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I left social media for 3 years

Before spacehey I left social media for 3 years.

I'm young enough to have spent the majority of my life with social media, but I'm also old enough that I remember a time before social media (my 30th birthday is very soon). I grew up along side computers and the internet, and I watched it change and morph as I got older. 

My father has worked in IT basically my whole life. A computer was never not in our house. My mother's favorite anecdote about me is that I could type my name before I knew how to write it. While this is technically true, it's more accurate to say that I memorized what keys to press to make the big grey box give me games. Still, I've never not known computers or some form of the internet.

I remember my first email - an address. I remember my first chatroom experiences and losing my mind at the ability to talk to people in real time from my computer. I remember getting someone's email and having my first email based conversations with them over the summer; This is who I consider to be my first online friend. And I definitely remember my first online gaming experiences and getting sucked in to that whole world.

Then came Friendster, then Xanga, then MySpace, VampireFreaks, and MyYearbook, and then the creation of the almighty Facebook. I loved social media for years. Each platform had a different purpose and feel. But when the great Facebook migration happened, all of that evaporated. 

Social media became less about personalization and individuality in favor of a more cohesive experience. This made the focus about echo chambers and very targeted information being drip-fed to users. Soon it became a weapon for news and corporations to react to and manipulate conversations about various topics. While the ability of social media to shine lights on glaring issues in our society has been amazing, it also has played a pivotal role in radicalizing people, seeding paranoia, and creating new divisions between people.

I pushed through all of that and kept using Facebook as my main social media platform and kept creating excuses for it like "well I need it for my band", and "I just keep up with concerts", and "This is the only way I can keep in touch with some people". But, at the end of the day, every time I opened the app I felt miserable. I felt manipulated. I felt like the arguments were outweighing the conversations, the "us vs them" mentality became unbearable. People who I had been friends with for over a decade were now keyboard warriors for things they would have been ashamed of supporting not long before. It became so damn toxic that, even in the comment section of bands, people would argue about arbitrary bullshit that usually had nothing to do with the thing they were commenting under. 

I got sick of it all. I got sick of the echo chamber, the ads, the arguing, the self-righteousness, the holier-than-thou bullshit. I got sick of being forced to see shit that I already fucking agreed with, shit that was the same redundant point over and over. It was mind-numbing. So I quit. I saved everything from all my social media platforms that I wanted to keep (photos mostly), deleted every post from my Facebook across the ~10 years that I used the platform, and left. 

My last post (which is now deleted too) was a long post about protecting yourself properly on the internet in the modern age, how to prevent being tracked online, and how to ensure that corporations who profit on your identity are not able to continue doing that. I left saying that using these services are simply not worth it.

Within a week I noticed a change in my attitude. All the bullshit you see online really changes you. The world seems like a much more stressful place than it really needs to when it's shoved in your face all day. Maybe it's privilege, but forcing yourself to experience unnecessary stressors doesn't do yourself or anyone else any favors. Just because something happened in the world doesn't mean you have to make it your problem. And that's what social media has become. A toxic battleground full of the worlds problems. You can be aware of the injustices of the world or in communities without having to subject yourself to the highs and lows on a day-to-day basis. Couple that with 24-hour news and your whole life can quickly become surrounded by far too much information. 

I soon forgot about people I had no reason to keep up with. I never let go of acquaintances from all kinds of places, but once they were out of my life I didn't miss them. Sure, there were some people I lost contact with that I would have liked to keep in touch with, but that's just life. Prior to the popularity of social media there's a good chance that when someone came in to your life they'd just as quickly leave it and you'd move on. It was never a bad thing, it was just the ebb and flow of life. Not long after leaving social media I met a guy at a concert that I probably could have been good friends with, but at the end of the night I told him to take care and I haven't seen or spoken to him since. That's just how it goes, and I think that's how it's supposed to go.

For 3 years I didn't see anything from social media sites. My friends would tell me about, or show me, memes that were making the rounds, the different pop figures that were "cancelled" (personally I hate that notion and wish we would stop using that term, but that's probably for another blog), but I really didn't care about any of it. I'd sit there at a restaurant with my family and be the only one with a phone not in my hand. I felt like I was the alien in the room. 

I started not being informed on family matters. I kept getting the reason "Well, I can't help that you're not on Facebook anymore" as if that was the only way to tell me about things. It isn't - people just can't be bothered to make the effort if they don't care enough about including you on the conversation. I had to basically petition my entire family to switch to group texts for family matters instead of relying on Facebook. It led to some tension for awhile (for reasons I still don't understand) but I haven't heard "you're not on Facebook" in some time. It's not perfect, but it does the job.

I've been playing with the idea of switching to a basic phone for about a year now. Without social media I have very few reasons to have a smart phone. I don't play games on it, I don't really check my email unless there's something I'm expecting (and I have 2 computers for that), and it just seems silly to carry around this easily broken thing just for the sake of it being more modern (even then, I only spend a max of $200 on a smart phone every 3+ years. I don't believe in buying high end products. Never been my style). But I think the only thing that keeps me with it is Spotify. I do love music, but I'm digressing. 

I do think the average person would be far better off without social media. I think a lot of people don't realize how much attention seeking behavior they display with it in their lives, I don't think those same people realize how much it changes their mentality about the world around them (both good and bad), I don't think people would care half as much about the things they think they care about if it wasn't for the prevalence of social media, and I don't think problems with the spread of misinformation, false reporting, and sourceless journalism would be near as common as it is because of it. 

All this being said, here I am posting a blog on a social media platform. I'm not so stupid I don't realize the hypocrisy here. But, this is a social media platform without tracking, without ads, without news, without corporate influences, with strict guidelines on what type of ideologies are acceptable and which aren't, and a place where the majority of what I've seen has been mostly about music. And if any of that changes then I'll be gone from this one too. But for the time being I'm enjoying the experience.

Maybe I'm becoming a curmudgeon, or maybe I'm just embittered by the communities online, but I know that the internet didn't used to be like this. It used to be an entirely different place. I partially blame corporations for effectively buying the conversations on the most popular websites, but at the end of the day it's the people's unwillingness to disconnect that fuels the fires that keep these problems alive.

I love the internet. I love technology. I love computers of all types (I actually own a 1988 Amiga 1000, and I love it to pieces). I love being the dork that I am. But I don't love what social media has done to people and what people have done to social media. I'm sure that one day I'll leave this place too, but for now I'm enjoying the throwback experience. Let's just hope that the change comes later rather than sooner. 

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Slow Joe

Slow Joe's profile picture

Excellent piece.

I haven't intentionally done anything to lower my exposure to social media, but as a mortgage banker in a crazy real estate market, my career has taken care of that. And I'll tell you what, it has made my life a little less stressful.

My advice to you is: keep it fun. That's what I do. My entire social media history is trying to make people laugh. (Okay, with some family stuff in between.) I mostly ignore all the political bullshit.

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Thanks for the compliments! It isn't so much that I can't just passover political stuff, but more-so that the entire platform Facebook is built upon is political. It's absolutely everywhere and there's no avoiding it. At that point you've just got to decide if it's for you or not. And it's just not for me. I don't talk down to anyone who uses Facebook or Instagram or whatever, I just have no interest anymore.

by Tommy Panzram; ; Report


Kriptk's profile picture

Don’t feel like a hypocrite. Many of us have this same viewpoint. And feel like that’s why we’re here. Was just thinking yesterday how overwhelmed I felt everytime I would scroll through my fb timeline. I don’t feel that here and it’s nice.

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That's basically how I feel about it too. It's like I can take part in the platform without feeling like everything is crowding me. It's a huge breath of fresh air compared to the last 7 years of Facebook.

by Tommy Panzram; ; Report