Social media is not news. It is not journalism. It is individual people (sometimes platforms or entities: NPR, PBS, the US Park Service) sharing information. Some of these people have specific qualifications that make their communication on any platform… actual useful factual information. I am not following most of those people and neither are you.
Most of us are just following other people – friends, artists, celebrities, influencers (shudder) that provide their P.O.V on … whatever. So it’s a curated echo chamber for most people. People who like what you like. People or causes you admire. Maybe if you’re adventurous, people that challenge your view. Though I can’t think of many people that specifically seek out that content… knowing by and large that social media is our way to push a button and get a dopamine hit, unless conflict feeds your dopamine?
You’re just ingesting things. Memes validating collective outrage. Woke-flexing to show that you give a shit about the “right” things (right = whatever pleases your chosen social/tribal group). Performative dissent. Re-sharing content that expresses the issue of the day. The next shooting. The next erosion of rights. The next attack on human beings who don’t fit other human beings definitions of “good” or “worthy”. The next hot button issue that the thought-police have decided you should focus on, or you’re off, out of touch, in the wrong queue. Fucking cancelled.
What am I talking about this for anyway?
Your posts and stories don’t change things for most people. The people who disagree with you don’t see your feed. Your witty Twitter repost, your viral TikTok hot-take… no shithead redneck middle aged man is going to stop voting to make queer people criminals because of your outraged Instagram posting, or mine.
It’s not that I don’t give a shit. I give too much of a shit, like a lot of people I know, and like, and respect. I just don’t think that social media is how those things change. I think it’s probably useful to people searching for community, who need support or resources or relief from alienation. And I want those people to have free worldwide access to those things, those other souls whose ideas and support and community uplift them.
But can we all stop pretending that our posts change anyone’s minds. I’m not going to convince anyone that Black Lives Matter, or that Trans Right Are Human Rights because I’m yelling about it on my social media accounts. My shit is locked anyway. The people that disagree with those things have their own curated audiences of like-minded people to validate their outrage and opinions. They are not looking to me or anyone else to teach them anything. I’m not educating anyone on the “issues” or “saving my rights”. That’s just not how it works. I believe in protest and civil unrest and supporting organizations and people who do things that can have an impact. And I’ve always supported those things, and will continue to do so. And not have to post about it every time my monthly donation to Abortion rights, or the LGBTQ+ community, or saving animals gets cashed. I’m not doing it to run my mouth about how great I am or how worthy of being recognized for being a decent person.
The shit that you do, that matters, is what you do when there’s no audience. The end.
I’ve ditched Facebook and Twitter but kept Instagram because I love photos. Because once upon a time I wondered if maybe I could make a living creating images (I quickly realized I was not going to try that and expect to make any decent $), but I love the medium anyway. I love a running visual catalog of where I’ve been and things I’ve seen and done. A never ending snapshot feed of my life.
I left Facebook because the “people” I wanted to stay in touch with rarely ever posted about their lives. They shared memes and news articles and other content that I don’t particularly want to receive from every former colleague or old friend. I rarely saw much of them, or their lives, or anything that previously, when it was incepted, felt like “seeing and keeping up with a person”. And as the signal shrank and the noise grew, I found it just brought me feelings of dissatisfaction and dread. So I deleted it. And I stopped thinking about it, and didn’t really “miss” anything.
And then as more of the world fell apart (or, as with all technology, did so in a way that was suddenly vastly more accessible and visible to witness i.e. it’s always been falling about, it just wasn’t “televised”0, Twitter felt more and more like that. A collective bullhorn of frustration and grief. Which… everyone is entitled to share. But it just felt like more to carry. I already have frustration and grief, and it’s not lack of compassion, but sheer lack of capacity to “take on” any more, so I logged off of there too.
So lately Instagram, at least the stories, have also started to feel like a never ending wall of other people processing all of the worst of the world, and again… it just makes me feel depleted. I don’t want to be on the hook, that I put myself on, of “performative activism”, in any capacity. It’s exhausting.
I am typing this out to remember that I don’t have to do that. I don’t owe anyone anything. No posts, no explanations, no commiseration to prove my dedication to any cause. If I want to stop participating in any of that, I can. So I’m willing it into existence.
I’m not signing off, but maybe, stepping back. And if my “presence” on any platform seems… limited, or frivolous, guess what, I don’t care. Maybe stop, and remember, I’m an entire person, and if I simply deleted my account. I would still exist, and in far more meaningful ways that I ever have on any social media site.