Hop in your DeLorean, your TARDIS, or whichever time travel
device you prefer. I’m taking you back
(I'll admit, I choose the DeLorean.)
And we’re there! I’m seventeen years old. I’ve just seen “American Idiot” the musical for the first time, and I’ve decided there are very few things more important in life than staying up to date with this show. So, I join Twitter. It’s just starting to be a little more popular than Facebook, but not so popular that I have to worry about people from my school finding me there. I make some fellow Green Day fan/friends who happen to live in the area, and we’re inseparable for about three years. I love social media. I use it to share my inside jokes and favorite quotes from TV, books, and music. It makes me feel like my geeky existence is valid.
I’m sure you’ve had enough of this picture. Let’s do the time warp again.
Did you survive the trip? Good! Look around you. The year is now 2015. I’ve hit it big with a few nerdy BuzzFeed articles. Celebrities are reading my work and sharing it on their pages. Sometimes, they even reach out to me to tell me that they really liked the article, and even though I’m pretty sure not much of it has to do with the quality of my words, at least I’m getting attention. I’m getting so much online attention that I don’t know what to do with myself. What I do know is that now that people in the entertainment business are reading my work, I don’t want to be associated with all those years I spent live-tweeting the latest episode of “Castle” (and OK, some reruns were in the mix). So, I open up a new Twitter account for my articles and jokes. It works. Before long, I have a mild celebrity following, and my articles reach over a million views. I go viral without all the coughing and sneezing. It’s like I’m the entertainment journalist version of Justin Bieber. Suddenly, my dream of writing for “Saturday Night Live” seems closer than it ever has.
And then, one day, toward the end of July… I disappear. I don’t return. I stop writing online, and my social media profiles vanish. I don’t even tell my personal friends where I went, and it takes a year for them to reach out again. It is now 2017, and I still haven’t returned to social media. My Odyssey articles are linked to a relatively anonymous Twitter, and this profile is my only true online presence. I don’t plan to go back to social media. Let me tell you why.
First, I’d like to make a disclaimer: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using social media. It has the capacity to be something totally awesome. If you live far away from your family and friends, social media is there to make it seem like you’re always right in the next room. For the most part, I support it. I just don’t support it for myself—my own path to contentment. To explain why, I’ll answer three of my frequently asked questions about my decision to go, essentially, off the grid.
(For a little while there, I was pretty much the same as Ron Swanson.)
1. "Do You Think You're Too Good for Social Media?"
Oh, no. Have we met? I don’t think I’m too good for anything except for the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Everyone’s too good for that. It’s terrible—much more chocolate cake than cheesecake, so why even bother calling it cheesecake? It should be called chocolate cake with a cheesecake filling. But I’m getting away from my point. Of course I don’t think I’m too good for social media. I really don’t think that’s a thing. It’s just that it works for some people and makes them happy, and for others, it makes them look in the mirror and hate themselves more and more everyday. Judging by the theme of this article, guess which type I am?
Visiting social media sites everyday, multiple times a day, really messed with my sense of self-worth and reality. I would see my friends and associates take pictures of wonderful days with loved ones, enjoying concerts I was too poor to attend and eating food that I didn’t even know how to make. When I saw how well all of my friends were doing, it made me think that I was a garbage person, and everyone in the world had it together except for me. After some soul searching and a lot of therapy, I came to the conclusion that my thoughts probably weren’t true, and I should pull the plug on social media, at least for a little bit. It’s hard to watch everyone post their best lives every second of the day. It was hard to think that when I posted my best life, I might be making a person feel like I felt. Not posting anything at all seemed like the right thing to do to make my little corner of the world a bit cleaner.
(But if I were going to be a garbage person, I would want to be one as cute as this.)
2. "What Bothered You the Most about Social Media?"
I think I already covered that in the above question. We’re too involved with one-upping each other, and I’m not interested in that constant competition. I’ll compete for other things, like a hot-dog-eating contest or a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” trivia game. But competing to see whose life is sunnier? I’m not interested in that anymore.
One thing that still bothers me about social media even though I’m not part of it? The taking pictures of food. I don’t get it. I don’t think anyone should do it. In the amount of time it takes you to get the right angle and choose the right filter for your photo, your food is undoubtedly going cold. Do you know how many people in the United States would be thankful to have what you’re thankful to photograph? Nike says, “Just Do It,” but Blue says, “Just Eat It.”
(I don't get it! I do not get it!)
3. "Do You Not Have a Phone?"
In 2017, I’m surprised I still actually field this question from time to time. I do have a phone, actually. It’s not even a flip phone. It’s a pretty nice smart phone with all the capacity for social media. Years ago, I bought the phone for that reason, but now, I just use it to call and text people. I like communication. I just like it to be a little more private than it used to be.
The title of this piece says that I’m anti-social media, and I guess when you think about it… I’m not. After so many years of being for it, it’s hard to say it’s useless. It brought a lot of cool things to my otherwise humdrum existence. Sometimes, I think it might not be so bad to go back, and I think about it for a little while. Then I remember how hard it was to keep up with it, so I hold off on reinstating that old Twitter password. Maybe one day, I’ll be strong enough to make my return. For now, the memory on my phone thanks me for keeping it clean.