By Anne T. Donahue
. . . And also Twitter. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here.
This week, the unthinkable happened: Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp went down, leaving some of us to have to wait and see whether the guy we have a crush on watched our stories, or whether we’re simply all staring into the abyss. Turns out, both can be true. But after an afternoon of freedom (outside of Twitter – but again, calm down, I’ll get to that), it quickly became obvious that none of us like two of those three apps at all. Sure, it was a bummer not to see what friends were up to, but it was certainly not a bummer to slog through stories and timelines and whatever happens on Facebook these days and think, “So this is it – my life.”
Which, of course, made me and likely everybody else on this planet think: what if they never came back? What if we could be free of, well, everything social media represents? (And maybe take Twitter along with it?) What if we could just learn to stay in touch with the people we loved and/or liked, and abandoned the idea that if we weren’t raking up likes, we weren’t anybody?
I think I hate social media. Really hate in a way that’s usually reserved for raisins, people who don’t signal when they slow down to turn, and the neuroses instilled in me by a culture that claimed we were nothing if we weren’t Online™. For most of my teens, all of my twenties, and the majority of my thirties, I’ve bought into the notion that I should care; that if I didn’t tweet or post or upload or whatever, my career would be over, my friendships would die, and I’d be left to roam the earth by myself like the Hulk, painfully unaware of everything happening in the world. (Minus my ability to grow and turn green – which, I will admit, actually seems kind of exciting.) Which turned out not to be true. People I love and people I like and people whose work I admire from far away have long exited the apps we’ve been trained to think will fulfill us. And despite not being online everywhere all the time, they’ve still built beautiful lives that are entirely theirs and shared with whomever they choose. Do they (or did they, if they came back) miss social media? Maybe? Who knows. But I certainly didn’t over the course of Tuesday afternoon.
And that obviously means nothing. Truth be told, I’m not about to deactivate my accounts or pretend I’m secure in myself enough not to want to see what everybody’s up to. I want to know what’s up, and I want to know what everybody’s laughing at or losing their minds over. And I also really want to repost a bunch of stupid shit. I hate many things much more than social media, but what I think stands out about this specific hatred so much is my belief that I rely on it.
I don’t. And you’re likely the same. If we all bowed out for (say) a month to take much-needed hiatuses, we’d likely feel weird for a second before realizing that like most things we think-we-need-but-don’t, it can be something that’s part of our lives but certainly not the centre of them. Kind of like a locker in high school: we decorated and beautified the shit out of those regularly, but when it came time for the year to end and to clean them out, we were ready to take on another one that reflected the newer versions of ourselves we’d grown into. Our lockers reflected ourselves in a unique way that outlined who we wanted to be perceived as. Apps like FB (ugh) or Instagram (I mean, I know they’re the same) have made their money in telling us how we should be perceived. And that’s what makes me angry and tired. That’s what bums me out. Social media should never be a guide to life – it should be, well, whatever you want. A scrapbook? A locker, in digital form? A way of celebrating your new top? Memes? Hard-hitting facts about the world? All of it? Sure! Who cares who’s watching? Who cares who likes it? We were all living persons long before finding notifications near a heart icon. And as we saw on Tuesday, we will be those same people long after.
Or maybe we’ll even get a little better and at the very least, nudge Facebook just enough to slide off its mountainscape.
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