Last week I hopped into the lake my parents live on. It was a hot, late July evening with barely any breeze. I was floating in the water with my head right above the surface and I noticed how gentle the waves were. They were only a few inches tall and they seemed to move in slow motion as they made their way across the lake. As I observed the waves, seeming to slide beneath the surface of the lake more than ripple across the top of it, I thought “this would make a great Instagram story.”
That beautiful moment, with the warm water embracing my body, with the breeze whispering across my wet head and shoulders, and with the light humming of traffic on I35E singing to me, is when I remembered why I’m taking a break from Social Media.
This journey started for me a few months ago, when I was listening to a podcast that talked about how often our phones interrupt our day. At the end of that podcast, I turned off all of my notifications other than phone calls, text messages, and emails. Within a handful of days I noticed how much less I opened my phone. It was a small change that really did improve my life. Out of habit, I would still take my phone out of my pocket and glance at it, but there was nothing on the screen begging me to unlock it and lose my time in it.
About a month ago, I started noticing that I wanted to take pictures of moments I had with my kids instead of being in the moments with my kids. On the way home from one of those moments, I asked myself a simple question: Who I was recording those moments for? Some of my desire to capture the moment was coming from a good place. I was capturing those moments for myself. Now that they’re back with their mom, I look over some of the pictures of me and my dudes. I smile as I look at my kids in the Dallas Aquarium. I laugh as I look at us on a ropes course mere moments before one of my kids almost passed out from heat exhaustion and another puked because he was overheated. We had a lot of fun this summer and I like looking back at those moments.
If I’m honest, so many of the pictures were taken to share on Instagram or Facebook. I wanted to share with you a very carefully staged portion of my life. I couldn’t just have my son take one picture of me in front of a cool wall. I made him take, like, 20 pictures.
What the hell is that?! Why can’t I just enjoy the lake? Why can’t I listen to a great song without needing to screenshot it and share it with the world? Why do I have to have one leg up on the wall and have my gut sucked in before I’ll let you see me? (And that’s my masculine self, I average somewhere around 1 in 100 photos en femme that I will let people see… after filters get added, of course.)
I can’t speak for you. I can only ask these questions of myself and answer them for myself.
I think some of my compulsion to share pictures and moments with you grows out of a desire to connect. My heart desires to connect at a deep level with other people. However, I am beginning to see clearly that connection isn’t going to happen on Facebook or Instagram. Now, to be fair, there are the occasional moments of depth that rock me back, like when one man took a selfie after a breakup and posted it on Instagram. He was crying in the picture and I felt like I really saw past his gorgeous photography to the person behind it. I connected with his pain… but he wasn’t connecting to me.
To say it simply and candidly, I’m lonely and my loneliness isn’t being cured by social media. If anything, my loneliness is amplified by watching other people’s videos as they go out, by staring at their group selfies, and by lusting over their dinner plates. I think my answers lie in face-to-face interactions, phone calls, and text messages much more than they lie in Snaps, Posts, and Stories. I also need to take up my coworkers on their invitations to go out and stop hiding behind being completely and totally broke.
Plus, I’ve caught myself wasting too much fucking time. Facebook tells me that I have a friend request and, 30 minutes later, I’ve gotten mad at people for sharing their political bullshit, I’ve laughed at memes other people share, and my fingers have worked feverishly to like endless statuses. I can’t get that time back and better things in my life are suffering.
I started a short story a year ago about pallets of bribe money sent to Iraq before the second war (this really fucking happened) and what happened to some of it (my fictional story). I got bogged down in the details. I was trying to make the story geographically accurate instead of making it easy to read and follow. I need to clean it up. I’ve had the plot lined out clearly in my head the entire time. I love the narrative and Hassan has been begging me to give him his ending. I’ve got another story in my head about a chef who cooks and eats a god and then begins to see the world through god-like eyes. I get sooooo excited about that short that I lose sleep over the details of it. It needs to be written.
But I end up searching for the perfect lighting for a bagel instead of giving Hassan his ending. Or I end up putting a cup of some liquid in the perfect spot next to the book I’m reading so I can take a photo of it instead of writing about the cured meat of the god’s flesh being rehydrated in buttermilk before being cubed and added to a dish. Or I end up double tapping your photos of cups of coffee instead of grabbing a cup of coffee with a coworker or friend from Trauma Camp.
On their podcast, The Minimalists always ask if something is “adding value” to life. I’ve come to the conclusion that —for this season— Social Media isn’t adding value to my life. If anything, it’s holding me back from living a more meaningful life. So, if I don’t like your status, don’t take it personally. If I don’t share the book I’m reading on Instagram, it’s not because I stopped reading… I’m just actually reading instead of sharing the picture. Oh, and if you want to keep up with this blog, just subscribe to it (in the menu) because, y’know, I won’t be sharing updates on Facebook every time a new post comes out.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some writing to do.