Withdrawal symptoms

Photo by belle ancell
Is it possible to live anymore without social media? Of course it is. Lots of people live without it, and not just old folks. I have two friends who have sworn off social media entirely. I know of others who did as well. Many other people use social media but only on an intermittent basis. It's not central to their lives or a major use of time.

A more pertinent question for me is whether I can live without social media. Or if not without social media, then with less involvement—whatever that would look like and however it could be made the happen.

Until about a month ago, I would check Twitter frequently, at least at certain times of day. I would check tweets from as many as five lists. I followed favourite bands to get news about them and hear about shows and releases. I followed a variety of accounts that I found interesting. I got a lot of news. One list in particular was for accounts in my city, for which Twitter is a good source of information and connection. Sometimes I would get the satisfaction of having tweets faved or retweeted. Often I would get the satisfaction of micro-blogging my not-so-humble opinions, no matter that I was usually just an old lady shouting at a cloud.

My problem with Twitter is basically time. Checking it often or even occasionally rather than obsessively is still a time sink, because it's never just checking. It's reading and responding and writing and reading more and searching and watching videos. I like the actual interaction on Twitter, at least in my twitterverse. I'm going to declare, on no particular evidence whatsoever, that Twitter is beneficial to my well-being. Except for that time thing.

Facebook is a different story. Even a month ago, I had already curtailed my Facebook involvement. Even so, I was reading part of my wall several times a day. I wasn't posting often, but I would read a lot, and like or react or comment fairly often. And I would check events.

Facebook is more than just a time sink. I get much more stressed out from Facebook than from Twitter. I don't have a huge number of Facebook friends, but quite a few. These are people I know, people whose lives I care about, people who are special to me. I do want to know things that happen in their lives. But sometimes I get overloaded with information.

A month ago, I went off Twitter and Facebook almost entirely. All of a sudden I just didn't want to go on. I say "almost" because I had a show coming up and I needed to publicize it. There's part of the answer to the question: it is difficult to have a music career without social media, not just to advertise shows but just for general schmoozing. After the show I stayed off, but then my usage crept back up. Now, however, I'm feeling an aversion again. I can't seem to find the sweet spot. And the longer I stay off, the more I fear going back on, lest it turn to shite again.

Because it's not just usage of Twitter and Facebook. It's the time I spend on my laptop. Twitter and Facebook take quite enough time, but then while I'm sitting there, it's very easy to find something else to do on my computer after Twitter and Facebook, and until the next scan for new posts. Before I know it, an hour or two has passed, and things I ought to do as well as things I want to do have been crowded out.

Thanks to one of my social-media-less friends, I've read what life offline is like. I've experienced some of the same things. It's disorienting to have been following so many lives and suddenly to follow almost none. That's quite a void. It's disorienting to have been (seemingly, at least) plugged in to your local scene and suddenly to be quite unplugged. And indeed unplugged from the world to some extent. But the sudden silence of the void might also be welcome. Right now I seem to need the silence.

Every good thing has a price. The price of this peace of mind is isolation. I miss your babies and kids, your pictures and links, your heartfelt postings! I miss the occasional lively debate. I miss feeling connected, whether I truly was connected or not.

It seems to me that I will have to reconnect at some point. The only question is how to keep that from getting out of control. I've started to use Twitter only on my phone. That removes the factor of lounging comfortably at my laptop for hours. I want to put Facebook back on my phone as well, but the app is so bloated that my SIM-less phone can't install it. I need to figure that out (I hate having to delete most of my music). So far, I've used Twitter a lot like I do when I'm on vacation—much less.

I do want to reconnect. I have no snobbery about having become a non-user. After all, even now I'm active on social media-ish sites like Goodreads and TripAdvisor, and I'm going to hypocritically post links to this blog post on Twitter and Facebook.

But I have to say, staying away really is liberating for my time. When I'm done work, if I don't immediately get involved in laptop activities, then I'm out for a walk or to practise my songs or to write new ones (a bit tricky, because I do most writing on my laptop). Or to clean or fix something in the house. Or to work in my garden. Or even to see friends in person! Or any of a number of other things I need or want to do. When I reconnect, I need to be able to do so without losing (too much of) the liberation.