Doing a Social Media Cleanse (Sort Of)
I'm currently taking a seminar class for my Women's Studies major, and my professor, who is also one of the coolest people I've ever met, recently gave us a challenge. She literally told us that if we agreed to cut out all social media for the rest of the semester, we would get a couple extra credit points. And she had a specific reason for this. In both of my classes with her we've been talking a lot about a little thing called "discourse theory," which basically says that the things we know, the knowledge we gather int his world are alway being reinforced by larger powers (i.e. corporations, institutions, governments and just our overall culture). These are the things like extremist religious groups spreading propaganda about LGBTQ people, or anti-choice people spreading myths about abortion. The list could go on. And this kind of thing is nothing new -- propaganda has been a key tool of oppression in many eras of our time in this country (and the world).
The thing is, today I think we all are under the impression that we have more power in our hands -- and that power is in the form of a small rectangle in our hands with the world at our fingertips. We feel empowered and happy, but my professor challenged us to really question how much power we really have? How much are we actually participating in the national discourse rather than just floating through it? How much are we really paying attention to the powers that are playing us like puppets? How much are we letting them distract us?
My takeaway from this was that there is a difference between being empowered by social media and being distracted by it. And this has always been my takeaway about it, since I'm a person who thrives to have balance in my life in many ways. So I know the perils of social media, and how the mass-sharing of information, especially when it's inaccurate, over-inflated, just downright wrong, can serve as a distraction to how we're participating in the national discourse of our culture. Our culture which is slowly unwinding and we're seeing the various layers of racism, sexism, political corruption, etc. I've become hyper aware of this, because of my class and just from reflecting on my own presence on social media.
So I guess...discourse theory is one of the reasons I want to go on a social media break? Well, sort of.
Another part of it, which honestly ties in with the oppression many people feel in this society, is the fact of mental health. The last time I went on a social media break, it was partly because of that. But last time I took a break I went all out and deleted everything, since it was the summer and I figured I should just enjoy the last week of vacation without digital distractions. It was about living in the moment more so, and not really self care. This time, it's definitely about taking care of my mental state. The recent discourse online surrounding the Parkland shooting has been honestly...exhausting, especially on Facebook and Twitter. So what I've done is just quietly deleted Twitter first, and then Facebook. And the way I did it was just in a passing way -- i think it was between classes or work when I was clearly busy with something else -- and honestly, I've forgotten about it.
The idea of social media cleanses have always felt like a rock and a hard place for me. I want to be able to express my work, my creativity, my "creative brand" so to speak, that goes along with my blog and online portfolio. Since high school, I have found solace and self-esteem in social media, and I'm not ashamed of that (and no one should be). But I know, my brain knows and my anxiety knows when I'm officially overwhelmed. And it's different anxieties for different platforms. For Twitter, it's hard because I've read and learned so many things from amazing writers/journalists on there about everything that's happening in the world. And okay, the memes are great too., So there's a lot of good that comes out of it, but the problem I've been having with Twitter is that it's just so many posts, so much information at once, it just becomes a lot. It's like I'm not even taking it in.
Facebook is a bit easier to let go, because I barely go on it as it is, unless it's to RSVP to events, talk to friends or do stuff in Facebook groups for work/school. I'm trying to honestly stay off the Facebook feed, and I think everyone should try to, at least until the people running it have it under control. Like I said above, there is so much misinformation going around, it's exhausting, and I feel like even by looking at it, I'm contributing to this weird cycle that is making us all...stupid? Anyway, thankfully I've filtered out most of my friend list so most of the people post interesting and accurate things. But what is even more annoying is the constant arguing, constant "starting of arguments." That's why I've been steering away from either making posts, rather just reposting an article I like and just posting a quote with it. Even that doesn't stop from arguments to explode sometimes. And I'm tired of it. My motto became a long time ago that if there's a really long Facebook rant I want to go on, I should usually just try and write an article about it -- that way I know I'm accurate and I feel like I have a better formed opinion about it. So yeah, Im cutting Facebook off too, at least on my phone. I know I'll still need to hop on there once in a while because of work and planning-related things, but I'm just going to try and get out of a habit of scrolling. I do still want to get the news, so I'll be keeping my New York Times app and my Apple News app to stay up to date with everything.
I guess Instagram would be the main thing I'll be keeping around, but at the same time I am going to try and be more mindfull about my use of it. My biggest issue with it has been my tendency to compare and contrast myself to others, based on aesthetic, creativity, originality. It's hard when we're all in this same digital space and trying to find our identity. But I realize now that focusing on that is just making it worse.
Ultimately, I guess my main goals are beyond just taking a social media cleanse. I just have a couple challenges/reminders to myself: a) to be more aware of my usage and how it's affection discourse/our culture and how to be more vigilant on social media and not distracted negatively, b.) is to just, read more. Read more paper things, whether it's the articles assigned for classes or the 4-5 books I haven't started. And to encourage others and myself to always read passed the headline, online. And last c.) of course, is to just take care of myself. To stop worrying so much and just get back to basics; expressing who I want to be, not how I want to be seen. The whole reason I've gravitated to social media in the first place is because I love to share. I love to discuss. I love to express and create original things. Not because I want to impress anyone or keep up a certain audience -- to a certain point i know that's inevitable, because I'm making my living as a writer and I need people to see what I'm doing. But i'm making sure it's meaningful, it's real and it's unapologetically me. Even if it means taking a break, not having consistent stories or posts because of genuine lack of inspiration, that doesn't matter. Take breaks when you want to take breaks, and you don't always have to let everyone know either (I say this as I'm announcing my social media cleanse, HA).
I'm just trying to let myself take breaks -- I don't know how long this "cleanse" will take, because i don't really want to give myself a start or a finish point. I know I'll use it sometimes, and I don't know how long I'll be able to stay away for a whole day/week. All I know is that the small breaks that I have taken, they've let me feel more like myself. For example, last saturday, my phone died while I was out with my friend to a dance party at a bar. At first I was anxious because I couldn't text/snapchat/share the party, but I soon forgot about it. I just danced with some awesome people, to some awesome music and just let it all go. Then I went to bed, and felt like I lived a little more that night.
My point isn't to cut it all out, or to keep doing it. My point is just to be mind-full, and to give yourself breaks from the mass information influx we are living in. The world will still be there if you unplug for a bit. I promise, it will.