I think I’m done with social media.
Okay, not all of it. But most of it.
“Why?” is what you’re asking. “You’re so active on it! Look at you with all the Facebooking, the Twittering, the Instagramming, the Tumbling and such!”
You’re right. And it’s slowly killing me. No joke.
WHEN YOU’RE THE PROBLEM YOU GOT A BIG PROBLEM
When my first reaction to dropping all social media was fear and concern that I couldn’t do it then I should’ve known I had a problem. As I’ve had more and more time to hear their experience and how they felt after cutting this particular cord I knew it was something I had to do.
Of course in grand Terhune style, I made a big frigging pronouncement that on August 1st, 2019 I would be deactivating or mothballing my Facebook and Twitter accounts for one month. I said I’d keep my Instagram and Tumblr active, though I might’ve ditched Tumblr, too, at the end of the month.
But it didn’t work out quite like that.
“Why?” you may ask? (As if anyone’s still reading).
Well, I’ll tell you.
Two friends of mine cut the cords from social media this summer.
They immediately reported feeling great but not after some initial shock and withdrawal (which apparently was significant). My aforementioned terrified reaction to this turned into admiration then concern and jealousy. They could easily disengage, it seemed, while I found the idea as frightening as severing a limb.
When I began to envy those who can seemingly manage if not thrive from their social media presence is when I realized I was really in it deep.
A HISTORY LESSON
Fourteen years ago our family moved to Maine, uprooting from an established network of friends and family. My wife and I threw ourselves into a new business (a yoga studio) and our daughter was in school. We developed friendships and built a loving, vibrant community around our yoga studio. Our sense of professionalism meant maintaining boundaries though we maintained some social contact in meatspace (what the rest of the world calls in real life or IRL in technospeak). It was enough and made up for what we lost when we moved to a new state.
During this time, from 2005 to 2014, social media grew from a few blogs and LiveJournal into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others. Many of my social media accounts were created in 2008 after I attended the Viable Paradise workshop. There I connected with fellow writers and future friends from all over the world.
In the beginning, these platforms allowed me to keep in touch while friending new people and reconnecting with friends from my hometown, college and other areas of my life. It was fun to grow my friends lists in all those apps. There I got to know the new friends and reconnect with the old ones. At one time I could even distinguish between someone I knew from real life, the internet, high school, my yoga life, my music life and my writing life.
Then as they often do, things got… weird.
Actually I became severely depressed and then I got weird.
Okay, fine. I got weird-er. Ya happy now?
“MY COMPLICATIONS HAD COMPLICATIONS.”
2013-2014 is when social media became problematic for me. Though in some ways it was a lifeline, where I kept in touch with people when I felt isolated. But more often I grew to feel as if I wasn’t validated unless I posted something on social media.
Or I wondered if I was valued or even alive if I posted something and got a “like.”
It became the place where I lived the most and this wasn’t good for me.
In that time social media grew into something like the facehugger from the movie “Alien.” If you don’t know what that is (what the hell is wrong with you?!) then here’s a litte background for you:
The facehugger is a parasitoid; its only purpose being to make contact with the host's mouth for the implantation process. The Facehugger secures its eight finger-like appendages tightly around the head of its victim and wraps its tail tightly around the host's neck, eliciting a gasping response and allowing the insertion of an ovipositor into the host's esophagus. An embryonic form of the Xenomorph is then implanted directly into the stomach of the host. During the implantation process the host is fed a constant supply of oxygen via two lung like organs.
Here’s a fun video (WARNING IT CONTAINS SCARY SHIT):
Get the picture?
Social media - mostly Facebook and Twitter to be honest - became a thing attached to me, breathing for me while implanting something foreign into me. But instead of originating as something invasive I basically invited it in, made it some tea, shaved while it drank the tea then allowed it to hop on my face and ride me like a fucking tired, old pony at the carnival.
As my friend good friend and bold German brother Marko Kloos wrote, it’s all too easy to open up one of these sites and get enthralled in the rage of the day. I don’t know who manages their social media engagement and doesn’t feel this or how they do it. But I realized that I was experiencing something dubbed extreme outrage fatigue. And it made the depths of my depression in the last five years considerably worse than it had to be. Because it’s one thing to be engaged and aware of what’s going on and yet another thing entirely to go from zero to furious in a second.
I had enough stress and cortisol cocktails back when we owned our business. Real life then dealt me an even greater dollop of it in the last five. I’m better now with the help of therapy, medication, and a new CPAP machine. And as I get better, I realized giving my body a heaping dose of cortisol every time I open Facebook and see something that jolts my nerves and off I go into a tailspin.
And I’m so, so very done feeling this way. I’m fairly sure it’s killing me slowly.
DER PLAN? DIRT PLANT!
Unlike the facehugger from Alien, pulling the plug on social media hasn’t strangled me or causes acidic blood to scar me or eat a hole in three or four decks of a spaceship.
But the withdrawal was a little intense that first day. I’m not gonna lie.
Because I’m a little addicted to social media.
Which, if you’re unfamiliar with recovery schpiel, means I’m very addicted.
Social media - with its likes, hearts, emojis, RT’s and everything else - is perfect for our little lizard brains. They only want to feel fed, fucked, free and fat - which really means feeling loved, wanted and secure. When we get a little like or emoji on a post it releases endorphins into our brains and we crave more. So much so that I often wish I’d never gotten involved with it and kept my daughter off social media for as long as possible.
It’s not social media’s fault per se, it’s just that I am wired in such a way that it makes addicts of us (my wife can take it or leave it which is both annoying and enviable).
Now don’t get me wrong: there’s a ton of things I love about social media. I love that it’s connected me with people all over the world, made new friends and reconnected me to old ones. I love that it’s truly helped people in various causes across the globe from the Arab Spring uprising, the RESIST marches in the US and the Hong Kong protests. It can be a tool for positive change in the world but it’s not being used as such because those who run Facebook and Twitter see more profit in running it another way.
Don’t believe me? Then go to Netflix and watch The Big Hack documentary. Then tell me how you don’t care about what Facebook does with your information. Because I guaranteed they know how you think and decide about your purchases and beliefs almost as well as or better than you.
SOCIETY’S A DRAG SO WHY NOT JUST DROP OUT?
“Well, why are you staying on Instagram and Tumblr?” you may ask. “They’re just as bad!”
Okay. I’ll tell you why. It’s simple.
Because they bring me joy.
My Tumblr dash is mostly science fiction themed posts and a few political ones. I go there for concept art, the work of favorite artists, funny gifs and even music (I certainly don’t go there for adult content since they killed that community off the day before my 50th birthday. Great gift, jackasses!). It’s a nice place to unwind as I usually check it out at the end of the day before I go to bed.
My Instagram feed is full of pictures and videos of synthesizers, cute animals, cartoons, comics, fail videos, concept art and almost no politics. I feel better when I go on it, especially when I see pictures of dogs and cats. And Sparky has a pretty dedicated following which I must curate for his majesty.
Now if I’m being honest with myself I’m still checking the likes for video clips I post of my songs or artwork. That little approval drug, that little pip of endorphins is something I have to deal with.
And if I’m being even more honest with myself I can safely say social media has done very little to help me sell my books, music or comics. Most of that I’ve done by hand through word of mouth.
DELETE AND REPEAT UNTIL YOU FEEL THE BEAT
“Okay, so big deal,” you say. “You’re not dropping out but you’re cutting back. What’s it gonna look like from here on out?” you may ask (as if anyone is still reading this).
For starters my online presence has shrunk noticeably. Initially I planned to deactivate my Facebook account early in August and do the same with Twitter. I started this by deleting the apps from my phone on a Monday.
Then something extraordinary happened.
First the anxiety whacked me over the back of the head and took me for a ride in the back of a smelly old beater. Like for most of the day I was grabbing my phone, going to the apps and experiencing a jolt at not seeing them there. It was like I kept reaching for a door that had been there or a window only to find it replaced with a giant brick wall or gaping empty space. This went along for a good 5-6 hours.
Then the anxiety went away.
The next day was infinitely easier. Without reaching for my phone the way Charles Bukowski reached for a cigarette or glass of whisky first thing in the morning, my day started off much more relaxed. Combined with the benefits of sleeping with a CPAP machine and POW! I was up earlier and easier in the morning as I went off to walk the dog then head into work. In the weeks since I curtailed my social media usage I feel so much better. More relaxed, less anxious and not nearly as out of touch as I thought I might. I check the news feed for a few minutes and listen to the radio but that’s it. Not nearly as much outrage first thing in the morning.
Despite not deleting my Facebook or Twitter accounts completely I haven’t felt much temptation to reinstall them. In fact most days, instead of checking in on both at least a dozen times an hour, I usually check in on Facebook at work late in the morning then once at night at home in my office.
It shocks me how, after so little time away from it there’s so little there that I wonder how it became such a huge part of my life. The annoyance hits me like a day old haddock in the face the moment I open Facebook and after seeing if I need to reply to anything immediately I just close it and move on.
I have not, obviously, deactivated or deleted either of the monsters for a couple reasons. It’s nice to check in on people individually because the feed is bullshit due to algorithms that show you want Facebook or Twitter wants you to see (I’ve largely abandoned my artist pages because the effort involved in getting them to produce any results is herculean and yields nothing). My Instagram posts to Facebook and other social media so I didn’t need to check it as often. In fact I can’t usually stay on it for more than 5 minutes before getting bored.
YOU NEED US. DON’T YOU? PRETTY PLEASE?
“So how are we going to stay in touch?” you may ask. “What about the people who need to get in touch with you?” (as if anyone is still reading this in the present day).
Honestly? If you want me you know where to find me. If you have my digits then call or text a brother. You can always email me, too.
I use Facebook Messenger regularly, despite knowing every word and image I put there is used to sell beer and cheap shit. My intention is to focus more on my personal site and blog at www.charlesrterhune.com and www.changterhune.com. There I’ll be posting regularly in an effort to hone and maintain my internet presence as much as I can (for we are all still at the mercy of the behemoth that is Google). It’s also a case of having the time to post as I’m working on several project at a time. My website will post to social media as long as those sites are active.
Honestly, if I feel this good weeks after cutting the cord I’m sure it will feel a-frigging-mazing in a couple months or even a year’s time!
So I’ll see you around these parts I hope.
Or maybe even IRL here in meatspace!