the long run

In what will come as a shock to no one who really knows me (and my previously voiced feelings toward social media), I'm 99.9% sure that I'm going to quit Instagram. And possibly Twitter.

This past weekend, when I was at Coachella, there was a constant buzz in the back of my brain. And no, it wasn't drugs. It was my acute awareness that I hadn't posted anything to Instagram. That I was "dark." And it was fucking distracting. It stayed with me all weekend, and only got quiet for the couple hours or so after I'd posted a slew of pics on Saturday and Sunday morning, bringing my 1100 or so followers up to speed on my whereabouts and whatabouts, so they could exhale with relief and get on with their day.

You see where this is going.

It got quiet another time, too: when, out of the blue, I received a text from my girlfriend Kerry, who knew I was at Coachella and would be out of pocket, but who wanted to let me know she'd seen Chaucer out with his dog sitter, looking happy and fit. Her text was such an unexpected and welcome surprise that I broke into a huge grin. And I realized in that instant how totally fucked up my priorities were. I'd been spending all of this mental energy seeking out the sights and sounds I thought my internet friends would be impressed by that I hadn't stopped to consider what pics or video clips my actual, real life friends might get a kick out of.

I'm horrified to say this happens a lot.

I'm horrified to admit that there are days when I spend a LOT of time thinking about my internet friends and very little - if not none at all - thinking about my real life friends. Because the fact is, Instagram has grown to be a sort of substitution for doing the work of interacting with those real life friends. Social media is an easy, quick fix of interaction. Tap, tap, type, type - feel satisfied that I've had an exchange with someone. That I've connected. I feel social. I feel engaged. But am I? Because for all that tapping and typing, I haven't gotten the tiniest bit closer to the people whose company and real life support I (claim to) treasure. In fact, I feel like I've forsaken them in a way. Rather than put in the time and effort to connect with them, to ask about their day or make plans to hang out - to keep the generalized loneliness that is a fact of the human condition at bay for another five minutes - I turn to social media for a hit of connection.

The unspoken subtext here, the thing I realize it must sound like I'm implying, is that real life friendships are a more valuable time investment than internet friendships. I'm not saying that. I'm not claiming that as a truth for anyone. I'm not even sure that it's true for me, because holy shit have I been on the receiving end of some incredible support and kindness, online. I can only speak for myself. And I know I've been lax in working at my real life relationships, largely because it is so easy to get lost in (or feel satisfied by) my virtual ones. I hate that this is the case. I wish I had all the time in the world to devote to ALL my relationships, and to interacting with all the amazing people who've reached out to me on the internet, to say they appreciate or admire something I've done/said...but I don't. I'm overwhelmed by social media, and for a long time now, I've let it get in the way of my goals.

Instagram has become for me a very hollow and very superficial form of creative gratification. I get a fleeting sense of artistic satisfaction when I post, but that satisfaction is in lieu of creating something actually meaningful. Stories or personal essays, or compelling opinion pieces. Even the shittiest flash fiction or poetry I write on my blog feels better than posting another goddamn selfie. And when I consider the number of books I could have read - or the languages I could have learned - over the past two years, instead of screwing around on social media, it makes me want to cry.

I talked to Mason about this, and he nailed it: I think for you, as it is for me, a lot of that shit is a way to avoid facing your creative demons. Just a way to procrastinate. Take away all that shit and you're forced to write. Which is what you should be doing anyway. 

Speaking only for myself and my observations/experience, the most successful of my friends are the ones who give precisely zero fucks about social media. The friends I know who are actually most engaged socially, hanging out and taking trips and spending actual face time with one another - are the ones who have next to no social media presence. When I look at the artists I most admire - the writers and filmmakers and musicians who are actually producing (and selling!) compelling content, they're the ones for whom Instagram is last on a long and eye-opening list of priorities. 

I also use social media in some unhealthy ways. "Checking up" on people I don't even like. So, so fucked up. Such a colossal and embarrassing waste of my time. And if I don't have accounts on these apps, it's much, much more difficult to engage in that particular vein of WTFery. I can still log onto my computer and manually search for individuals, but I don't see myself doing that, because I am supremely lazy. 

Last point: having a blog does more than enough fuckery with my sense of reality, and my sense of self. I have to be vigilant not to live my life in pursuit of bloggable content, and not to look at the things and people I love as material. Instagram makes that about a hundred times harder. I find myself seeking out Instagrammable moments and situations, instead of just living my damn life. That's gross and weird, and I want it to stop. It's gotten so bad that sometimes an experience doesn't feel real unless I've documented it for the world to see (particularly when I spend time with friends, or when Terence does something especially sweet). I feel myself trying to prove something, to others maybe, or perhaps just to myself? I am loved. I am loved. SEE, WORLD? I AM LOVED!!

It's time, I think, to reinvest my energy into doing things that will make me love myself, truly and deeply, in the long run.