Sunday, July 12, 2015
"It's not you, it's me." How social media will break our hearts
A friend comes to you and says, "I'm leaving Facebook." Or, more likely, a friend posts on his timeline that he is leaving Facebook.
We've all had this happen. Many of us have did this. I have did this. And each time we had a sound reason. But, I maintain it wasn't needed.
Thing is, if you're going to leave Facebook (insert any other social media network here) then you'll just do it. You'll stop going to it and that'll be it. You may delete your account, you may not. But that's the extent of the decision's complexity.
Proclaiming you're going to do it only strengthens the idea you'll be back. When I see someone do this, I replace it with this statement: "I have burned myself out on Facebook and I need a break." Sometimes I'll replace it with, "Someone pissed me off and I need a break."
I'm nearly forty years old. I've been running at a skin-ripping speed to keep up with social media and technology in general for years now. I have a Facebook account. I have a Twitter account. That's as far as I've made it. There is no question as a writer that if I don't, I'm basically the T-Rex staring straight into the meteor. But it's tiring, and not a little discouraging. And it can be too much, especially when self-worth gets wrapped up with it.
If your self-worth has never taken a hit due to social media, I congratulate you. I think you're lying, but I'll still offer you a half-hearted pat on the back. I'll be polite.
As far as this near forty-year-old can understand, Twitter is either the second most popular or the most popular form of social media. I don't have Snapchat or Instagram or a lot of others, so I could be talking directly out of my ass, but, for the sake of appeasing me, let's say I'm right. This being the case, I would say the most admired quality a Twitter account can possess must be wit and cleverness.
I could be wrong about wit and cleverness, but it's what I see most in my feed. Occasionally, I come across hacked off, half-sentences that seem to promise a kind of insight into the user's life. I say "seem to" only because most of my friends on Twitter are writers and rarely is it the case when a writer writes anything for public consumption that is flatly autobiographical. Even memoirs. They can't help but work the craft when an audience is nearby.
Conversely, for Facebook, it seems sincerity, usually dosed with some general outrage, is the most admired quality a user can offer up. If we're not counting photos and videos of animals and food.
Let's consider outrage on Facebook, because I heard Ryan O' Connell refer to "outrage culture" during Listi's podcast this past week, and that mention gave rise to my thoughts on all of this in the first place.
For Facebook, at least, I truly believe a lot of users simply become wore to the core from worrying about pissing somebody off and have to step away to recharge. Or maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, because I will tell you right now that I walk around on egg shells a lot. I'm an opinionated person and stubborn and often have a hard time holding my tongue.
This can be dangerous on social media.
Facebook users usually want one of two things, in my experience. Unity or war.
O' Connell brought up outrage culture and I saw the whole thing clearly, this constant flow of absolute outrage along news feeds. In the past several weeks, it's jumped from outrage swirling around transgender issues to the confederate flag to gay marriage and two weeks from now it'll be a new topic.
Like O' Connell, I'm not sure why it's this way. But it is, and if we're going to use social media, these are, for me at least, some of the things I have to accept and be okay with. It's not really all that difficult. Use social media, do your thing, whether that's keeping in touch with friends you'd otherwise never see or if it's starting massive online debates that end with unfriending and unfollowing marathons.
The only people who are ever truly going to be able to "quit" social media are people who never really bought into it in the first place. People like my cousin Tom, a 41-year-old and all around great guy who created an account and, like I did with Google Plus for whatever reason, just never went back and checked on it. Seven years Tom has had a Facebook account and has yet to make the first post or like the first profile picture. There are times he forgets what Facebook is, literally. He started and then he quit.
The rest of us? We're in there for better or worse. Some of us (I'm looking squarely in the mirror on this one) will likely fade away, eventually. Age will overtake us, maybe, or social media as we know it will change so completely we won't be able to keep up. See also: Age will overtake us.
But we won't be able to step away from it. We won't actually quit social media.
Social media will quit us.
Social media will say, "It's not you, it's me."
Social media will break our damn hearts.