I lived the majority of my life without social media, so it is obviously not something I need. However the world has changed. The way we interact and build community and relationships has been drastically altered in the last five years or so. Social media keeps us in constant superficial contact with our “friends”. We get little glimpses of peoples’ lives, people we might never see in person. I have people on my “friends” list that I have not spoken to in person for 15 years, people who I have never met in real life, and people who live in the same city as me who I see maybe once a year. I have “friends” who I have met once at a party or event, who I would not recognize if they walked past me on the street.
What is the value of having “friends” who you don’t actually know or care much about? What is the cost?
I guess I should tell you how this is going instead of waxing on about the downfall of human interaction and society.
Thursday, the first day, was the hardest. After every chore or task, I would sit down at the computer and stare at the screen. Sometimes for several minutes. I felt annoyed most of the day.
Friday I kept doing the staring thing, but the annoyance was mostly not there. I was just coming back to my office over and over again out of habit. On Friday night I went out to dinner with a few friends and then went to a concert. It was not until I got home that I realized how low my anxiety was while I was out. I have always been an introvert, but over the last few years the social anxiety has gotten very bad. Sometimes I can’t go to something that I wanted to because the anxiety is so strong. I sometimes take medication for it. On Friday I did not take anything or drink at all, and I was perfectly at ease. That might just be a coincidence. But it might be worth exploring. Has all-day exposure to social media been the cause of my increased social anxiety? Is my brain counting Facebook like being in a crowded room? Without it will I be more social in real time?
Saturday and Sunday were easy. I mostly spent them hanging around the house with my partner. We did a lot of gardening, watched some TV, cooked, read, and napped. It was fun and relaxing.
Today I am home alone again and not logging onto any social media is hard. I don’t feel lonely exactly, but more disconnected and a little bored. The friends I actively interact with are at the same level as normal. I talk to Lori in New Orleans almost every day, Jeff in Atlanta and Issa in Tennessee a few times a week. But my social media friends have almost entirely disappeared from my life. No one has tried to contact me. My feelings are not hurt or anything, but I am more aware of my relative worth in most people lives. I am one of a hundred people who post statues updates at them every day. My absence is likely going entirely unnoticed, because my daily effect on their lives was so minor. Whereas I am no longer being interacted with by the 100+ people who posted status messages at me. I have lost several hours of quasi-social interaction; each of them has lost no more than a few minutes from their total.
So far, not having “friends” has made me aware that I would like to have more actual friends, but I have not figured out how to go about this yet. I have nine more days without social media in which to think about it.