I wouldn’t call it an addiction to social media, not exactly. Certainly there are senses in which addiction is accurate, but it’s not the whole picture. Social media isn’t giving me a high like it once did. It maxed itself out, used itself up. Now I’m sucking on its corpse, trying in vain to drain it of life fluids that are no longer there. It’s more that social media has me locked in a death grip downward spiral. Even when there’s nothing to see anymore I go back again and again. I have ADHD (whatever the hell that means) but it’s more than that. I go back because at one point it was a home to return to. Now it’s a familiar graveyard, an empty house at the end of the street, but I keep going back in a panic, full of anxiety that I’ll miss out on something, that my virtual “family” is doing something in my absence. And they are. Of course. They never stop. There’s always a brother or cousin or uncle having an adventure or getting arrested or posting vacation photos. I mean, the only way I know about anything in the world is through social media. I don’t have TV for anything other than Netflix, so when I turn off social media, I literally shut out the entire world. I’m dependent on it for nearly everything I know about the wider world.
I used to read a lot more than I do now. It’s hard to spend a consistently long amount of time on a piece of writing without feeling compelled to check my phone, see what happened when I was away for four and a half minutes. I’m now in various stages of progress with about 12 books, but I won’t finish any of them, I’ll just add more as my attention gets more stretched and taxed and interrupted. I think I’ve lost the capacity to savor the world around me, to listen, to hear things in the silences, to read and read and then write and write, to organize and plan and stick to the plan, enrich flesh and blood relationships, to just bloody think for longer than 10 seconds. I read somewhere that ridding ourselves of social media doesn’t seem wise; we should instead learn how to manage it better. That sounds wise, but for someone who so easily drowns himself in it, I’m becoming convinced that mature management isn’t possible. For some of us these are two different worlds and until we can figure out how to create a balance, we’ll have to choose one of them.
I’ve never been so false as I have on social media (really, just Facebook). Not lying per se, just hyper-curated. And so is everyone else. Everyone is there in this stream of illicit eliciting. It’s not even necessary to have genuine interactions (with avatars of people, not people, hard to remember/believe that). If your post gets a few dozen silent likes (or loves or hahas or wows) you find yourself satisfied for 5 seconds and then immediately wanting more. But you weren’t communicating, you were being adored. You were reveling in adoration and silent applause. Comments are good too, but they don’t pack the purity of likes. Comments are like diluted heroin. And negative comments? Forget about it. I want my saying to be agreed with, to impress and inspire and amaze. Here are my children, or photos from a recent social gathering (aren’t you jealous I was with so and so?) and this victory and this defeat (please show me how sad you are thank you that feels better) and this mountain of trivial annoyances I’ll complain about endlessly and you’ll agree with me, they’re damn annoying. I just saw the most recent movie of the moment, let me share my experience with you, share share share share everything, everything except for those large swaths of my life that are too ordinary or dark to share, which constitute most of my life, but here’s this sliver of life that will represent all of my life and here’s this impassioned plea for activism or this angry rant, and this isn’t about me though it’s on my wall under my name, this is about this cause or that person or this principle or that value and even though we’re all sick together in this traffic-heavy virtual village of eternally unsated egos, let’s pretend we’re okay and other people are sick, so come on let’s crush this person over here and form a mob against that one over there but we’re not murderers or destroyers, we’re Serious Doers of Justice and Justice will be Done on Social Media and we will feel triumphant and treat one another to another round of likes as a reward. And people will love us and we will feel relieved every time that blue page comes up, like a childhood home that comes into view after being away for a long time and what’s new, what can I like, what issue needs my street-wise expertise, how clever can I be today, just love my my avatar and I’ll love yours and we’ll promise to help one another believe being everything is okay as long as we’re all here, and eventually everything we do will be an excuse to parade our avatars in front of other avatars (if it isn’t already) and the meaning of life will become whatever can be shared and especially whatever can accrue the most likes. Our biggest regret will be that we’ll never get to see all the sad emojis lavished on photos of our funerals.