For the past few weeks I have been on my personal Facebook only a handful of times. I deleted all my public social media accounts and reduced my Facebook friends list tremendously. I deleted about 3/4 of my friends list.
A lot of things happened at once that caused me to make the choice to get off everything. The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain set it off. Everyone was talking about suicide and a lot of the people talking have no idea what it is like to deal with a mentally ill person or what it is like being the mother of someone who dies by suicide, specifically, what it is like to be me. I know people have good intentions, but what really helps suicide survivors and people dealing with mental illness is to not be treated like we are all the same and to listen to us and our lived experiences instead of talking to “experts” or blogging your opinion on the subject if you have no personal experience with suicide loss. And even if you do have experience, do not speak for my experience.
Then there was the brutal murder of a young man in the Bronx that was captured on video. I was just scrolling through my Instagram when I came across the video. The entire thing shook me to my core even more than seeing my own son’s lifeless body in my garage. People literally just walked by and did nothing to help a boy yelling for his life. Men in the bodega just watched as he was dragged out of there by his jacket. He looked a lot like Anthony to me and watching that video fucked me up. After seeing it, I decided that I was done with social media.
In the weeks since I feel better in a lot of ways. I am not angry all the time, I don’t know what Trump had for breakfast today and why we are so pissed about it and I do not wonder why so and so comments on everyone’s status but mine and who has me hidden from their feed. I just live my life.
My brain isn’t used to it though and I have to stop myself from seeing every moment as a social media moment. I don’t have to take pictures of everything and come up with the perfect caption but my brain still does it because it thinks that is what we do. Also, I don’t have to type up every single thought in my head which actually helps me think more instead of just vomiting my thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. I am actually just existing and not working towards likes, zingers, retweets or getting more followers. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, all of those things fed my pride, insecurities and my constant feeling of not being good enough. I didn’t even realize that until I logged out.
Another thing I’ve figured out in the last few weeks of social media withdrawal is how hard it is to maintain friendships without it. First of all, people get seriously mad when you delete them from Facebook. Which is weird. When did we all sign a social contract saying if we aren’t Facebook friends then we aren’t friends at all? Secondly, it is a lot of work to text, email and meet for lunch or coffee to maintain that friendship. More work than clicking a quick “like” or leaving an emoji on a picture.
It’s also a lot more work to maintain vulnerability without social media and to be authentically vulnerable. It is much easier to throw out one vulnerable status or tweet or IG caption and see who of your friends responds with love rather than reach out to one person and not have them respond. I have been left hanging in texts & emails a lot of times these past few weeks and that never happens on my social media. Someone will always respond to whatever I post, so it’s “safe”. No risk of feelings of rejection or abandonment that may or may not even be anywhere other than my own mind.
We make time for what we care for and I think that social media has made us all feel connected and made us think that we are building all these friendships but the truth is that we are actually more disconnected than ever. How many times have I told my kids “hang on” while I type away at my phone in some heated argument on social media? How many times have I swatted away real life and real connections so that i could make a perfect IG post with filters and pictures of moments to make it seem like I am living life with connections? Too many to count.
Now that I’m texting one person at a time, making one lunch/coffee date at a time and building one friendship at a time, I see how much time and energy it takes. And I also see how some people don’t think I am worth their time and energy. Which is ok because I don’t think we are made to have 100 close friends. Jesus only had 12. You can love someone, want the best for them, catch up with them here and there and pray for them without being their close friend. Social media has killed our ability to do that in real and authentic ways and instead we just reduce every relationship down to likes and retweets.
This has also taught me a lot about my relationship with God. How lazy I’ve been in it. How much I fail to cultivate and maintain it. I find it frustrating to spend time building my relationship with Him because I don’t take the time to build one with anybody. I don’t know how. And if I don’t know how to build one with God, I certainly do not know how to with anyone else which really explains so much about my life.
So that’s what I’m doing. Building relationships. First with God and then with everyone else around me. My husband, my kids and those who build me up because they truly love me and want the best for me. Whose friendships help me heal instead of feed the worst of me. I feel as if Anthony’s suicide was a fire that burnt my entire life down and now it is time to rebuild it one relationship at a time.