The thing about the grip social media has on you is that it entraps you slowly. One day you’re visiting your favorite music artist’s websites, exploring esoteric sites built for your favorite movie, discussing topics on message boards, and journaling online. And then, in no time, you’re doomscrolling Twitter. Facebook alerts are bleeping at you. ::DID YOU KNOW AN ACTOR YOU FOLLOWED NINE YEARS ABOUT AND FORGOT JUST COMMENTED ON A POST THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING?:: Twitter is assaulting you with more and more topics to follow. You’re trying to read a book and notifications start going off. It’s like being in a horror movie where the haunted house was slowly built around you as you stumbled in the dark*
Feeling Very Xen
Depending on your age, you might have felt this. I’m what is sometimes called a “Xennial.” A name I hate, but the idea is I’m not quite Gen-X and I’m not quite Millennial. I find generational groupings to generally be annoying and divisive, but there is a difference between someone like me whose childhood was internet free, but who was first exposed to it in their teens, versus someone who grew up with it their entire lives. I would love to hear more from those people about what their experience and relationship with the internet, and social media in particular, is.
But, for me, social media has felt like a tiger I’ve been desperately trying to wrestle with for at least five years. Maybe even longer than that. And let me tell you, I’ve been bloodied plenty over the years.
I noticed how detrimental to my own life it was before I realized just how much it’d damaged us as human beings and as a society. There’s so much scholarship and thought on this topic. So I’m not going to press this point too much. But I know I’m to the point where I’m ready to rethink how I interact online and what ways I go about that.
I want to pull the lever on the hatch I built
Escaping truth and avoiding guilt
Yes, I’m ready to pull the lever, because the haunted house of algorithms, loss of nuance, misinformation, and manipulation has lessened my enjoyment of humanity. And I haven’t always liked myself in it.
Create – Share – Pay
It’s trickier when you’re someone, like me, who wants to share my work with people, and eventually be able to write for a living. The percentage of people who are able to do that dwindles all the time. So, it’s not like I expect it. But it’d be nice. And for a long time social media felt like a necessary part of it. In my “day job” I’m a digital marketer. Maybe that’s part of why my patience with it has worn so thin. I know all the tools that marketers have at their disposal to target us. I know the irritation that all social media is basically pay-to-play at this point for creators. I’m lucky that I work for a company that I believe in, and whose product I think actually helps the world. But, at the end of the day everyone who markets to you is wanting your money. Hell, I want your money. I want you to buy my books, and fiction.
But I don’t want to hand the keys over to Facebook, Twitter, or anyone. One day, I’d love to have a following of some kind for my work. I don’t even care what size. But a community of people—an audience—I can communicate with without having to pay a bazillion dollar corporation for the right. It makes no sense for creators to spend their time, energy, and heart on something, draw people into some other system, and then make crumbs off it.
A Strategic Withdrawl
That’s why I’ve been slowly withdrawing from Facebook. And a little bit more on Twitter. They’re popular communication channels, and I do plan to still use them. But, frankly, I plan to use them in a much less meaningful way. I touched on this in my first issue of my newsletter, Psychochronograph, but I want to devote my time to examining topics in a meaningful way. That means more journals where I share things of more substance, whether it’s personal or a recent TV show. That means continuing to make my newsletter better, and hopefully more fun and interesting. And, of course, that means even more time devoted to my fiction writing. And, more importantly, getting it out there. Whether it’s published by someone else or I publish it digitally.
The other part of it, though, is not just how I communicate with the world through the internet, but how I consume news, content, videos, etc. James Tynion IV, on his recent post, talked about trying to do this himself. It really resonated with me. And I can tell you I paid CLOSE attention to all the comments on his post with suggestions. I’ve subscribed to more newsletters on Substack. I like newsletters. Again, if you get it from the right people it’s morsels of good, well-executed content/creation/art/writing and not just a bunch of memes or the internet rage du jour. Don’t get me wrong, I like the occasional meme (before it gets shoved into the ground by people overdoing it) but I don’t want my existence to be that, interspersed with angry rants, sarcastic quibbles, and the rebroadcast of lies. I also subscribed to a major online newspaper for the first time in my life. And I’m looking into more sources, and ways to organize it for myself so that instead of flipping from Gmail to Twitter to Facebook and then back again, I’ll form a new habit for myself. One that feels like it’s actually enriching my life instead of passing time.
I very much don’t want this to seem like a screed. Maybe too late for that. But let me be clear that I don’t want to dictate how you spend your time online or make you feel guilty if you like social media. I think a lot of it is just how we’re built as individuals. I know, for me, this is what I need to do. That has a lot to do with my hopes, my desires, my weaknesses, and the little traps I know I can fall into.
So, I’d love to hear how people who have gone through the same struggle have solved it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Feedly. I don’t even mind hopping between a few different platforms. But I’d love to just focus myself. A few ideas I’ve had about how to do that:
- Push Twitter/Facebook further back on my phone screens. Make sure all apps on the front page are the apps I want to explore and want to get my content from. And if it isn’t an app, but just web pages, put shortcuts on the phone.
- Finish converting my Facebook into book collections (I’ve done a couple time periods. There’s fun stuff me and my friends have put on there I don’t want to lose.) Then, withdraw from it completely other than as a relay to what I’m doing.
- My Tweets already self-destruct after 2 weeks, but I’ll probably go to a model where I’ve withdrawn from Twitter completely in a personal way and it becomes another relay. I will say, I do like having an outlet for silly things I think of or minor things I want to express. I’m still figuring that one out. Maybe just collecting them for the newsletter? Or just putting them in a private journal.
- I want to seek out more news sources that are reasonably about what’s happening in the world and not terribly biased or a manipulation engine. I don’t need perfection, but I do want something that I can engage in on my own terms to keep informed that doesn’t put me in an algorithmic bubble where I’m only fed news I have expressed interest in or agree with ideologically or politically.
Again, if you have any ideas about how to make a better online experience let me know! Now it’s time for a change of pace, and to watch AEW Rampage!
*Don’t steal that, I might use that for. a story.
The illustration is actually a Photoshop I did of the game Escape From The Hidden Castle.