I can hear the reluctant cries already:
“How would I know what’s going on?!”
“But I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with anyone!”
“How would I promote my pyramid scheme?!”
OK, so nobody is self-aware enough to yell the last one… but wouldn’t it be great if the were? Seriously. Stop.
Those resistance cries are the other part of why I’m leaving social media for good as of December 31st, 2018. When’s the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone on Facebook? Or actually heard the voice of one of your Instagram friends? Exactly. Never.
I realized that the reason I am feeling so disconnected is because I am. Social media is giving me the illusion of connection, not the real stuff. I get enough of an indication of human interaction to satiate my basic needs without the gratification of anything real. And I’m NOT OK with that.
So, I’m leaving all social media platforms for good. I decided after the last round of journalism exposing the degree to which Facebook and Instagram are selling my data. I realized that if I wasn’t getting anything worthwhile from these platforms and they were making money of my data and they are manipulating my exposure to information, it is just not worth it.
Because ultimately, our eyes are the commodity here. Our choices are what these people are trading in. And what do we get out of it? The fleeting buzz of a handful of acknowledgements from bots and people we’ve never met.
I announced that I was leaving Facebook at the end of the year a month or two ago. I downloaded my data and made sure I had the contact information for people I wanted to keep in touch with. And then the most peculiar thing happened. I died.
OK, I didn’t really die, but it was as though I had. I started receiving eulogizing comments and messages lamenting my impending departure. I received emotional good-byes. Poetic farewells. It was all quite touching, this outpouring of well-wishes. But I don’t know that I really deserve them, I am afterall still going to be around. I’m still available by email, or mail, or *gasp* yes, even the phone.
But there is something there. It will be as though I am indeed dead and gone to the majority of people I’m connected with on socials. I know I’ll likely never reconnect with the vast majority of the “friends” and “followers” I worked so diligently to accumulate. And I think that’s OK with me.
I’ve already phased out Facebook entirely. That one wasn’t so tough to be honest. It has been a wasteland for awhile now. But as the Instagram exit deadline approaches I become more and more aware of it as a creative outlet.
I love photography. I have taken pictures since I was a teenager. I came across a photo recently of myself in an absurdly oversized men’s wool coat with a camera slung around my neck on my High School football field. I forgot that I took sports photos for the yearbook. I remember spending hours in the noxious fumes of the darkroom in college. I have boxes of “artistic” black and white photographs of streets and elaborate sets I created. And now when I look back at my feed I see nearly a decade of my life expressed through photography.
So I guess that is what I’m taking with me. That is what I got for all the money Facebook has made off the back of my data. Off the skin of my eyes. That I, like many others, enjoy expressing myself through images. It’s not much, but it’s more than I ever really got from a room full of strangers and bots clicking a clump of heart-shaped pixels. So, I’ll take it and be on my way. See ya, socials. It’s been real… er, virtual.