#socmed Withdrawal

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It’s been a little more than thirty-six hours since I deleted my Facebag account, shut down Twitter, and kicked the Stravver to the curb. Like any good act of defiance, man, it sure felt good. Sweet and good.

“Take that, #socmed bitches!” My narrow, bony chest swelled a little as I struck a blow for #dataprivacy and against #fakenews and for #livingintherealworld. Oh, and I also struck blows against #depression, #anxiety, and my favorite of all time, #FoMO, and its almost as awesome but not quite cousin, #FoBO, “Fear of Better Options.”

Yeah, I smacked down all that shit.

The problem is that I’ve smacked them all down before only to come groveling back to the opioid-laced trough of notification-induced, temporary euphoria. Quitting booze has been hard, but it’s got nothing on going #socmed cold turkey. Here is what you can expect to feel when you cut the cord:

  1. Loneliness: I don’t have any friends.
  2. Sadness: There’s no one and no #lolcats to make me smile.
  3. Isolation: Society is “out there,” apart from me.
  4. Anxiety: What’s “going on”?
  5. Uncertainty: What are my #socmed “friends” posting  about now?
  6. FoMO: How will I ever get invited to anything?
  7. FoBO: What’s going to happen to my law practice?
  8. Listlessness: I don’t want to do anything.
  9. Helplessness: I’m overwhelmed at all the empty time on my hands.
  10. Irrelevance: Might as well be dead.

Numbers 1-10 are intensified by the degree to which you were immersed in your #socmed life. Apparently, I was pretty immersed …

However, unlike past attempts to quit, this one has great prospects for success. For one, life is nothing more than a process of quitting; eventually you quit it all, forever. The gradual nature of giving things up is in the nature of life itself. There comes a time when you can’t think as clearly, remember as well, walk as briskly, chew as hard, jump as high, just like there comes a time when you give up fist fights, bungee jumping, contact football, running, choosing when you’ll relieve yourself, breathing …

The trick of course is to quit each thing on your terms before it quits you. The trigger this time was the unendurable death of another young person riding a bicycle, slaughtered by a drunk. I say unendurable because death itself is never unendurable, it is part of the predictable cycle of life in which things happen at random but eventually. In fact, death is one of those things that I’ve always been able to get my arms around. It’s real, it’s unalterable, it’s the blueprint that we can all benefit from by studying. Death is tangible.

What has changed over the course of my life is the creation of a third rail in our modern existence, the third rail of #socmed. #socmed is the antithesis of death. Where death is real and firm and unalterable and instructive and forever, #socmed is #unreal and #quiescent and #editable and #empty and #temporary. Facebag even has an account option that lets you pass on control of your account after you die, so that you never have to really go away or even be dead. You can continue your #fake existence for as long as the servers have a power source.

This #fake and #virtual third rail now powers things that are real. #socmed requires us to create a #fake world online and then enforce the norms and perceptions of that #fake world in the real world. Death is the perfect example, where a person dies (real event), and then #socmed is saturated with #fake emotion, and then real events are held to commemorate the person’s real death, and then the real event and real words and real emotions expressed there are memorialized on #socmed to give rise to another, more intense, more quantitative expression of yet more #fake emotion. Each spiral brings with it an intensity of anguish and unhappiness that is greater than the one before. #fake emotion intensifies real emotion, which, when posted and memorialized online, intensifies the #fake emotion all over again.

There is no separation, in other words, between real and #fake. Because we curate our #socmed selves and our #socmed feelings, our actual, human interactions (when we bother to have them), conform to and later inform our #curated selves. We become who we have #curated, but never quite catch up to it. Cue anxiety and depression and the absolute necessity to be logged into #socmed at all times … even after we die.

For me this has created impossible complexity. I’m not smart enough to keep it all straight, either my own #curated self, or yours. I don’t have enough neurons to tease out who the #socmed you is and who the real you is, and how to respond to either without hurting your feelings or making a fool of myself, or both.

The complexity of this mixed existence is heightened by the misfortune of my birth in the early 1960s, and being forced to grow up in a world where, for example, there was no #socmed bike racing. I could only transport myself out of reality by digging so deeply into reality that the actions became transcendent. I could only be a bike racer by racing my bike, and never by #socmed means. I could only have friends by meeting people and hanging out with them, never by #socmed #friendsuggestion buttons. I could only curate my personality through actions and speech, never by #socmed postings or #filters or #kudos.

This misfortune of having been born at the wrong time means that the only way to reduce the complex navigation of #socmed #curation is by returning to the quaint world I once inhabited. When I craved company, I sought people physically. When I craved conversation, I telephoned or spoke face to face. When I craved action, I acted. Although the negative emotions I listed above predominate, there are hints of better things to come, slivers of the old way that suggest, at least for me, the real world trumps the #socmed one. To wit:

  1. Calmness: What I don’t know doesn’t disturb me.
  2. Productivity: Look at how much I got done!
  3. Concentration: Thoughts last for a long time and reach a conclusion, without interruption.
  4. Silence: There is no #socmed chatter filling up my mind-space.
  5. Confidence: IDGAF.
  6. Humor: Can you believe I wasted all that time over all that shit?
  7. Recovery: Sleep recharges, it’s not simply a pause between #socmed postings.
  8. Happiness: Fewer conflicts.
  9. Control: I decide what goes into my mind.
  10. Independence: The #socmed storms and #curated lives don’t buffet me.

They say the genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle, and #they are correct because #they write the algorithms that control most of our waking moments. But the genie, if you’ll recall, only came out when the bottle was rubbed,went back after his work was done, and you got to rub the bottle three times. I think I’ll stop at two.

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