(anti)-social media

January 13, 2019

Don’t feel bad for the wall, it had it coming.

Don’t feel bad for the wall, it had it coming.

Today I deactivated my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I woke up in the middle of the night and killed those digital Me’s…or put them to sleep…locked them in a room? Not sure of the metaphor. I’ve been thinking of doing this for weeks now and I don’t know if I would have had the willpower to go through with it if I wasn’t half asleep. Luckily the half of me that was asleep today was the part that resisted the choice.


Mostly because, as a true example while writing this, no less than 4 times have I, without thinking, switched over to Chrome and hit cmd-t (to open a new tab) then hit “f-a-return”. Chrome autofills once I get to the “a” and my muscle memory just knows that and hits return and I find myself on facebook. I don’t remember consciously thinking, “I want to go to facebook” before any of that happened. No bueno.

Despite the title of this post and VERY clever gif, I don’t actually think social media is an absolute evil, there’s some very obvious and wonderful benefits to its existence. But I believe it’s really easy to lose some things about ourselves by using it and not just the time that we’ll never get back. I don’t remember what my mind was like before social media.

I’m aware of at least some of what motivates me to use it — the positive view is that I just want to connect with others — and mostly that’s the basic, honest truth. I create things because I want to share and connect with others. It’s the main reason we all do it. And yes some of that is a need for validation, but recognition as a form of validation isn’t something I would necessarily call a corruption of the mind. We all want to be “seen”. It comes in degrees and when it’s the sole motivator of a person then it becomes a maladapted behavior because what they create isn’t coming from a source of truth, but an overwhelming desire to please, least not offend. However, as a partial motivator or background noise, it can be helpful in serving the drive of an individual in a healthy way. To want to connect with a truth that exists in me and also in you, to share something you see or feel so that others might understand you better, is a beautiful thing.

But that’s not the only thing I saw when I looked closely at what was happening in me.

I’ve spent a lot of time alone lately and have fought battles with myself while sitting and having a meal to not pick up my phone and go on Instagram. To instead try to be present and, when I’m successful, invariably wonderful things will happen: I’ll have an idea! I’ll then take a break from my food or my coffee to write it down. In the grand view, I much rather have that experience than the one that social media provides.

Next to the desire for connection and recognition, I found other emotions and motivations for using social media or at least what happens when I use social media, and that’s where things get gross. The going back to check how many likes something has. The good feelings I get when specific people liked my post and the bad feelings when they didn’t. The good feelings when the number hits some threshold and the bad feelings when it doesn’t.

How many likes does it take for YOU to feel whole??

I don’t like that I’ve allowed something that much power over me and this is an experiment to see how my mind changes while taking a break from social media. I will still have to do the work in my mind to fight the dependencies I’ve developed between my sense of personal value and the number of interactions a post has. Hahaha! It’s so gross. Or maybe they were already there and social media just brought them to new heights?

The final reason, and if I’m being honest, the biggest reason it’s happening now and not months ago, is that I’m still dealing with the fallout of a breakup and social media makes it so much worse. “Would you like to be notified of memories that are unavoidably linked to your ex? Because here they are!” “Sure, sure you definitely asked us to exclude her from these look-back posts, but you weren’t serious, were you?” “Here’s a good one! She’s not in this photo! Ah right, this is one of a dozen or so we plan to show you where you two filled the comments section with a charming, witty back and forth that ended with sappy, loving statements, but it’s not ABOUT that… so….we do good?” No, algorithm, you no do good. Doesn’t matter how much self-control I have week after week to not look at that profile, it only takes one time to see something I wasn’t ready to see and all my hard work of moving forward comes a-tumblin’ painfully down.

The upside to all this down, is something I didn’t anticipate happening so strongly in that the increase in solitude has been rocket fuel for creation. I’ve found my mind working in ways that I’d forgotten was possible. Growing up, I was a solitary kid. I played sports and socialized in those groups, but outside of practice and game days, I was in my room reading, writing, drawing and making music. All the way into the first couple years of college this was the way I spent most of my time. The things I created were mostly for my own enjoyment, most people that know me have no idea I played music or sang. I never shared it, partly because of fear of judgement, but also because I never needed someone to tell me they thought it was good. It was good enough for me. I want to do things differently going forward though. I’ll share what I make and try to get back to that place where I wasn’t so motivated by validation.

I’ll never stop wanting to create and connect, at least I hope not. It’s one of the few desires that, when it’s pure, truly makes the world a better place and life worth living — more so than it is without it. So I’m going to continue writing and practicing seeing through a camera and making music. I’ll still want to create things that connect with people and desire that people find something enjoyable or thought-provoking, but hopefully a couple things happen: 1. a deeper increase in solitude helps further clarify the world within and around me. 2. I can break the fever of validation as a primary driver and not allow fear of judgment to silence me. Once I’ve satisfied those pieces, I’ll reevaluate if a return to the world of likes and selfies is something I’m ready for.

I’ll share things here on my site where nary a heart or thumb icon or comment box can be found.

BTW, I finished this post with 2 more attempts to load facebook. This time I was looking for the icon in the bookmarks bar that I deleted this morning. Old habits, yadda yadda…

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© 2021 Jesse Gortarez