As a teen, I enjoyed sending handmade cards to faraway friends. I spent hours meticulously cutting and glueing together pieces of card stock, usually without the faintest idea of what to make or write, until I produced something to my liking. I let my hands do the thinking. When I graduated from high school and went off to college, so did I from cardmaking.
A recent lengthy e-mail correspondence reminded me of how it was once not uncommon for me to write such letters, and the delight of doing so. It also made me question the way I currently interact with people in the digital world, something that’s already been on my mind as I recalibrate my priorities in life.
Over the past few months, I’ve removed most “unnecessary” apps from my devices. I stopped idling on Google Chat, AIM, and IRC—the latter two being services I’d used almost daily for 15 years—and have been refreshing my inbox less often. A handful of objectively unnecessary apps survived the purge though, including Facebook and Twitter.
In my effort to decrease time spent on social media, I’ve found that I use it more selfishly. These days I only open social apps when I have something to share, which feels uncomfortably narcissistic. The immediate praise that comes in the form of likes and faves can tempt even those who don’t care for it.
My ability to live in the moment and enjoy everyday life is also diminished, since I tend to snap photos and fumble with my phone instead of enjoying what’s at hand. Nick Bilton’s 2012 New Year’s Resolution comes to mind, and resonates with me now more than ever. I do love taking photos though—I’ve just come to appreciate that an unshared photo is a more meaningful one.
Don’t get me wrong—I prefer to stay in touch with friends and keep apprised of their lives. But I miss the richness that our interactions once had, and would much rather catch up with someone face-to-face or at least through a true correspondence, rather than peek at their life through the distorted lens of social media posts.
The time and energy I spend streaming disjointed snippets of consciousness to social media would undoubtedly be better spent writing and sharing more cohesive written works. And there are better, private platforms for journaling, which is primarily what I use social media for.
So today my Facebook and Twitter apps join the purge, replaced by trusty pencil and notebook paper. If you notice me less on social media (as I hope you will), know that I’m still around, and eagerly await and welcome your letters. Or a bicycle ride, walk in the park, and even just reading beside one another—anything but a tweet.
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