Why I am leaving social media
Really. I mean it this time.
I got my first Gmail account when the product was still in beta in 2004. I still have it, and get the occasional spam email to email@example.com. If you know, you know. That was my email address for a looonnnggg time.
I got my first Twitter account in 2008, Facebook in 2009. Instagram and Snapchat and Reddit followed. I even had a Friendster account. Never a MySpace though. Which is weird.
All along the way I had blogs on various platforms. Geocities (ah, the colors! the graphics!), Blogger, TypePad, Livejournal (man do I miss the old days of Livejournal), and Wordpress. And before all that I had AIM and various IRC logins and frequented a variety of internet message boards all the way back to the mid 90s.
I have been relentlessly online for a long time.
I have tried to share as openly as possible. I shared about my experiences in Iraq. Not intel stuff, I am not an asshole. Or at least, I'm not an asshole about infosec. But I shared about my thoughts and feelings and frustrations. I shared so much, in fact, that the Army told me to take it down.
I have shared pictures of my kids. Big moments in my life. I even shared - on Facebook - about the time I thought I broke my penis. And I have taken so many pictures of food. So, so many. I talked about parenting and sports and faith and big questions and little questions and just shit that I thought was interesting.
I did it because I thought that I was building authentic connections. I did it because I believed (and still believe) that when social media is done right it is perhaps the greatest tool every created to bring people together, create understanding, and build bridges across vast distances of space and time.
And. Two things can be true at the same time.
While social media is all of those things, it no longer is a place I need to be.
I believe that some people are capable of having a social media presence that comes with boundaries, reasonable expectations, and effective, positive engagement. I am not one of those people.
I say too much for most people. I say too little for others. I create what I think are real connections, only to come to understand that they... aren't. Simply by being in these spaces (and being me), I have been caught in dramas, hurt people's feelings, and generally made messes when I thought I was helping. I have created conflict where there didn't need to be any, all because someone was wrong on the internet and I couldn't, or wouldn't, simply let it go.
Some people can do this and maintain perspective. Just like some people can have one glass of wine with dinner and say no to any more. I am not one of those people. In either situation.
For a long time I needed social media. I needed people to like my status, laugh at my jokes, tell me how great I was. I needed people to love me. I needed people to tell me I was smart and handsome and funny. I needed people to fill an emotional hole left there by trauma and abuse and war.
I needed to hear I was great because I didn't think I was. In fact, I felt the opposite.
I have come to realize a couple things.
The first is that I am worthy. I am worthy of love. I know what I am and what I am not. I know who I am and who I am not. I don't need social media to tell me that. Not anymore.
The second is that, because I know all these things, I no longer have to trade private access to my life and thoughts for the approval and love of others. I don't have to provide vicarious entertainment and engagement for people who will simply move on to the next thing after I am gone. Because, and let's be real here, it's not real approval or unconditional love that people give online. At least not most people (including, honestly, me).
If I were to be wrong on the internet, all of that approval, all of that love, would simply be withdrawn, and given to someone else.
My friends will continue to be my friends whether I am funny on Facebook or not. My food will still taste good or bad whether I take a picture or not. The Dallas Cowboys will still break my heart, and Love, Actually will still be a terrible Christmas movie whether I spend hours talking about it or not.
Some things just are. Some things aren't.
It's time for me to finally realize which is which for me.
FWIW, this decision doesn't even touch on all the ways social media is structurally problematic. I suggest that you read Jaron Lanier's masterful book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now for that argument. Lanier does it better than I could.
This newsletter will still be published 1-3 times a month to the people that want to read it, and seek out that engagement.
The remainder - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all the rest - will be shut down as of January 1. It's been a good run. 25 years plus of being relentlessly online, with only short breaks. I am overdue some time away.
It is time to go do something else for the next 25 years.
Be well y'all. Keep pounding the rock.
I will see you here in the new year.