I don’t know how to experience leisure any more. I don’t know how to simply lie on a beach or sit on a balcony or lie next to a lover and be completely switched off from the rest of the world. I don’t know how to do anything without documenting it on the internet in some way- Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, a blog.
Social media has made me narcissistic as hell. I once believed I used it for the better- promoting good causes, encouraging people to go outside and sit in the sun or climb a mountain. But I think I was simply trying to earn a pat on the back for living a life. I was trying to show the world I mattered by curating an identity that I could scroll through and feel proud of. I care about social justice, I love the outdoors, I have an active life, I am a good person.
Come on Ruby, you're not more special than the next.
Not only this, but the amount of time I'd spend on my phone (on average 2.3 hours p/day according to a tracking app called BreakFree) was kind of disgusting. I was consuming memes, fake news and mild forms of 'hate-reading' and to be honest, none of it was adding value to my life. Momentary pleasure, sure; intellectual stimulation, not so much.
And then here I was, contributing to the noise.
And so I realised through a series of things – boredom and self-reflection on a lonely Saturday night for the most part, that this social media thing is doing me more harm than good. I have lost agency due to my ever-present reliance on digital connectivity. I have started to see my life in social media updates rather than moments to be treasured. And that is why I need to make some changes, cold turkey style.
Due to these recent epiphanies, or bouts of ‘digital existentialism’, I have decided to go feed-free for 200 days. No Facebook feeds, no Instagram feeds. Archiving old posts, changing my privacy settings. Brb in 200 days fam. C u on March 27, 2018.
I have been practicing this in the smallest amount on my weekends. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, before I brush my teeth and have breakfast, I walk to the beach. I sling my towel over my shoulder and cradle a book and a drink bottle. I don’t take my phone. I clamber down the headland go for a swim, read on the beach and then I walk home and start my day.
Yes, it’s a simple exercise, but laughable in the extent it challenges me. I am so connected to my phone that I feel a sense of anxiety without it, even if I don’t check it. This realisation is a testament to the addictive nature of the beast.
A lot of us stay on social media because we fear that we will miss out on things, miss out on events and promotions and millennial banter. But I think as you move through life, you no longer care about how many friends you have and how many parties you are invited to (or not invited to). I have faith that my friends will continue to maintain friendship with a Ruby that no longer exists in the digital world. They will remember she lives in the real world too.
I don’t want to share the intimacies of my life unless someone asks me. I am so busy updating and posting and commenting and giving the world information about my life that was not explicitly asked for. I looked at my Instagram feed the only night and thought ‘nobody asked for any of this’.
If I go overseas, nobody will know. There won’t be a countdown Instagram or a check in on Facebook at the airport. Nobody will see the landscapes, nobody will read the stories. If I get sick and have to go to hospital, there will be no selfie on the internet to show for it. When I meet someone on the road, they will have to judge me on my personality, not my social media activity. My God, it feels liberating just to type this.
There are things I will need to re-learn over the next year. Things like:
How to write an article without checking my Instagram.
How to watch a movie without scrolling Facebook.
How to go on a hike without telling social media about it.
How to clean my room without having to put the process on an Instagram story.
How to enjoy an achievement without seeking validation from a digital community.
How to paint a painting or wood-burn a table without telling the world I am creative.
I hope it will teach me the beauty of mystery and the wonder of friendship. I think I will be surprised by who actively seeks my friendship without the illusion of intimacy that social media paints so well. I think I will be surprised by who I actively seek as well. I'm looking forward to 'blind' milkshakes - where I don't actually know what's been going on in their life because I don't follow their social accounts. So many things to talk about!
I will keep my blog. Writing is my passion, and a blog is a good space for me to continue doing so. I have too much pride to disappear completely and I like organising my thoughts and pressing publish and knowing it is permanent.
Without feeds, I won’t have the chance to draw traffic here. It may just be me making sense of my head and sending that sense into the void. I’m okay with that.
Goodbye for now, but not forever, newsfeeds and the friends and strangers that populate them. See you in 6 months.