Yesterday I decided to take a break from social media. This was for a number of reasons, but they all boil down to my increasing frustration with how interactions occur in rapid-fire quick-sharing spaces, and this has been growing for quite some time.
The microblog format significantly changes the way people interact. Every post is short and taken out of context (while everyone expects everyone else to have the full context already), which makes it impossible to have a as meaningful conversation especially when a short notion spreads far and wide. I feel that it is a big part of what’s dividing everyone in a never-ending search for clout that devolves into a shouting match.
What this break means, in practical terms: I am avoiding posting to, and reading timelines of, sites like Twitter and Mastodon1. Obviously my blog posts still get syndicated to them (chances are, that’s how you saw this post!), and if someone links to something from them on Discord or Slack I’ll still read it (which is why I don’t just block those sites from my network outright). But I’m keeping my browsers signed out of the sites themselves to prevent me from seeing notifications and beginning to doomscroll and so on. And of course responses to my posts still come in as webmentions, so I’ll see those eventually — but unless something is posted as a native comment I probably won’t respond directly.
This also means it takes a much more concerted effort for me to share my thoughts on things, which hopefully means I’ll be more thoughtful about what I do share. And hopefully this means I both miss out on and avoid participating in the unhelpful churn of discourse and hot takes.
For real-time chat I’ll still be on Discord and Slack, but I’m also significantly cutting back on my involvement in high-traffic random chatter spaces. I’ve muted most of the servers I’m on so that I need to make a specific effort to look for conversations, and I am trying to stick to more meaningful conversations with small groups of people (such as my songwriting and drawing groups, as well as my own small community) rather than trying to sip from a firehose.
So far I keep noticing that when I have an intrusive, quippy thought that I’d normally post for a quick rush of dopamine, I just have to keep the thought to myself and decide whether it’s worth holding onto by saving to a note to myself for later2. So far I haven’t saved anything, and I’m realizing just how much pointless ephemera and effluvia it all is, and how quickly it evaporated from my brain; why does that need to be put somewhere for everyone to see?
I’m just not wired to be able to deal with constant, unending, fire-and-forget interactions with others, and certainly not being randomly connected with thousands (if not millions) of others in real time. I’m pretty sure humans in general aren’t really capable of this and I wonder just how much of a mental health burden this is placing on everyone right now.
Social media is like crack, and it’s time I finally break my addiction. It hasn’t been healthy for me at all.
I’d basically been avoiding Twitter for the most part anyway; it turns out that it’s not just an algorithmic timeline that’s a problem, though. For all its good intentions, Mastodon is still basically a Twitter clone, and it still has the same problems Twitter was trying to solve with the algorithmic timeline in the first place. ↩
Oddly, the thought never really occurred to me to post it to Discord even though that seems like a perfect spot for it. Which I think tells me a lot about the messed-up motivations in why I would post to social media in the first place. ↩