creativity takes courage

A year without social networks

Last year I decided to fully delete my profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest, Marco Polo and many others that I can’t even remember the names.

This was not a straightforward and simple process. It took a while and involved many steps, including backing up all the content and figuring out how to keep in touch with certain people. Currently, the only “social network” I actively participate is LinkedIn (but let’s talk about that one in another post).

I have to say it’s not easy to be completely gone of every social network around. In this world we are living you’ll constantly hear things such as “Oh! let me add you on Facebook”, or “I’ll snap you that picture”, or even “How can I show people I was with you if I can’t tag you on Instagram?” (seriously, the latter one happened just last week).

There are many reasons why I decided to leave all these platforms and is amusing to hear people trying to guess why. For some reason, I hear a lot of “was it because of a girl?”. My current answer to everyone is “Sure, why not, if that makes sense to you”.

The real reason was that ultimately, I felt disconnected. What’s the point of having 500 friends on Facebook and thousands of followers on Twitter if you don’t actually know most of them for real? Do you even know who are you following right now? I bet that you’ll be surprised if you start reviewing your list of friends (you know, that great cleaning exercise you do from time to time?). If we are so comfortable with “cleaning” out our friends from sight just because some wall posts might be annoying, I’d say there’s something wrong with the way we are interacting online.

I believe this is the reason why messaging apps grew so much in the last few years. People felt disconnected with their inflated social networks and decided to move to “other places” where they could have more immediate and closer interactions, with “real friends”. But then again, some took these apps to the next level, adding everyone in their contact list and inflated these platforms as well with large group chats, meaningless daily memes and emoji feasts.

I have been reading a lot about the effects of social networks on our daily lives. There are now so many situations that we find socially acceptable, but would be deemed insane just a few years ago. I constantly see people recording themselves on Snapchat, taking pictures of their food for Instagram and adding random hashtags in the middle of conversations. I’m not saying these are bad things, I’m just saying it’s a completely different culture we created. A culture that was meant to bring us together and connect us, but in many ways it feels quite the contrary.

In 2015, I had a very weird experience with a new (but now dead) social video app called Weev. I can write a full post about Weev someday, but for now, all I can say is that it completely changed my perception about social media and the web. When I was part of Weev I posted a question: “Do you feel more connected or more isolated?”. That post triggered a string of great answers and a very interesting discussion. I wish I still had it to show you, but basically, the general consensus was that, in many ways, these platforms have a great potential to bring us closer and at the same time, we can feel isolated by using them. It’s a bizarre feeling that I’m sure many of us have felt and can’t easily be described.

There are so many things I can say about this experience of shutting down these networks. In a way it felt as some voices were silenced. Voices that were always screaming at me, and I could finally think clearly and relax a bit for a change. At the same time, it has been difficult for me to find meaningful relationships in the “real world” (teens are now actually using the term RL – Real Life. I know… but it’s real). It seems that people in real life actually don’t want to be there when they are having an experience. They always have their phones right next to them, just in case something more interesting might come along.

I can also tell you that it’s not an easy process technically. Sometimes finding the “Delete my profile” button can be quite a task, when it’s actually there in the first place. This will be the subject of another post that I’m already working on — how to actually delete your profiles on these networks.

If you’re interested in this topic of social interaction, isolation, conversations and real world connection I recommend two books. These are actually part of my book reading list for February. Both are from psychologist, researcher and author Sherry Turkle. One I already read once, but I want to read it again. It’s called Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each OtherThe other is called Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital AgeShe also has some great lecture videos online. The two I really are: Ted Talk – Connected, but alone?, and her Google Talk about Conversation on Modern Romance

At any rate, I recommend to anyone that feels a bit disconnected to try and delete their social network profiles. Even if it’s for a little while. It might bring some peace and joy to your life.