I joined Facebook in October 2007, and Twitter in May 2008. Social media has been a massive part of my life for more than a decade. It was originally a way to find and connect with like-minded people, and a natural extension of my blog. I made good friends, some of whom I went on to meet in the flesh.
The social media world has changed since then. It’s harder and harder to fight the algorithms that control what you see, and what you don’t. There’s no way of knowing what’s being hidden from you, or whether what’s popular is being promoted by nefarious Russians for their own opaque purposes. Social media is more popular, and busier, and has been adopted by businesses, so there’s a lot more noise and advertising, and a lot less chit chat. And I don’t need to say that some pretty unsavoury people have taken to social media simply to torment and abuse others.
In the face of all this noise, it’s almost impossible to feel you’re making a connection. I have felt, for a while, that my posts are simply me shouting into the void. And the constant stream of “We have to do something!” posts – our response to feeling like we live in a broken world – make me anxious, not motivated.
I have been following lots of accounts that post interesting snippets. Each one sent me off to look things up or find out more, and gave me ideas of things I wanted to do. But I didn’t do any of them. I didn’t use the information I’d dug up. The interesting snippets piled up, and I started to file them away to use later. Fortunately they are digital, not paper, or I would have been buried by an avalanche of paper by now. My poor brain bounces from one shiny new thing to the next, and can’t focus on one topic long enough to make anything of it.
And so I decided to take a month off social media. I didn’t have rules, or go cold turkey, but I did mute 90% of the people I follow on Twitter for a month, and unfollow most companies/organisations on Facebook. So when I opened up the apps to see what had been happening… I got very little. Doing it this way meant I didn’t have to fight the habit, but removed the addictive ‘reward’ that social media gives us every time we check it.
It has been nearly a month, and I don’t miss it. So I’m not going back to social media. I’m not deleting my accounts, I’m not storming off in a huff, and I’m not saying “Never again”; it simply has nothing to offer me at the moment. I want connection and conversation, I’m just not sure where to find it.
I have no idea what this might mean for the blog, in terms of what I write finding an audience. Maybe it will be the start of a new thing – The Unconventional Gardener Unplugged. We shall have to wait and see.