I can’t get this thought out of my head. I’ve been slow to write lately, as I’ve been very pensive. This thought has been visiting for quite awhile now, but I always find a way to talk myself out of it and move on. Should I — could I — completely walk away from all social media, check email once a day like checking the mailbox, and live, solely and completely, in the real world again?
I need my computer to write, and I need the internet to research and complete my daily tasks, but do I really need it all? I remember the stillness that was in the air before everyone had cell phones and online worlds to manage. I heard crickets and screen doors, I smelled hamburgers cooking in the neighborhood, I made observations about the world around me … not just a few times a day, but all. the. time. I sat at a restaurant, waiting, and got lost in my own thoughts instead of in someone’s photos of their latest vacation. I was an empty vessel, ready to receive input and inspiration, instead of being full to the brim with information and stimuli.
Lately, on more than one occasion, I have found myself starting a conversation with the words, “Did you see that post?” I have walked into rooms where I’ve never met the person in front of me, but I know where they went to school, their political views, the names of their children and that they just completed a remodel.
I have witnessed grown women —moms! — fighting on social media with the civility of toddlers and political rants that don’t change minds but, instead, breed hatred. At times, I have fallen prey myself to the duplicitous message that social media often sells, the message that “they” have gorgeous homes, go on lavish trips, raise wholesome children and don’t suffer the internal struggles that I do.
Can I teach my children that having an online presence is unnecessary and, oftentimes, dangerous, while in the back of my mind wondering if my latest photos got any new likes? I only get one life; do I want to spend it creating a virtual world for myself, or do I want to shut it down and get my hands dirty?
I don’t know the answers to my questions, and I don’t even know if it’s possible to have a career without a social media presence these days. The irony of me sharing my writing on social media is not lost on me. I’m not blind to the great things that social media can do in connecting people and making them feel less alone, especially during a pandemic. But I also know that for me, there is a constant nagging, wondering “what if?”