On my website these days, where it usually says “Follow me” or “share”, there’s just a little skull, with the words “Don’t Follow”, which links to an article about leaving behind smart phones and social media. I suppose to some this might look like I’m a bit up my own arse, like someone who still only buys vinyl (and tells everyone how it’s better, like Betamax), or worse, someone who sleeps in a fararday cage, and has sticky tape over their web camera, but really it’s just a personal thing: my brain, my choice.
Being an early adopter of social media (I had a Twitter account in 2008, before it was really a thing), and so was probably hooked before most people. But like most people, I experienced that curve in which you exploit all that social media can give, but then see it rewire your brain, how you think and act, and see it exploit you. Lifting heavy weights and feeling your body change is a fantastic feeling, as is feeling your consciousness and horizons expand through travel and literature, but feeling your brain being rewired by an app is far less healthy.
And so a few months ago I committed business hari-kari, and deleted all my social media for good.
And so, social media being what it is, I kind of ghosted myself, meaning once every few days someone messages me asking where I am, and am I OK (to leave social media is now considered a sign of either mental breakdown or death).
In order to fill in the whys, I thought I’d just copy and past in my reply last night to just such a query:
As for social media, although I’m dead to social media, and social media is dead to me, I’m still alive in the analogue world!
I’ve been trying to get off social media for several years, and although I’ve left many times, just like the Mafia, it kept pulling me back. This is how it’s designed I guess, like Fentanyl, only everyone around you is hooked, and it’s in their interest to keep you using.
Yes, it’s financial suicide to have no social media presence these days, like a business having no email address or telephone number, as everything is tide to it in some way or other (speaking, Kickstarter projects, pushing books etc). Not being "social" is very much like being dead, or at least some sort of self imposed banishment from polite society and civilisation (even though it’s not very civil, or civilised). I also don’t own a phone (which is also almost impossible to do in this day and age, where so many things are tied to your phone, like banking), or watch TV, or listen to the radio, or read the papers, and so I’m really doing my best to become a hermit.
Of course I love social media and miss it everyday (like a true addict), and although the time is wasted on there, it’s wasted well, like having a fight in a pub car park (or as well as time can be wasted). It’s great having a way to express yourself without any filters or editors, like graffiti, as well as educate and inform our tribe (sometimes).
But increasingly for me – in a world that seems to be increasingly narrow and restricted – it became a way for me to demonstrate to myself that I could not be intimidated, forced to conform or converted (once upon a time climbing was rebellious, against the status-quo, with a punk attitude, but now it seems to be filled with golfers). To me – in my head – I’m seeing the world like Trey Parker, Matt Stone or Mike Judge, but to most people I just sound like a right wing shock jock (although I do get messages from people who once thought I was full of shit, but less so as time goes by).
Another factor was I had a baby (not easy at 50, with a 19 and 22 year old), and I wanted to focus more on him, and less on that, and by ‘that’, I suppose I mean myself, my profile, my likes, my followers, my points, my arguments, stuff that’s as important in the long term as your high score on Space Invaders circa 1980 (really, like Space Invaders, it just passes the time). Obsession with the self, ego etc, can be incredibly productive and creative, that drive to be known and be important and valuable and relevant, but when you commodify yourself and everything you do and think, rewire your brain (and eyes and ears and heart) in service to Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, that’s not healthy. Better to get a spade and dig a hole, paint a wall, or swing a kettlebell!
So there you go. I hope I don’t sound like an asshole or a crazy person (leaving social media is one way to avoid both), but I thought I’d share this and I know a lot of people feel the same, but just can’t pull out the needle. Well I did, and it ain’t going back, and I’m still alive. So what are you waiting for?
Note: The image above is of Agafia Lykova, the least social person on the planet.
I think it's awesome you escaped Andy. I still enjoy your writing and ideas here. I haven't missed FB since I ditched it though I'm sadly still creating free content for them on IG. The internet has failed its promise of interconnecting us to each other and information as we get corralled into different insulated groups for commercial benefit of the platforms — discovering I am not the user of social media I am the product was sobering.