I haven’t posted anything on any of my personal social media accounts in about 6 months.
I’m not forcing myself to do it as part of some social media detox or cleanse — I just genuinely haven’t felt the need or impulse to post or share anything.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against social media itself; I recognize and acknowledge the benefits it has to offer. I think it’s a great way to keep up with geographically distant family and friends in a highly globalized world, find out about events happening both locally and half-way across the world, get to know people you would’ve otherwise never met, join movements, discover new things that you might not have come across otherwise, I can go on. But that being said, I’m still very wary of the relationship I’ve developed with social media for the reasons I’ll mention below.
But before we get into that, I want to put a disclaimer here. I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone else, because, for all I know, this uneasy relationship might be something that only I’m experiencing. And so I’ll try my best to not project my thoughts on every member of society and only speak from my own anecdotal experiences.
I do wish this post was some sort of reflection on all of the internal struggles and conflicts I’ve had and the thoughts and ideas I’ve considered and that I was going to shed some light and present you with some kind of divine solution as to how I perfectly balance and manage my relationship with social media now.
Hate to break it to you but that’s definitely not what this post is about. Far from it actually! This post is a dive into my current and on-going thought processes and the questions I still have regarding my personal usage of and feelings towards social media.
Checking notifications and likes, tapping through stories, constantly refreshing and scrolling down newsfeeds and Discover pages, tagging my friends in that one meme that had me “omg LOLOL literally dying lmao”. Those are seconds, minutes, and hours taken from my day and directed towards something relatively unimportant.
Now, I’m not really big on constant productivity and hyper-efficiency and being busy just for the sake of being busy. (Though I know people who are, and, honestly, more power to ya!) But I’m also not big on finding out I’ve spent an entire day just browsing through content on social media.
A few months ago I decided to see just how much time I was spending (read: wasting) on social media. And let me tell ya, it wasn’t pretty.
I downloaded an app called Moment (I’ve since switched to another app, RealizD, which I find to be less glitchy and less buggy) in an attempt to gather data on my daily screen-time. As you can see, my phone usage around this time was kinda outta control. I took this as a wake-up call and, consequently, took several actions in an effort to combat the temptations of social media.
I deleted the Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube apps since they were my biggest time wasters, blocked their websites off my phone, and decided I’d limit time spent on them from my laptop browser. This proved to be some sort of break-through. Before I knew it, I was accomplishing all of my goals that I set out to achieve four months ahead of schedule and I ultimately reached the peak of my creative abilities.
No, just kidding. I did not do any of those things. Actually, the first feeling I had was boredom. I now had so much more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I would constantly and mindlessly reach for my phone only to realize that I actually couldn’t do anything with it since all of my apps were gone and websites blocked.
Slowly, though, I found that I started to cook more regularly, go out for runs more frequently, practice playing on my oud in the evenings more than usual, read more often, and so on. This went on for a couple of months so I thought I could start reintroducing social media back into my life.
I wanted to do this for two reasons. First, I wanted to have a way to share my blog content with others. So I downloaded the Instagram app again and created an account (@FromToukh) since I recognize that this is the easiest and most practical way to reach people with similar interests. Second, I wanted to be able to discover new content that aligned with my own interests as well. However, I did notice that as soon as I reintroduced easy access to social media back into my life, time spent on my phone started to go climb back up again.
So this brings us to thing #1 which I’m grappling with: how do I optimize time spent on social media in such a way that I’m able to stay on it long enough to reap the benefits but somehow not succumb to all the tools and techniques social media companies use to ensure that I stay on their platform?
Online Life vs. Real Life
One thing that I’ve found to be quite jarring is the juxtaposition between some people’s online profiles and their real life. Someone can be dealing with an insanely traumatizing crisis one day but then post a really cute “hashtag goals” picture on Instagram the next day.
But that’s just one extreme end of the spectrum. In general, though, I feel like this can be quite a tricky domain to navigate. Am I supposed to only post about good things that happen in my life? Should my feed read like a meticulously curated and perfected image of myself. That seems manufactured at best and disingenuous at worst.
But, I also have no obligation to share every single tragedy, setback, failure, and heartache in my life either. I am entitled to keep personal matters private and shouldn’t have to share all my ups and downs online in the name of authenticity.
Maybe I should just accept that social media is nothing but a collection of highlight reels. Maybe social media is really just a place to share exciting moments and accomplishments we’re proud of and nothing more. Kind of like those photo albums you’d whip out to show your family and friends back in the day. I mean, I don’t have to let everyone know that I have bad days just be allowed to post a picture of my good days.
What I’ve been doing lately, however, is none of the above. I’ve simply retreated from posting on social media for no other reason than that I just don’t want to. It’s not for everyone but I’ve personally been liking it a lot. I now only share daily and important life updates with my family and several really close friends. And though I’ve been enjoying being off the radar, I definitely see drawbacks to it. For example, I recently moved to Northern California, and since I didn’t post about it, none of my friends in the Bay Area knew and so it’s required a lot more work on my part to let everyone know that I’m up here.
So this brings us to thing #2 that I’m struggling with: how do I use social media for its intended purposes (sharing life updates with people) without being disingenuous while also maintaining my privacy and not sharing every aspect of my life in the name of authenticity.
The Need to Be Quick & Concise
If you can’t tell from reading any of my blog posts, I can be a little verbose. I’m simply not the kind of person who can be concise and efficient with their thoughts and words. And there’s no reason why I should feel obligated to be that way. If I’m talking about something that I believe is nuanced or complicated, I’d like to make sure I explain it well enough, so it comes across to the reader as close to how I intended as possible. And, more often than not, that means some wordy, lengthy writing is involved.
But with social media, I don’t think there’s room for that. And I get that the platform was not created with those use cases in mind. It was not created as a space where one could write loquacious essays about their thoughts on various complex subjects. But the initial intentions of the platform have greatly shifted since its inception. People now do use social media to engage in discussions and debates and to share their thoughts on anything from politics to science to philosophy. And I just don’t think meaningful discussions can be had on a platform that requires you to capture all the subtleties of your thoughts and ideas in 280 characters or less.
In fact, one of the reasons I started this blog was that I felt I had too much to say and no one was going to go on Facebook with the intention of reading one of my many 2,000-word essays 😅. It felt like I’d just be shouting into a void. (My problem with the need for soundbites and quick, short retorts extends far beyond social media.) This then brings us to thing #3 that I have conflicting feelings about in regards to social media: how do we use a platform not intended for thoughtful, nuanced discussion for exactly that purpose? Can it even be done? And if so, how?
With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that technology is neither good nor bad, it’s how we use it that counts. And I think now more than ever, we need to take a step back and think critically and reflect on some of these questions which, quite frankly, do not have simple yes/no answers.
If you feel like anything I said really resonated with you, please leave a comment below sharing your thoughts. And if you think my perspective is too narrow and that I’m being ridiculously melodramatic about all of this, then I would tell you that, yes, I do tend to have a flair for the dramatic 💁🏽, but, I’d also ask you to please write down your thoughts as well! Ultimately, I want to get a meaningful discussion going about this topic.