Without a warning or a goodbye, I up and left social media for two and a half months. Last night I hopped back on for the first time.
From January, when I had my baby, up until June, life had been moving fast. The days were rushing through a broken dam. Every week felt like a couple of days and every month felt like a week. I won’t check the math, but you get it. Social media was doing what it does to our days, stuffing loads of information down the proverbial drain, clogging it intermittently, the disposal grinding in fits of futility. Information overload.
I’d been thinking about leaving social media constantly. But it’s hard to take the plunge. It promises you will miss everything. The pregnancies. The ladies' church events. The engagements, the moves, the babies, the jobs. The thought of disconnecting feels impossible. And then you do. And life sails on smoother than ever. Someone says, “did you hear So-And-So is pregnant?” And you might say, “yeah!” because you talked to them in person. Otherwise, you might say, “Oh my gosh, no!” and gush with that person about how excited you are for them. The information comes in consumable amounts – amounts that you can retain, because there is little enough of it, that you remember who said what and when. I started feeling like a person again.
So, when I logged back on last night and scrolled for a while, it felt like slamming a Five Guy’s burger and fries after two months of garden greens. Bleh. Heavy. I deleted the apps again and didn’t feel burdened to get back on.
Lore Wilbert has been writing recently about the pull writers feel to have an online presence. (I know this because when I left social media, I started reading her Substack. I curated a list of writers whose words I still wanted to read, social media or no social media.) In one of her latest posts, she links to another article written about a certain plagiarism debacle. Around and above and beside plagiarism, the author writes of the kind of problems that undergird these massive ones. She writes,
“Plagiarism is a shortcut, but there are many kinds of shortcuts. This story happens to be a very public and clear-cut example of how confusing the creative work and the business can completely invert your priorities, but I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who want a ton of advice about publishing even before they’ve finished a single draft of a novel, or even started one. They want to be published more than they want to write, or sit with what they write. Or revise, or research, or return to the page. Or read.”
This has been much of my experience, online. I love writing, but that pull to be published easily takes precedence over the curation of meaningful words. The pull to have a name, which apparently few people have, or we wouldn’t be clawing after it. I am drowned in this feeling when I am on social media. I read other writers’ poems and prose – good stuff, definitely – and feel like the post I haven’t written yet, or even thought about writing yet, is already late. Good writing cannot take place in such conditions. Not faithful writing. At least not for me. And then, after a post is written, I hunger after likes and shares and comments because this is the stuff publishers eat up (and my ego, too).
Today I turned twenty-nine. I feel old, but I know I am not. Even with only these-many years, time has started to feel invaluable. Seasons transient. The idea that I will be a “young” author is passed. And this may be an opportunity (and not just the maudlin ruminations of an almost-thirty-year-old). Now, and not tomorrow or next month or in a few years, is the time to mean something when I write, and to do it quietly, among the rushes.
When I logged back onto social media, I felt no compulsion to click into almost any of the billion notifications that were waiting for me. Most of them were meaningless. And, conversely, it was humbling to know that nothing was begging me to come back. Social media does not need me, and I’m not so sure that I need it, even when it comes to the publishing game. (Who knows? I don’t know. But people are saying we need another way, and I am with them.)
So, am I leaving or staying? I’m not totally sure. But I don’t want social media, and that feels like a very good start for today. I like being here, in this blogosphere, in this quiet space. I read a writer’s bio, who is not on social media, a while back, and it said, “she sometimes writes in secret.” And I like that. Very, very much.