And taking my hijacked psyche with me.
Pour a cuppa or light yourself a joint. Settle in. Because there’s more to say than will fit in 140 characters or an Instagram caption. If you, like me, question if you’ve got the attention span for a full essay, I recommend the read even more. But maybe skip the joint. What’s that saying? If you don’t have time to meditate an hour a day, meditate for two? Let’s reclaim our attention, shall we?
I’ve decided to leave a toxic relationship. It’s not me, it’s them. The negging is unreal. Promises and possibility, with an undercurrent of what a worthless piece I am. One second I feel good about myself, centered and solid. After 10 minutes with them I start to feel shallow, hollow, grasping, seeking that which I don’t even want or need.
The gaslighting is gross. I’m constantly promised connection and then fed all the ways I need to change, be better, be different. And then, I start to question…is it them? Or is it me? I’m just not doing it right. I must be weak. If I just changed, if I just knew how to express myself properly, if I contorted a little bit, maybe it could work out. And you know, it’s not even that bad. Is it even toxic? I know people who have WAY worse relationships than I do. Maybe I should just carry along, try to make a go of it, after all, everyone else is on social media.
Social media is a world we must inhabit and be influenced by if we are to exist or be relevant at all.
The day I decided I’d leave social media, as a 40th birthday gift to myself, and delete my accounts, I felt a sense of knowing that was almost obsessive. I was excited and terrified and so, so curious to investigate every impulse to leave, and every pull to stay. It felt like I’d decided to move to another country, leave all these people who are right here, break connections, and release who even knows how many business opportunities. The risk felt bold. Yet, I felt silly that it felt bold. Embarrassed even. Online jokes echoing in my mind about the people who take breaks and announce it: does anyone even notice? I’m questioning the dissonance I feel, that these platforms are both shallow, trite, 2D, harmless fun, but also powerful beyond measure, worlds we must inhabit and be influenced by if we are to exist or be relevant at all.
If a human enjoys some time in the forest, but doesn’t post about it on social media, did they even have an experience?
Do we notice when people slip out the side door of the party? Or do we just notice the ones who are posting the most and dancing the hardest? The latter is by design. Intelligent, billion dollar design. Too fast to digest or integrate what’s coming in. Too fast to keep up with what should be going out. Make it harder and more complicated to find the connections or audiences you seek, requiring greater investment of attention, time, money, and creativity, while being lured into scroll comas and enticing gotcha ads. Come on back, come on back. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
For me, leaving social media is about sovereignty. I don’t want to lose the reins on my attention, connections, life’s work or family. They’re coming for all of it and I’m opting out.
Social media doesn’t care about you. Perhaps the people there do. I’ve developed so many real personal and business connections with people I’ve met on social. I’ve been profoundly influenced by people’s work, leadership, messages and courage there as well. This is also true of connections and people’s work I’ve met elsewhere. And honestly, I find more value in those connections in real life, and more value in the bodies of work that I truly invest in, by reading their books, listening to their podcasts, taking their courses, joining real communities and practice spaces. Interacting with their deep work, over with what’s on the feed. I’ve realized just how many people whose work, ideas, capacities and art I want to lean further into. But with the ease of the scroll, I end up gorging on a thousand little snacks. My field of awareness has indigestion. Yes, social media allows us to find each other. But it’s not worth it to me anymore. I’ll find you. You’ll find me. We can find other ways.
One of the things I’ve become more and more aware of after a year of pandemonium, where so many of us are spending much more time online (those of us who already worked remotely are like, really? A party on zoom? Sorry, I can’t deal with that much zoom time), is what nourishing connection is and isn’t. Here we are, on social, finding each other, connecting with one another. Getting what we can. And yet the connections I feel I need the most, especially in times of immense disruption and collective trauma, are connections in real time, connections of depth, nuance, joy and play. Space to process and digest, where we have co-regulating dynamics and can say shit that we’d never post on social media, because it’s private or vulnerable, too risky or need to work it out in unspectated dialogue.
This essay is about many of the threads I’ve been pulling on since deciding to leave social media a couple of months ago. I’m weaving together and making sense of different parts of the territory. A caveat I want to share is that this isn’t about convincing you to do the same, or assuming that my experience or perspectives are shared across the board, or that social media is inherently bad. But the more people I speak with about this, the more threads are offered, and so I want to give language to what’s stirring. For myself, for you, for those who resonate with, and are also exploring these questions.
The Collective Spell and the Commodification of Connection
I was a late joiner to social media. This is true for me of any new tech. Not a joiner. I spent years building my business with only an 11” notebook and super simple website. I notoriously don’t update my software and I’ve had more husbands than smartphones. I’m holding onto the iPhone 6 I got in 2015. It barely holds a charge and takes garbage pictures, but I feel so righteously indignant about planned obsolescence that I suffer its slow groan toward death.
I only joined Facebook because my husband at the time got tired of relaying all the invites and communications my friends would send him. I felt suspicious about it. But I also felt I was missing out. I had a new baby and that’s where we all started sharing our pictures back in 2007. The Facebook was the place where all my real life connections gathered and shared. A true social network. It was so compelling and fun, a place to make new, real friends and so freely share, luring us back for more. My friends started calling it ‘The Crackbook’. If only we had known.
And then came the boom of being able to socially market, globally. Remember when personal blogs were all the rage and whole empires were built off of blogging? And on those heels, folks were able to build massive organic followings on Facebook and Twitter, the sharing and flowing of information and gifts. Remember when we used to share things on social media that took us to each other’s websites and work – off social media – easily? As algorithms changed and all things led to keeping us on the platforms, as we had to pony up the dollas, there was always a new network rising where organic growth flowed. Instagram was up! Then Tik Tok! So many organic followers if you go over there. Oooohhhh cool, you need an invite to get on Clubhouse! Let’s all go to Clubhouse. Just…no. I can’t with this.
The connected and organic nature of early social media felt like this truly open source, level playing field to get our ideas and work out there. To build real connections. That’s been changing over the years, and it’s hard to keep up with the changes. Again, intentional design. How people express and share themselves, how dialogue is conducted, how marketing is approached. The field has become more contentious, fast paced, polarized, politicized, commodified and noisy. I hear people talking about what things used to be like, or what they’d originally come to social for, what they’re ultimately there for, and yet there are all these barriers, challenges and pain. And so it becomes a kind of circus to navigate and do it well, and of course it seems like everyone else is doing it well or has something figured out, as we compare our interiors with other’s exteriors, or our pace with the pace of many. Our psychology and fundamental needs are used as prey, constantly, to sell shit. So much so, that we now unconsciously tell ourselves and sell ourselves that very bullshit. That we need this. And we do it to each other.
The cancer that is capitalism has spread so fully and completely through the human experience, that our own quiet interiors aren’t even safe from the buying and selling of its ideologies.
I remember when the local theatre in my hometown was renamed after a major bank. And Science World in Vancouver took on the name of a major telecom company. Gathering spaces and public commons have been creeped in on by corporate entities like invasive plants, threatening to take down the whole garden if you cut them back. Social Media was never the commons. But it was billed as such. It’s where we gather now. It’s where we share now. It’s where we go to be anybody or be known by anybody at all. The cancer that is capitalism has spread so fully and completely through the human experience, that our own quiet interiors aren’t even safe from the buying and selling of its ideologies.
As I’ve been sitting with my decision to leave social media, I’ve been investigating what feels so off to me, particularly when there’s so much that’s offered and so much that’s promised on these platforms.
To me, one of the most heartbreaking things about social media is the commodification of connection. We need each other. And we’ve been turned into commodities. We need to experience belonging and safety and being part of a tribe, clan or family. We also need difference, diversity and to be engaging with one another with dignity. The sophistication with which our needs are being exploited, and leveraged for profit is reprogramming how we connect and relate. It’s changing our fucking brains and its terrifying.
Interfield awareness versus connection
Part of what’s weird is how that ‘connection’ is occuring. Sure, sometimes real time dialogue occurs, but it’s nearly impossible to not have a performative nature to what’s being shared. It’s all on display. Connection is rarely occurring in real time. You’re seeing my posts and perhaps feel connected to me or what I’m sharing. But I have no way of knowing that. Unless you give me likes or shares or comments (or saves! All the rage now) complete with dopamine hits. And I’m seeing your posts and am feeling connected to you. But those aren’t actually connected to one another. That’s each other being in our awareness, being in our field. You’re in my field, I’m in your field. People are in my field and I’m not in theirs. I’m in people’s fields and they’re not in mine. All those posts and comments and people, being wise or basic or problematic, with their kids or their cats or their hats in hand. All in our fields of awareness, influencing us and how we feel about ourselves, each other or the world. The speed with which so much comes in is faster than I could ever process or put out and is designed to make me feel behind, inadequate. I find myself full with input, this outer world swirling in my inner world, but the bites are so fast and so small, I’m not digesting them. It’s all just swirling. But can we call that connection? I don’t think so. It’s interfield awareness. That’s a different thing entirely and it can be very lonely and disorienting. And also has become just how it is.
I recently had a two hour catch up with a really close friend. A really close friend who I hadn’t spoken to in months. But I see her and her kids all the time on social media. And she sees me. So we know how each other is really doing, right? Riiiiight.
Persona, performance and the degradation of empathy.
Then there’s the layer of persona and performance. The projected self. What happens to our sense of self-expression when it’s curated more often than spontaneous? And what about our sense of empathy and ways of relating to others? What’s authenticity and what’s vulnerability porn? What’s artistic performance and what’s performative bullshit? You ever see someone post the real, dark, hard stuff, and people are like ‘woah, attention seeking much, way to overshare’, but then posts of the good and beautiful without the true, it’s like ‘woah, inauthentic much, way to highlight reel and contribute to the collective sense of insecurity and inadequacy’. I wonder if this makes us suspicious of each other, like we can’t fully trust one another. We’re on display, genuinely trying to cultivate connection and share our voice and gifts and it’s a bloody obstacle course. Is it a forum for connection or an episode of reality television? Remember that Black Mirror Episode about the social network? I wonder if we’re closer to that than we think. I really question if it’s good for us to be on display like this, this isn’t a damn zoo. Also, animals aren’t meant to be on display. Fuck zoos. Also, we’re animals.
People are mean, careless and outright abusive. And we bust out the popcorn.
Spectacle. Oh, the spectacle. The bandwagons. The performative allyship. The 7-figure olympics. The 10 steps to enlightenment. The inflammatory headlines and unchecked sources. The complex and very specific linguistics you need to use to express yourself and be seen as being on the right side of history on any number of issues. The banging on pots. Buy my shit. Buy my shit. The literal dances being done for an algorithmic cookie. The experts and hustle and the latest tricks and tactics to suffer less and get more of what we need. When what we need may not be there at all.
What I need right at this moment is a long, deep, slow breath. Join me?
But it’s not all a mess is it? It’s feeding something valuable, isn’t it?
That’s why it feels so complicated. Gosh, of all the people I follow or am friends with or connected with on social media, I can’t point to any that I think are assholes. Like genuine assholes. I also don’t hate-follow, so that might be different for other folks. If you don’t know what hate-following is, you’re even later to the party than I am. Turns out some people like to follow folks who they hate, and have disdain for or vehemently disagree with. I think it would be generous and likely inaccurate to say this is so that they can keep an open mind and take in differing perspectives. I imagine that this has something to do with entertainment or staying vigilant. Or spectacle. At any rate, I don’t have the constitution for that. But even if we agree that most people are decent, deep down, social media can truly bring out the worst in us (and foster that we can’t agree that people are decent, deep down.) And studies show that algorithms will both feed you your worldview (creating echo chambers), as well as what you strongly disagree with (because you’re most likely to engage with it.) Boring, reasonable and middle ground content doesn’t keep you on the digital drug drip.
People can be mean, careless and outright abusive online in ways they never would IRL. People do this anonymously, to attract attention, for sport or out of deep pain. And we bust out the popcorn. Sometimes I’ll find myself creeping a comment thread, saying to myself, why am I here? Both OMGing at the audacity and seeking the voices of reason. I rarely wade in, but I know a lot of people who can’t help themselves and lose a lot of peace in the process. Occasionally, someone even takes responsibility, changes their opinion and engages in deep, thoughtful dialogue where they allow themselves to be influenced by someone else’s considered, respectful difference of opinion. And then they fly off with all the other mythical creatures. This isn’t where I want to spend my attention. I don’t think having my attention here is good for me, others or the world.
Privacy invasion is annoying and exhausting.
It’s not even about privacy so much to me. It’s about invasion. I’ve got this bangin’ text thread with a crew of 7 of my oldest friends (we’re talking, the girls I smoked my first and only cigarettes with when we barely had our periods, listening to Snoop while drinking bootlegged gin and juice). If I put my phone away for a few hours, which I often do, I’ll come back to over a hundred messages. It’s like social media. Except we actually see each other’s posts (no sellin’ our souls to the algorithms), we see the highlights and the lowlights. What I like to call the reality reels. And it’s private, we’re not inundated with ads. Wait, scratch that last bit.
Last year, sheltering in place, we started sharing links to what we were buying online. Someone would share a jumper or some other home friendly so-comfy-you-wear-it-to-bed-and-again-the-next-day kind of outfit.
The next time I’d click into Instagram that exact article of clothing would be sponsored in my feed. Every. Time. Anyone who’s watched the social dilemma or listened to anything Snowden has to say, knows that’s just the tip of the creep. But no one wants a creep inside them, even if it’s just the tip. Eww David. So we’re all commiserating in the text thread and I’m like “stop with the jumpers! too many ads for jumpers!” Then a friend starts sending links to dildos. But you know what never showed up sponsored in my feed? Dildos. I asked for one thing, Zucks, I asked for one thing. I’m out.
Accepted norms that businesses must be on social media just sucks.
Look, I’m no idiot when it comes to business. I’ve been running my own successful businesses since before websites were a thing you needed. We advertised in phone books. What’s a phone book? Exactly. This history brings some important wisdom about what is core, unchanging and timeless about doing and sharing our work. The clients and colleagues who seem the least gripped by the ‘gotta market on social’ trend are folks who’ve been in business for longer than the internet. But we also know how important it is to evolve with changing times. So I get that for many people, social media IS THE VEHICLE that drives their business (sometimes without even having websites, how’s that for evolving times?!)
We’re a bunch of really rad people on a noisy bus, with a psychopath driving that bus.
I’m not staging a coup here (who knows, maybe I am, I’ve been surprised (not surprised) by how many people have already reached out, resonating hard with my decision to leave). The last thing I want to do is light fires of doubt in people about what’s truly right and working for them. And for many people, both personally and in business, social media is a life line. It’s an incredible and powerful vehicle that many are leveraging well. I’ve been really impressed by the way leaders use these platforms to gain visibility, share their art and messages, fight for justice, invite dialogue, gather support, cultivate community, engage in culture changing, consciousness raising, system dismantling initiatives. It blows my mind really. And this is in spite of the intelligent design toward creating polarization, echo-chambers, spectacle, loneliness, fear, anxiety and real, debilitating mother-fucking-addiction for profit.
This idea that people make up their minds about us in a quarter of a second and we need to market accordingly. Gross. Maybe that’s true, but that doesn’t mean we need to subscribe to being short and shallow to be known and build trust. That’s not all of social media of course. Again, so much brilliance and depth does get poured into these platforms. But there are a lot of races to reduce. Catchy, fewer words, grab attention in a split second…no. You want your attention to flit and yell squirrel, you do you. But that feels awful to me. As a business owner and as a customer. Of course there are marketing and sales practices that are more effective than others, and like everything, I could endlessly learn about them. But I’m really interested in ethical marketing, marketing that’s truly about connecting need and service, that’s an invitation, and that includes me and what kind of marketing I expose myself to. And one that doesn’t use psychological exploitation. So being told that being on social media is how it’s done, that this is a collectively accepted norm and the only way to be successful…I’m not buying.
Social media is not the vehicle that drives my business. The vehicles that drive my business are relationships, deep work, art and faith. That’s all I need. And I haven’t found any of those fulfilled to their potential through the social platforms. Sure, social media can be fuel. But I’m not sure it’s fueling what I want to see grow. It feels like a noisy bus, with a bunch of really rad people, bringing a helluva lot of grit, creativity and genius, collectively trying to steer us in the right direction, while also pretty concerned that a total psychopath is driving the bus. I gotta get off at the next stop. I’ve got to drive my own bus. I need to be steering my own attention. And I want to take trips on your bus, fueled by your creativity and genius.
The fight for deep work in times of digital saturation.
I started to realize that my day to day thoughts – the thoughts that used to write prose or poems, innovate on new projects or meander into memory or reverie – had been hijacked. My precious creative flow defaulted to crafting social media captions, as though some pithy narrator was following me through my days.
We’re losing our capacity for space, boredom, focused concentration and deep work.
My psyche began orienting around social media platforms. Both what I would put on there, but also the field of others influencing my perspectives, some chosen, but many not. The ads alone always feed the hungry fears. When I started offering online courses in addition to coaching and consulting work, every other post was about building and selling online courses (that and onesie ads!) On a bad day I felt overwhelmed that I was missing things and doing it wrong, on a good day, I was just annoyed. At the risk of sounding like a dramatic curmudgeon, when I think of all the talent, creativity and lifeforce that’s being poured onto these platforms, I well up with grief. Especially and specifically because of who owns them and what they’re primary drive is. It’s not just that our time and creativity and what’s produced and shared becomes their property. It’s not just that we’re continually data mined, that our thoughts, psyches and creative potential can get hijacked and exploited. It’s not just that we’re losing empathy and true connection and are indoctrinated into accepting that we’re insufficient. We’re also losing our capacity for space, boredom, focused concentration and deep work.
Do you need a little bit of pressure to get things done? An unmovable deadline? Some of the ol’ last-minute adrenaline to get the creative juices flowing? But then also crave spacious creative time? Time to really sink into what you’re working on without the booming inner voice: produce produce produce.
It’s not just social media that I’m in a stare down with, it’s my smartphone, my email, and all digital distractions and shadow priorities. Let’s see if this is familiar to you: You’ve got something you’re working on. A creative project, a new body of work, some assignment you’ve been given or initiated. You know you need time and space to eat that frog, so you book it in. You close the 50 tabs, put your phone over there, maybe even have that software that doesn’t let you check things. (You do all this because you’ve also wasted hours, days, weeks, jumping and scrolling.) So you set yourself up for success. Then you fritter. You get up. Make another cup of coffee. Check your phone. Post something, read something, eat something. Fritter, fritter, fritter.
I’ve worked with so many people on this edge. Procrastination exists without digital distraction, of course. The sit down and get it done edge is, well, an edge. I’ve even strategized doing things at the last minute because I know that’s when I’m going to do it anyway. And yes, there is something to the pressure of a deadline helping to access a flow state, where all other priorities dissolve. But what if you don’t want to live your life like that? What if you want to be able to do your work when and in ways that feel nourishing? Or at least allow yourself to experience and stay with the discomfort at those edges? And what if social media and digital saturation is making it far harder to fully inhabit your interior, receive the muse and do your best work?
That’s what I’ve come to. Creativity feels better to me with inner spaciousness. Good, deep work feels way more satisfying without distractions. I feel proud of myself when I can focus my attention on something meaningful and beautiful and challenging. And usually those states don’t have squirrels or sparkles and they definitely don’t have reels. Being bored, thoughtful and staying in the discomfort or creative friction are where the bliss of life is for me. The satisfying work. The valuable work. This is also why I love client work so much. Nothing else exists. No one else matters.
This is also true socially, when my attention is only on the people I’m with. Recently a friend said, as I was leaving our in-person visit, “I really appreciate how present you are, that you didn’t check your phone while you were here and that we really connected.” I felt so touched by this reflection. This isn’t always true. And I can feel the difference. When that phone pulls, luring me away from what’s right here. Promising a hit of pleasure hormones, perpetuating an inner restlessness. How many of us go to the bathroom to check our phones? How many of us can make it through a whole movie without checking our phones? Fewer and fewer. So many people have shared the truth of this with me, like it’s a quiet and shameful secret. Starting with “I know it’s so bad, but…”
I want my children to know a world that doesn’t entertain and addict them.
I mean, I don’t really need to explain this, do I? My fellow parents have been singing the song of the screen time pain for a while. I’m one of millions of parents who’ve been listening to detailed, meandering, plotless diatribes about Minecraft for years. And that’s one of the wholesome ones! We’re not even talking about designed-for-addiction digital games and social sites.
Here’s a riddle for ya: What sounds soft and sweet but feels like debilitating shame?
A two-year old saying: Off your phone mama!
Confession time. Parenting can be boring. Also, capturing the sweet and funny moments is delightful. Also, when capturing those moments, much else captures my attention. Rabbit holes! I understand that there are parents who don’t have smartphones or don’t use them a lot, but that’s not the norm these days. Anyone who’s ever been at a playground, silently judging a parent who’s on their phone is probably better at publicly hiding that they do the same shit.
I’m not judging you and your use. I’m judging mine. Because I know how many cues I miss when my attention is on a social platform when my kid is around. I’m not suggesting that parents weren’t distracted with other things before that. But when I’m out and about, looking around at all those little faces, who are learning about their world through the cues and faces of others and there’s a sea of adult faces staring at screens…It freaks me out. And for my kid, the possibility that he senses that what’s on my screen may be more important than him…it breaks my heart. And the second that he decides he’s also interested in what’s on my screen and wants to play with it…game over.
One day, while walking to the school bus with my teenager (he doesn’t need me to walk to the bus with him, but the toddler’s day will be ruined, RUINED, if he doesn’t get to watch his brother board the bus), he asked me when I would remove screen time restrictions from his phone. Never, I said. Once you’re an adult, pay for your own phone, and are in charge of your own life and attention, you can decide what limits you want. This led to an argument about responsibility. And this is a very important argument.
You see, at 13, he believes that he’s responsible enough to set his own limits, to enforce his own boundaries. I don’t mock his belief, he’s a really responsible kid. I seriously question if we can do this at any age. I see this inner turmoil in adults. I feel it in myself. It’s our own failings if we’re addicted, that’s what we’re led to believe. It’s our responsibility to set boundaries or have a healthy and flourishing relationship with social media or the online space generally. It’s up to each individual. And there’s truth here, isn’t there? We’ve got to claim responsibility for ourselves and habits and our lives. I’ve got many peers in my field who have regular detox and social break habits, who have rituals in place to unplug from the matrix and keep their will reserves up.
But the argument that you’re irresponsible or weak or somehow lacking if you can’t resist the most sophisticated technology designed for addiction and ultimately purchasing, is ludicrous. And as I’ve observed myself giving way to it, as our whole family has wrestled with boundaries and what kind of culture we want around technology in the home, I’ve been explicit about what screen time restrictions really are. They’re not a punishment. They’re a kindness. They’re protection.
My son got a phone when he turned 12 to enable more freedom, so he could be out in the world and we could stay in touch (not a lot of pay phones around these days!). And with this phone comes a whole world ‘out there’ that’s seeping into his world ‘in here’. It’s designed to bring him back and keep him there. I’ve read many articles and talked to many parents who have older teens who are now entrenched in social media dynamics and bullying. Coming home and having a safe break from the hellscape that can be the social circus of teens is impossible when it comes with you on your device. I am so glad I didn’t have social media in my teens. Or most of my 20s for that matter. And I keep hearing about younger generations who are opting out, because they’re tracking how awful it feels. I hope this trend builds.
I need to give my children a chance to know the world without these all-consuming digital realities, to foster the choice and the sense of sovereignty over their attention. They need space for boredom. Protection from the predatory marketing that’s targeting them. But we all know that telling our children things is meaningless without being able to model it ourselves. Social media sobriety is also about modeling alternative possibilities for my children in a sea of norms that have taken hold.
Objections, fear and where I go from here.
Leaving social media feels bold and brave, but the bravest part for me is telling the truth of how sick and sad it feels there. I’m afraid that saying so will make others feel judged or alienate us from each other and that’s not my intention. It’s the machine that feels sick and sad. And this is what it’s come to for me. I’m not saying that you have this shared experience or that you should. I’ve reached a place where I need to either dissociate from my grief, disgust and rage at the nefarious experiment that I perceive this to be on our collective psyches, or I have to leave.
My biggest fear is that of being ridiculous, of inciting a side-eye from people. Being judged as someone who thinks too much, is too sensitive or takes things too seriously, which I’m always a little self conscious about. But honestly, I know that I’m not alone. I know that a lot of conversation happens around the difficulties with these platforms, behind closed doors.
When I’ve shared that I’m leaving, most responses have been strong. From weeping and sharing how much pain they’ve been holding quietly within themselves about social media, to wishing that they too could make that move but knowing they won’t, to being baffled that leaving is even an option, especially owning a business that operates online. It’s inspired dialogue, questions around sovereignty, and how we assume things must be done versus how we could do them if we got creative.
I’ve had people ask if me saying “I’m leaving” is like when folks disable their account for a couple of weeks and then come back. So far I’ve disabled my Instagram account. Facebook has made it infuriatingly difficult to do even that, so it remains live until I have the patience to get back in there. My intention is to delete completely, but I have a number of contacts that I still want to properly export and content I want to ensure I have copies of. I may create a friendless alias account just to access the local gardening groups. I don’t intend to use it for business at all. I know some folks who have automated accounts or managers that do everything so they don’t have to engage. I think people are getting creative about how to make it work for them, which is awesome. For me, for now, I want the cord totally cut.
To the question of whether I’ll ever come back, I honestly don’t know. I’m not in a pout, taking my ball and going home. I’m experimenting with ruthlessly prioritizing my time, attention and energy and seeing what happens when I opt out. In just over a week of being off, my screen time has dropped over 50%, I feel more inner space, generative creativity and deeper connection to myself and with others. I’m not afraid of losing connections or of loneliness, I trust we’ll continue to find each other. I am a bit nervous of losing contact with a social pulse and what’s going on with the world through these lenses, but I’m up for seeing if the trade off is worth it. I am genuinely excited about creative and alternative ways to share my work and have claimed a whole new pace for my attention.
If you’ve gotten this far, you either skipped to the end or have graced me and this piece with a lot of your attention. I know how precious it is. Thank you. I’m grateful. I hope what I’ve shared has sparked inspiration or permission, or has invited you into inquiry around your own sovereign desires for your life and lifeforce. I’d love to hear what resonated for you, or not or what threads exist for you that I may have missed. If you’d like to comment or reach out directly, I welcome the opportunity to hear from you. And if you’d like to hear from me, future musings and practices I share exclusively with my mailing list, you can sign up here.
Well done, Chela. I was most taken by the part about ‘persona, performance and the degradation of empathy’. I’ve tried to describe this lately to people as: social media is making people behave really, really *weirdly* – and it’s making me really uncomfortable. I also love how passionately you describe the potential for deep work. Bravo!
Thanks Jack! I appreciate your comment. I think that the added global reduction in face-to-face time, with close people but also just strangers and acquaintances, contributes to that weird behaviour even more.
This is the most true, thorough, & thoughtfully articulated rant about the heart and soul wrenching dilemma that is social media. Yes, yes, yes. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼
I love this post and think you’re very brave. But I thought that of you already, ha!
One of the many things that get to me more and more is seeing people that have a business based on/thanks to Socials (and who post constantly), post things like ‘This is your sign to put down your phone and stop scrolling’. And then the next story is about their program on how to create a 10k funnel with Instagram.
On the positive side, i’ve also learned so much on Instagram about racism, white supremacy etc etc. Sometimes I’m scared I might have been a bit of a ‘Karen’ without it.
Do you think it’s still possible to start/pivot a business without using social media? Like when you don’t have an existing email list?
(Btw I still miss those Dear Chela videos!)
Love it!!! Gonna follow your brazen lead 😀
I love this entire piece (have read it multiple times), particularly the parts about social media, performance and the degradation of empathy. Social media is normalizing unhealthy self-obsession. Who has time to live in the shoes of others, to concern oneself with ideas of community, to remember the social contract, to live with a quieter ego, when there’s just so much reward from putting yourself at the center of the universe all the time and there are (addictive) technologies that make it SO easy to do so?
I had a friend many years back who became a bit of a maniac on Facebook. On there, he was loud, obnoxious, assertive, said toxic macho bigoted things, and reveled in the back-patting and attention he received as well as the victimhood when people objected. It would have been easy to think this guy was strong, confident, assertive, and in control of this life. I met him in person around the same time and it was quickly clear how much of a mess his life was – overworked, stressed, borderline alcoholic, unhealthy, and expressed dark suicidal ideations to me. His real life was the inverse of his persona on FB. I felt then about him – and continue to think now about others – that he created a different version of himself online that he WISHED he could be in real life, but wasn’t. It was entirely performative, but easy to do so because online life is much easier to craft, control, and curate compared to real world life. It’s so easy to hide – from yourself and others – and much harder to express on SM the raw, messy, complicated, confusing, scary aspects of our lives.
I admire you taking this step. It’s hard to step out of a world you feel you have to participate in order to feel you exist, are valued, or matter. Hard to imagine we didn’t have these things 20 years ago, yet life still felt fine and we managed perfectly well.
I feel your soul calling for this shift. Following your soul’s calling bears no regrets.
PS… Ella & Bert will be sure to stay in touch 😉
I came across your article from a breadcrumb trail I followed from theawakenedbusiness website. Oh my, what a joy it was to read your thoughts. A lot of what you said resonates with my reasons for avoiding social media in life and work. I’m venturing into the world of online business social-media free. It doesn’t truly foster meaningful connections, it’s a time sink and to me seems like a space of opinion and information overload. Whatever happened to contemplative living, and soul spurned work. I’m trying to build a conscious intentional business, fuelled by deep awareness. None of us will live forever. It is important we question how we spend our time whilst here. I want to dedicate my life to crafting meaningful experiences for myself and those I work with. I believe in slow, deep business. These qualities are not fostered by a bunch of likes on social media. in my opinion, social media is over-rated. I’ll end my thoughts here, and once again it’s wonderful knowing that others are choosing a more aware path in business. All the best
Thanks so much for your comment. I’m thrilled this resonated with you and that you’re engaged in the rich path of slow, deep business! Wishing you so much fulfillment, success and impact on this path.