the world that commits good and evil at equal measure, social media is a premier example. On one hand it has enabled an easy way to share our lives to the world, to find others like us, and to allow news to travel even faster than it has ever before. A person could curate their feed to be anything they like, which could be positive things like art, music, and humor, as I have tried to do. Often, if done correctly, these networks will only push more similar content as these are the things that are drawing the attention, attention it wants for advertisers.
But there is a dark side to it, and in fact, plenty of others who are far more eloquent than I have documented the multitude of ways that social media is evil, how it is far more of an evil entity than one for good. Recently in my quest to begin the adventure of internal reflection, I began to question my own use of social media. I had to ask myself whether it was doing me any good.
In a brief conversation with a friend, I wondered aloud whether people of the past who had accomplished so much, Tolkien in our example, would have been able to amass the works they had or learn what they had had they grown up in this age. How much of what they did was the pursuit of knowledge and how much was fleeing from boredom? In either case, when opening a web browser is so easy, would they be able to stay on task? If they could easily pop open their cell phone to go to a mindless game or any of the many social media apps, would boredom have pushed them to create? I wonder that myself since as much as I love writing or imagining the worlds I am trying to create, I find myself easily distracted away from the tasks I am trying to push through. Work doesn’t happen.
Social media capitalizes on this ease of distraction. The problem is, so few of us embark on the journey I am trying to take now. Fuck, I’ve taken this journey about three or four times already having failed at it in the previous attempts.
It is so damned easy to pop back into these habits, but it takes massive effort to ignore everything, to not submit to its call. Enough evidence in the past for me shows that if I give it enough effort that eventually I move to a point where it doesn’t take the same level of energy to resist. Yet like an alcoholic, I can’t just sip at it later and think that it’s OK. The second I get back into it even a little bit, I get sucked back in all the way.
I argue that social media is draining our capacity for creativity and thought. Yes, there are hundreds or more examples to the contrary, but where I am making my stand here is in what has not only happens to me, but all the flash reactions to every single issue that crosses the world zeitgeist. Think of the millions of people, myself included, who even if they don’t post much on any of the networks, spend hours scrolling mindlessly, devoid of a solid thought. Our minds become a gelatinous mass. Our boredom is distracted away, not solved. The goals of creative pursuit, of finding meaning in the mundane, are filtered out of our newsfeeds. Even as I am writing this, the second I pause to think about what I want to say next, my brain begins to direct my arm to move my hand to either the mouse or my phone. Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or whatever else is out there all beckon for my attention. They have advertisers to appease. There is information to siphon from me. My digital life force is their meal.
Drained is a good way to describe how I feel after most of my social media encounters too. My personality, my energy, my ability to think, all starts to slip away as if whatever container I keep them all in sprung a leak. Each encounter with my news feeds, even when I curate them to be more uplifting, leaves me empty. While there is plenty that makes me laugh, I continue to end up feeling less by the end of nearly every single scroll.
If anything, the most evil thing about social media is that it is draining our humanity. We’ve become viruses spreading memes and taglines either signaling to others some higher moral standing without commitment or arguing over grand topic as though nuance no longer exists or curating specific views to others in order to hide our insecurities, all while we beg for views, likes, comments, any fucking thing that we think will show us that we’re loved by others but without actually making the physical effort to talk to someone… in real life… to be vulnerable and comforting simultaneously. We don’t know how to talk to each other anymore, how to approach people with differing opinions. Those thoughts that flicker into our mind after seeing or hearing something that dissipate after a few minutes of pondering can now be blasted to the world the moment it comes to our mind. Then there’s the endless parade of fake… I need to get away from that shit.
At one time in the past I flatly deleted all my accounts. Given that I am a writer (more accurately an unknown, novice writer), the decision was made to reinvest time into social media to interact with fans. You know… those millions of fans I could only wish I had. My accounts were recreated and I was hooked again. Frankly, I barely get any interaction except from people I can have human to human interactions with already. You know: IRL. Plus I really don’t know how to act on social media. Never really did.
Is social media even needed to sell books? Is it needed in this age to interact with fans? The answer to those questions is complicated. The argument likely could be no. Authors do speak about how there is traction on book sales through Facebook ads. Note the keyword though: ads. They don’t speak of social media posts driving sales. Often its email lists or advertising or luck. Is there a reason to keep it then? Is there a reason to keep it when it serves more as a distraction and detractor than a tool? I am not certain that there is.
They might end up deleted again. I am not sure. One thought is to let them go dark, to not close them out but to let them hang out there in space. At least in the near term it is a good option. Deleting them all makes me feel like I am going to miss out on something. But am I? Am I really going to miss out? Depends on what the subject is maybe. Is it important though to not miss out?
For now, I’ve at least deleted the apps. We’ll see if that helps.