My empty social media folder…
About three months ago, I quit Facebook. Indefinitely. Possibly forever.
After the election of November 2016, I had used social media as a serious crutch. Holy cow, that election was something. I don’t really want to recall how I felt in the run-up & during the aftermath.
But I found a welcome outlet on Facebook. I’d never posted much, but I started sharing articles & posts, engaging in (sorta-friendly) political arguments with a variety of folks. I wallowed in liberal anguish with my “friends.”
Then came the inauguration. The Women’s March. Anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Executive Orders & more local activism. On short notice, I rounded up the family, set off the alarm on Facebook & headed to the airport. Angry. (Though always thoughtful & friendly to the police officers protecting the various marches I attended.) Facebook was more than an on-line outlet for fake rage… it was IRL activism, y’all! Real & in-the-flesh organizing.
But mostly I read.
Doomsday articles. Articles that got me upset & scared. Debates on how some of us were doing activism wrong. Which made me anxious & upset for different reasons.
All of it made me feel overwhelmed.
Overwhelm was my default state.
I’d get the baby to sleep in the rocking chair & then I’d stay up late catching up on politics via social media.
I was exhausted already & we were barely into this new presidency. How would I sustain my renewed activism over the next four (or less… or more) years? I was younger & childless & pre-Facebook when I was last involved in any activism.
My partner suggested deleting the Facebook app from my devices. Yeah, right! I laughed maniacally.
How else could I keep up? Stay involved in all the excellent local groups that had formed? How would I know about the next protest?
I was on Facebook on the train on the way to work. On the way home from work. Sometimes at lunch. At night after the kids were asleep.
And, most importantly, unhealthy.
So I finally heeded my parner’s advice & (publicly, of course!) said goodbye to Facebook. I deleted the app (though I didn’t kill my account). I thought for sure that my social media hiatus would be temporary. That I’d sort out my Facebook demons & hop back on in a more disciplined manner.
Then the weeks started to pass by … and I just didn’t…
Maybe I’d get back on Twitter. Instagram. (Folks told me that Instagram was somewhat apolitical & happy, still.)
Because I started to notice something… I was deliberately more present with my family. Giving my son more attention. Relishing in the sweetness of my youngest’s babyhood. Conversing with my partner & even sneaking in a couple dates.
It’s not that I had disappeared from family life previously, but it’s amazing how the brief snippets of social media distraction can cut into the time & headspace that should be focused on the actual living & breathing people in your immediate presence.
And I started to think about my priorities. Talked (like, on the phone… not via Messenger…) to a dear mentor. My partner & I started some projects around the house. Started planning a vacation. Some camping trips. Sometimes we have dance parties in the evenings. Sometimes my partner pulls out his guitar & we stay up too late singing.
It’s like a fog has lifted.
And I’ve gotten over my social media FOMO. I know I’m missing some interesting & smart shit out there, but I can’t do it all. And for now quitting Facebook is an easy, clean way to make my life a bit more manageable, meaningful, & enjoyable.
But saying goodbye to Facebook was not going to be a political cop-out. I saved my representatives’ contacts to my phone. I get an email each week about calls I might make. I’ve made calls. Sent emails.
I keep up on the news on my own, with subscriptions to a small handful of real (not fake) news sources. A “curated newsfeed,” you might call it.
But I still wanted to do more. And without the immediacy of Facebook, I could really step back to analyze my situation.
I had never really been a protest-activist. Bless ’em, because it takes all types & all voices.
No, in my post-Facebook meditation, I realized that I am much more into voice amplification. In college, I had a radio show, so I turned it into a platform for discussing issues affecting Latino students. As a law student, I organized events highlighting issues I cared about. As a small-time publisher, I’ve given space to a variety of voices.
So, now I’m spending some of the time I was spending on Facebook & protesting in a way that utilizes my skills and amplifies my impact: pro bono work.
I’ve only just begun, but the prospect of helping to create access to justice for folks in my community (folks likely marginalized in the current political climate) is pretty darn exciting.
I’m still in for a good protest, but I’m being a little more discerning. It’s gonna be a long ride.
(Also, I started blogging more regularly again. Turns out, writing about parenting—& sometimes, politics—makes me happy.)
How are you managing (or mismanaging) your social media “life”? Do you have rules you abide by? Have you quit cold turkey? Never started?