Social media is consuming – entertaining, absorbing, hypnotic, addicting. I have had my fair share of it lately. I often wake up to check Facebook and fall asleep on Instagram. Very little of the content is uplifting and it forces us, particularly disadvantaged and tortured communities, to relive our pain lest we forget. Though forgetting, itself, is a form of self-care, I understand the impulse to rehash, review, share, like, and proliferate opinions, injustices, happenings, and heartbreaks. But, I would be dishonest with you if I didn’t admit that I am feeling compelled to offer myself a detox. I should be able to take a break from it all, just as easily as I took a break from writing here and as easily as I did a silent meditation retreat in 2017. But, I’ve found it harder than expected to truly unplug.
See, social media allows me to stay connected with so many friends and family that I would – frankly – never talk to without social media as an aggregator. Some call it a skill, this contact building and maintenance that I do. I have learned that, with a toddler in tow and a demanding expat life to attend to, perhaps staying in touch is more time and emotionally consuming than it is worth. Further, there is so much waste in between connections – the ads, the videos, the stuff I didn’t come for. And even with my online presence at its peak, it is only months later that I realize that some of my online “friends” have passed away or have given birth… what to make of this kind of pseudo-cyber friendship?
In addition, I must admit that in spite of my job as a professional newswatcher, I really struggle to absorb news shared outside of my own social media networks. I used to scour the BBC News (because, really, I can tolerate it much better than CNN – can’t you?) and I’d devour an Economist, even if was months out of date. Now, I’m tired beyond line 5 on a screen and I’m satisfied with not having learned the facts. Some of this is about trust. I trust my circle to tell me what I need to know – not just interesting and screwed up facts about the world. I mean, the relevant stuff, like when am I going to get paid next and where to donate to help Jazmine Barnes’ family bury her. But everything between the important stuff is leaving behind emotional residue. And I need a serious rinse.
I’m not sure what moderation looks like anymore, but I do know what an overdose feels like. Is it possible to produce content and not consume it? Can I post here and on FB and on Insta AND not read anything from anyone else? Or do I have to choose one and let the others go? Does WhatsApp count? What is responsible use? Is withdrawing “fair” to my “friends”? What exactly does a social media detox look like for a media manager? I have no idea, but over this year I will find out. While I try to disengage from consumption, I’ll hope you’ll bear with me as I shake off the cobwebs of writing for an unknown public. In the process of finding balance, I hope this experience will bring us all a little closer.