2020 has been a weird year so far. To be fair, every year feels like that. However, this year feels… uncertain… bleak… long. But not necessarily bad. It’s just… there.
These past few weeks, I’ve been ruminating on words to type onto the screen, debating what needs said and how to say it. There’s a lot to say given the world we currently live in. I’m not sure I can even put all my thoughts into words; after all, some things cannot be captured in syllables and consonants. Some things are better off existing in the in-between, where we know what it is even if we can’t exactly put letters to it. Maybe that sounds crazy, but also… I can’t put it into words.
Like everybody else, I wanted to start 2020 with a bang. I wanted to do ALL the things, conquer ALL the goals. I wanted to continue bettering myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Some of those things I am doing.
My mental health is much better this year than it was last year, but I still need to be careful of what I let in–more on that later. Physically? Well, if you were to ask me where the nearest gym was in State College, I’ll simply pretend I didn’t hear you as I watch the next new show on Netflix. Not to mention my newfound addiction of zebra cakes of which I bought eight boxes to use as an in-class demonstration—a demonstration I never did, which resulted in me (and my zebra cake BFF) to sneak in sugary snacks throughout the school day as if they were little rolls of crack. Spoiler alert: they are; we’re down to one box in less than a week. And spiritually? I do feel I’m better in tune with my surroundings, finding my own zen, if you will.
I’m writing more, reading more, and focusing on my students more. I’ve been taking small steps such as walking to work vs. driving the .2 miles there, cooking meals at home, and actually paying attention to the things I buy–not that I don’t buy things. I do. Target is a magical place.
However, I’ve noticed that one place that has no magic, despite all its promises of social sorcery, is that of social media.
Okay, fine. Maybe it does have magic, but it’s the dark kind, one that boils in pits of tar and swallows reason and logic as if it were a parasitic slug.
Up until December, I’d taken a two year break from Facebook and a six-month hiatus from Twitter. Why? Well, it’s full of fake news being touted as facts, narcissistic personalities reigning free all for a like or a hundred, and endless debates on morality that never actually does anything but irritate people and cause divides. Oh, and to be fair, I’m guilty of some of these things myself. I am, after all, human.
I did enjoy my first few weeks back on Facebook: I publicly came out as gay and received much support from friends even if I didn’t get much support from family members because, in their misunderstood interpretations of the Bible, they feel I’m an abomination for loving men, for my biological attraction to them. But it’s okay. They still love me–they just don’t love what I am. Oh well. I’m finally free being out. I enjoyed calling out social injustices. I spent an hour or so purging my friends list because why not?
Then I found myself getting into little debates here and there. Some with friends/family and others with strangers, both on Twitter and on Facebook. I started finding myself devoting considerable time each day to these feeds, procrastinating from doing things more deserving of my time. I’d scroll and scroll and scroll, laughing at Baby Yoda memes until I cried, watching dog videos until they morphed into videos of people talking to their pet cactus (it’s real), and becoming depressed at how terrible and deadly ignorance, racism, sexism, and Trumpism is in the digital world. My time and mental health were being assaulted.
Sure, I can keep up on the news easier this way. I can keep in touch with awesome people through these platforms. But… do I really need to know what Jane Doe is eating for Sunday Funday? Is it necessary to read how John Doe is drooling over Jon Snow on Game of Thrones? What purpose does it serve for me to see memes, comedic or political when all it does is either waste away time or make me upset at the degrading morality of our nation?
The answer is: no, it’s not necessary. No, there’s no purpose except to get sucked into the vortex of self-important posts and cat videos.
I try to justify keeping these platforms to use my voice, to speak up, to stay connected. But really all I’m doing is opening myself up to mental attacks and judgment on others and from others. I’m sitting behind a screen, feeding some strange appetite while I’m really starving myself from the beauty life has to offer.
Remember my adventures in California? If not, feel free to check those out, but… I didn’t have social media when I was in CA. I had my phone, yes. But no Facebook–no Twitter. It was just me and the world–connections with strangers, embracing the beauty and wonder of nature, feeding my creativity with experiences outside of a digital screen. God, I LOVED THOSE DAYS! They were energizing, fresh, invigorating. My soul has been longing for that magic to return. Friends, if I told you how many times I’ve looked at Air BnBs and flights and wonderful places to see in the past month, you’d probably think me crazy. I want another adventure. Hell, I want to return to Mt. Shasta so bad it hurts. Alas, money is a wicked and limiting thing.
But so is social media when you consider all it keeps you from.
The reason why I enjoyed life so much in those two weeks was because I was free from the burden social media holds over the lives of so many people. I was free from the negativity in the world. I was free from the baggage of feeling like I had to post something or like a status or comment on Suzie’s post about how sinful and wrong a Super Bowl half-time show was but yet blindly praise a man who treats people poorly daily with terrible names and intentional lies, a man who breaks up families and fuels an “us vs. them” mindset with human beings.
All of that noise was gone, and I was better for it. So, as 2020 starts picking up steam, what’s the point in keeping the two platforms that cause me so much anxiety, depression, and unproductiveness? I can’t come up with many reasons.
Therefore, the best thing I can do is delete both accounts. Entirely. In this way, I won’t have any accounts to return to. There will be no temptation to hop on and see what’s up with people or get into debates. It will be deleted along with my accounts.
You might say, “But Josh! This won’t shield you from the horrible things in the world!”
That is true. I’ll still follow the news. It will continue to make me sad, to make me cry. It’s my duty, however, to be informed without exposing myself to what I see on social media. Folks, our democracy is dying. Some of you will not agree with me. Some of you see it just as I do. We live in uncertain times where a president can commit a crime and get away with it. People of his own party admits to his wrong doing but won’t vote him out. We are seeing the death of democracy and justice and the rise of an authoritarian system. I only wish I was exaggerating. I only wish my family didn’t so eagerly support and love a liar, a racist, and a man who contradicts all their religious morals on a daily basis. It hurts to see people I love and care about become so easily manipulated by lies and the degradation of human beings. I can’t tolerate it on social media any longer, as it does nothing good for me.
I’ll get my news through the internet, but in this way I’ll avoid the comments and responses. I’ll use my voice, not on social media platforms, but in my community. I’ll speak up against the injustices in the world by writing my stories and posting on here. I’ll help raise an intellectual army in my students, encouraging them to research and explore and form their own opinions–to love, to forgive, to continue being the awesome human beings they already are. That’s where using your voice makes the most impact–in the real world. Not in the social media world.
We are in strange times. 2020 is uncertain at this point. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of year it’ll be and who it’ll make me at the end.
I refuse to let Facebook and Twitter be the things that shape me.
So, with that, I’ll leave you. You will not find me on either platform anymore. You can find me on here where I’ll write when I can. You can reach out to my cell phone. Should you find me outside the digital walls, hopefully you’ll join me in the wilderness of real-life, enjoying nature and making connections.
This is the way.