For almost half of my life, I’ve been active on social media. I remember getting a MySpace at age 15 and carefully taking my profile picture to show off how deep and mature I was. In case you’re wondering, I set a digital camera self-timer and sat across the room with my bangs across my face and the classic look of being misunderstood. Naturally I was wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt.
Considering it was my first journey into social media, I’m not sure how I knew that was the norm. It was before MySpace the Movie exposed the concept of using angles to make yourself look better and I certainly wasn’t a scene kid committed to that lifestyle.
In a time where your parents frequently received CDs in the mail with trials of America Online, I was just beginning my web experience. My dad had Internet before most people, meaning I was on AOL Messenger before it became the sensation of AOL Instant Messenger. ChellyBelly911, hit me up.
What did we do in the early days before social media? It’s hard to remember, honestly. For awhile I played Bingo online and did the A/S/L game with strangers. Thankfully, things weren’t as dangerous back then. GorgeousGeekyGuys.com just *understood* my obsession with the cast of Lord of the Rings and I printed pictures of all my favorite hotties.
Yes, that’s what we did. Printed pictures of hot guys to hang on our walls. What a time.
The social side of the Internet continued to blossom with sites like Xanga and LiveJournal (I had both), but it hit its stride with MySpace. I spent so much dial-up time blocking phone calls so I could pick the perfect background and song for my page. Cultivating your Top 8 was crucial and being able to add more was revolutionary.
At age 17 I made my Facebook account. My sister was in college and guaranteed me it was the site all the cool college kids preferred. Twitter came at 19 with Instagram following shortly after. I guess YouTube happened somewhere too along with a million other sites that tried but couldn’t compete with the big guns (looking at you, Google+). And yeah I know there are more popular sites like Tumblr and Pinterest but I’ve got to get the point of this post soon.
Now as an almost-28-year-old, it’s interesting to look at the evolution of social media use. For some kids, Facebook has always been around. They can get tagged in baby pictures and have their own account. They missed the years where it was cool to poke people and the question wasn’t ‘what’s on your mind?’
It began as a simple way to stay connected and share funny images. Writing on Walls to say you missed someone’s face was the norm. Is it even still called a wall? I wrote that instinctively. No, now it’s a Timeline. I lived through the crises of our generation when the layouts would change and everyone would like pages that served as petitions to bring the old way back. Surprisingly, this never worked.
You posted a status to actually update someone. When I look back and see everything I shared, it’s frankly embarrassing. I would update like five times a day and most of the time no one even liked my statuses. This is when my life with social media starts to take a turn.
At some point, those likes began to mean something to me. Maybe it was learning more about the platforms through my public relations major that made me want to perform better online, but I think it was a cultural shift.
Here social media went from a simple way of staying connected to being unique and heard. Slowly, we began to cultivate our images online. Not everyone, mind you. Some people probably share things today and don’t care about likes. Even writing that I think, then what’s the point of sharing?
And that is my problem.
My family is very smart and funny and fortunately I have received a fraction of both these features. As a result, social media became a good outlet for me. It took time, but eventually I found a way to combine my talents with a way of entertaining people online.
Listen, I don’t write that because I think I’m so amazing and everyone loves me. Then again, Jimmy Fallon did say my name several times on television because I am so creative and funny so you be the judge.
It really started with Twitter. I barely passed 500 followers and didn’t get a lot of retweets, but got told just enough I was funny that I kept tweeting. I began to share less on Facebook and focus my updates on things I could make funny. When Instagram launched the Stories feature, it was over for me.
By this time I was deeply invested, committed and reliant upon social media. It felt like as long as people liked me there, I was good enough. I wanted to keep pleasing people. When a post didn’t perform well, it would make me second guess everything about myself.
If I’m being honest, it felt like my social media persona was a version of myself I could control. My entire life I’ve known that I’m kind of a divisive person. I’m overall likable (she said modestly), but I’m also a lot. I’m intense and not really great at keeping my opinions to myself. In real life, you never know what I’m going to say. I never know what I’m going to say. With social media, I could select the best parts of me and give them to the world. It made me feel liked and good.
Naturally, it also made me feel more insecure.
When you present a controlled version of yourself, you can’t help but worry about all the untamed areas someone might encounter. The way friendship works in this online world only made it worse.
Fasting social media isn’t a new concept for me, but this year it held more weight. As my relationship with Jesus continued to grow, I made decisions focused around following wholeheartedly and several times I knew this meant distance from online communities. It was then I realized so much of my online communities are my real communities.
People told me they missed seeing me online. Others said I seemed like I was disconnected. This online version of me had become a substitute for real relationships. Sure, I saw my friends IRL, but so much more of our communicating was done online. People didn’t miss hanging out with me, they missed seeing what I shared online. I was disconnected because I wasn’t engaging online.
To be clear, I’m not saying this as a slight to my friends. In fact, their words were an eye opener for my relationship with social media. What their words told me was without social media, I didn’t really know how to stay connected.
Even worse, my actions have led social media to be a part of my identity.
Around Easter of this year, I decided to take an extended hiatus. This is where I learned about my problems with community, but I also learned something incredibly valuable. Social media does not have to be a part of my life. Even of people expect it or say it’s sad that I’m going, it doesn’t mean I can’t leave it behind. It doesn’t define me.
Eventually, I came back to it slowly, but as the weeks rolled by, I found myself becoming more and more dependent again. I unfollowed a lot of accounts that brought nothing to my life, but spent more time watching Instagram Stories as a distraction. I’ll scroll Facebook for hours, even if most of my time is just spent unfollowing video and meme accounts that I don’t want to see.
When I was away from social media, I read a lot. Now, I can’t keep my attention long enough and always find myself picking up my phone to distract myself. All I want is to be distracted, to see if my photo received more likes, to see if I’ve received any messages. I’m so tired of it.
I just need to limit myself, you say, and I get the suggestion. For many people who can casually browse and don’t live for the applause, it’s great advice. In my case, it doesn’t matter. I start with a spade and say I’m only going to move the dirt a little and soon enough I’ve dug my own grave where my phone has again become my most important relationship.
Since I turned 25, I’ve themed every year of my life, and 28 will be no different (in a sense). Following the transformation I’ve experienced over the last year, this year is Dedicate 28. It’s about not living for myself, but always pursuing Someone Higher. I quickly realized I needed to use this year to leave social media altogether.*
*so altogether means personally because I’m in digital marketing so obviously I have to use it for my job
In the days leading up to it, it feels like more people have reached out to me saying I’m funny and they love my stories and I’m just like GET BEHIND THEE SATAN! Jk, but really. I keep going back and forth wondering if this is the right choice and then I realize how tightly I’m holding onto something that I only really use to glorify myself. Sure, I share about God, but I know those likes aren’t for Him. I only want them for me.
Then I think about this site and the platform I’d like to have. It seems foolish to abandon social media if you want to grow something in 2018. First, I have social accounts for my blog and never use them. Second, if God wants this to go somewhere, He doesn’t need a Facebook account.
So I’m doing it. September 10, 2018, will be my last day until September 11, 2019. Usually I just quietly take a break, but I wanted to give people a warning in case they try to reach me. If you want to be my friend and continue our relationship, we have to do it the old fashioned way, meaning we’ll text each other about hanging out but never actually have time to do it. If you tag me in things, I won’t see it. If you send me a message on social media, I won’t see it.
You can text me screenshots, though. I do love some of the funny things that can be found online.
With this, though, I’m also challenging myself to be a better friend. Instead of relying on seeing your updates, I want to actually engage with you.
This is going to be a challenging year and prayers are obviously appreciated. I know God is going to use this time to help me refocus and continuing pursuing Him more without the distractions of glorifying myself.
See you next year, friends.
Except not if you read my blog. I’m going to keep doing this.