Let me ask you all for some advice. This post doesn’t really have much to do with tech in and of itself, but the effects of tech on the world. I know there are like-minded folks here, so I want to pose the question here.
Do you think it’s possible to live social-media free, in a social-media saturated world?
My choice to deactivate my Facebook account was many years go. I had just married my beautiful wife and we were starting our life together. “I don’t need this anymore,” I said. I did the full deactivation, losing all my contacts built up over the course of my life.
I admit it was a foolish and hasty move. I’ve tried to search for many of these folks in the years since then, but to no avail - all my friends and many of my family were lost at that time. To my defense, I didn’t know just how huge social media would get.
I never really “got” social media. I never had a personal blog or web page. The closest thing I experienced to posting on social media was the “away message” on AIM. I would spend hours perfecting that one line of nonsense, then often rush to take it down. Is this too personal? What will so-and-so think? Will this hurt XYZ’s feelings? These social worries always made me keep a leash on my own thoughts, and that’s not an experience I look back on fondly. Even if I was to start a social media presence, I really don’t see myself enjoying it. It would just seem like too much work to put out the right perception of my life. And don’t even get me started on those clumsy, non-ergonomic devices called smartphones.
These new networks - Twitter, Insta, Snapchat, and TikTok - all seem like evolutions of the AIM away message. The thought of shouting out personal details of my life to my entire social world still makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like restraining my thoughts; I like my mind to roam freely. In contrast, anonymized communities like this one are easy for me to get involved in. I can express myself without worrying about how people are going to receive the message. Same with phone calls - it’s a free and real-time experience vs. a constrained and disconnected feeling. Maybe it’s just me and others don’t have this problem.
In any case, I feel like a relic from a forgotten time. Society seems to have permanently moved from the real to the virtual. Nearly all social interaction takes place on these networks now. Even my own wife and kids spend almost every waking minute on their smartphones. Every activity they do, every move they make, even every meal they eat, is inspired by something they saw on socials, and then becomes posted back into the same network as new content. There is no more small talk, no more spontaneous, light-hearted conversation, no more playing outside or having fun together. Just posts, memes, and shows, posts, memes, and shows, playing on loop.
It’s like everyone is now living in a world that I have no access to. I don’t have a choice but join them anymore. I have to join this brave new world, re-activate FB, and sign up for Twitter, Insta, Snap, TikTok, etc. to connect with real people in a fake way, or…? What is the other option?
What do you think? Is it possible to live social-free in this virtualized and digitized world to have a happy life and balanced relationships? Or do we all have to just get on board with the new reality - whether we like it or not?