My Escape From Social Media

I am a millennial in every sense. I haven’t had cable for years. I go nowhere without my Kindle. I use a tablet at work, instead of a notebook. I have six figure student loan debt, for a degree that no one thought could make a career (suck it bitches). More than once, I’ve answered the phone with “Did you mean to call me?”, because what year is it and why aren’t you texting? I met my husband on a dating app. I actually started typing this blog post on my smartphone. I love technology and all the ways it makes my life easier and makes me more connected. So, naturally, I’ve been an avid user of computers and social media for… well, my entire life.

giphy2

In middle school, it was AIM, or AOL Instant Messenger. I’d get home from school and chat with my friends all night long, while posting comments and reading articles on gurl.com, browsing online at Delia’s, or participating in a Roswell RPG chat room. Eventually, I took up blogging, with Xanga, and graduated to Myspace, when the time was right. At 21, I joined Facebook and have never once deactivated it, since. I tried Twitter, but quickly realized I care very little about the lives of celebrities and ultimately deleted it. Instagram filters drove me mad, but I enjoyed the photos of friends from high school and world travelers I’d never meet, so I maintained a lazy relationship with it, which consisted mostly of cat photos. Despite it’s peaks and valleys in popularity, however, Facebook was consistently my jam.

I think my Facebook obsession can be attributed, in part, to having lived alone for so long. While I enjoyed my single girl peace and freedom, living alone could be, well… lonely. Facebook made me feel connected, especially once messenger took off. I could be at home and still be in contact with acquaintances, friends, and family. I could both play the hermit and be in-in-the-know about everyone from high school. I could strike up a conversation with any random friend from the 9th grade and ask what was going on in their lives. We could get lunch or a drink and catch up, and we did on multiple occasions. I was never truly alone, as long as I was on Facebook and that was comforting when I was alone in every other sense. Because I lived by myself, I never worried about my relationship with social media. Who cared if I spent two hours on the couch, thumbing through my newsfeed, reading linked articles, or falling prey to Modcloth advertisements? With the dog curled up in my lap, I was neglecting no one.

selena-phone-gif-jc

Gail has always had a love/hate, on/off relationship with social media, deleting and reactivating her account on the regular. I, however, only stopped rolling my eyes at her and started to consider my own Facebook usage, around the time I met Jake. If things went well, I’d eventually be living with another person, and I couldn’t neglect them for my phone. In a sense, however, it remained Future Belle’s problem. I saw no need to immediately cut back. Then, the Mother’s Day before last, I saw the post of a friend of a friend, the result of Facebook’s annoying practice of displaying every item a friend likes or comments on, instead of just their own posts. She was sharing the ‘About My Mom’ worksheet her daughter had completed at school, stating from her daughter’s perspective, what she did for a living, her favorite color, how old she was, and what she liked to do. It was that last one that stuck in my mind.

“My mom likes to…”
“… play with her phone.”

Several people thought this was adorable. Maybe I’m a judgmental cow, but I thought it was deeply depressing. There are so many ways my hypothetical children could respond to this question:

“Play with daddy”
“Read”
“Crochet”
“Play with me”

I think the most horrifying one would be “play with her phone.” I don’t want my kids to remember me with a smartphone plastered to my hand like some kind of nuclear fallout victim. I don’t want them to keep things from me, because my default setting is to ignore them for technology. I don’t want to look at my 18-year-old and realize I missed her childhood to keep up with people from high school I didn’t even like enough to attend my reunions. I especially don’t want my children to think that I care more about how fun our daily lives, holidays, and vacations appear to be than how fun they actually are. It was at that point that I realized, Gail was right, and I would need to extricate myself from Facebook, entirely… eventually.

Indeed, after I got married, I realized social media was taking me out of the moment. I’ve always taken a lot of pictures and actually carried a film camera around with me throughout high school, but I wasn’t just chronicling our memories for us. I was reporting my every moment to everyone I’d ever met… and it was none of their business. It was starting to make me a bit uncomfortable, sharing so much with people I barely knew, but when I cleaned out my friends, I’d feel guilty when they requested to follow me again. I began to post less. When I wasn’t posting, though, I was constantly checking the feed and responding to Messenger. I was immediately available to every person on my friends list, no matter how remote. It reminded me of the way I used to watch TV, not as something I actually enjoyed, but because it was present and easy and just plain addictive… and it ultimately kept me from doing and/or discovering those things I did enjoy.

I thought a lot about my long term relationship with social media. I considered my already exhausted parent friends, further worn out by the virtual mommy wars telling them they could never do anything right. I thought about the girl from high school who shared pictures of her twin girls’ naked baby butts at bath time, my cousin who shared photos of her five-year-old in a bikini posing like a grown up, the guy from high school who was charged with soliciting teen boys, the IT guy of the local school district who was just arrested for distributing child pornography. If I was uncomfortable with strangers looking at pictures of me, I really didn’t want them looking at pictures of my children, one day. With children just around the corner, no longer was I worried about just my time and personal privacy, but that of my eventual family and my well-being as a parent.

I definitely needed to pull back and knew it would be hard to make such a change after having a baby; so, several months ago, I decided to delete the app from my phone to lessen my own posts and scrolling. When that didn’t work and I found myself just using the browser, I decided I would keep the app, but stay logged out and only check it once a day. I’d only use it at work or I’d only use it before work or I’d only sign on for Messenger or I’d only check it for an hour once a week. Back and forth I went, with variations on Social Media Light, month after month, lending just as much head space to not being on Facebook as I did to being on Facebook… and failing miserably in each attempt.

giphy

Then, six weeks ago, the final girl drama broke out among my friends and I decided I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t spend so much energy on cattiness and gossip and drama… and in addition to all of the aforementioned problems, Facebook had made these things that much worse, with friends, family, and even complete strangers. The group chats and photos of events that excluded me… the family dinners and evenings out that I was never invited to… the controversial virtual slap-fights with friends of friends of friends… it was all so draining and beyond ridiculous that an online relationship could affect a real one. So, on a whim, I deactivated my account and deleted messenger.

I’ll be straight with you, folks. In the beginning, I thought I was being rash. I knew I would reactivate to check in on the goings on of my friends and high school acquaintances, the happenings of the library world, the photos my family shared…and I did spend the first couple of days picking up my phone, only to remember I didn’t have a reason. I quickly realized, however, how little I missed updates from people I never really knew, political commentary from both extremes, affirmations in the form of likes and comments.

giphy1

In the first week without Facebook, I crocheted three hats, sewed my Christmas stockings, finished three books, called my Gramma several times, and cleaned the house. Jake was gone hunting that weekend and I watched all five Twilight movies while crafting all night. I actually met up, in person, with friends I’d previously neglected, because I’d felt like we were somehow still virtually connected.  I had so much fun and felt so rested. No longer did I wonder why I felt like I was working constantly, despite a pretty consistent 40 hour work week, because I was reading endless posts on library boards. No longer did I snap at Jake that I couldn’t discuss some current event for another second, because I’d spent the day reading every possible viewpoint of the church shooting online. No longer did I feel completely emotionally exhausted with other people’s drama and opinions. It was so life-altering that I signed into Facebook one last time: to download my information and request permanent deletion. I followed this with similar requests for Instagram and Pinterest, to avoid replacing one vice with another.

Over the next few weeks, I was more productive at work and more energized at home. Jake and I had more sex and valuable conversations and I actually experienced movies and shows and nights out with him far more, because I wasn’t checking Facebook every 10 minutes. When my Gramma told me she was disappointed that she couldn’t see my pictures anymore, I created an immediate friends and family only Instagram and showed her how to follow it, finding it far less tempting to share only photos or scroll through the photos of about 20 people. I put the account under a false name and denied acquaintances who’d previously followed me, because I don’t owe them anything. When my family expressed their horror that I’d deleted my Facebook account, I reminded them that my phone still works. 

I’m not sure when the shift occurred, but in time, I’ve come to realize that I value privacy more than being connected. Perhaps it’s simply because a live person now takes priority over virtual ones. Perhaps, it’s because I have more free time and realize the sheer volume I’ve been wasting. Perhaps, it’s just because so much natural distance has formed between myself and the people I was once knew. It sounds trite, surely, but without social media, I feel free… free to pursue healthier friendships, take up more fulfilling hobbies, have conversations with family and friends about things they haven’t already read about on Facebook. I feel free to continue blogging anonymously about my life, without the discomfort of people I barely remember knowing the intimate details, because I need an outlet. I feel free to look back on my life one day and not regret that I missed out on it for a virtual one, because I’m afraid that’s going to be the case for so many.

a741df19a36634865cb71590fd487697bb0dc477

I admit that some people can have a healthier relationship with social media, than I. Maybe they aren’t millennials, used to a technology driven world. Maybe they don’t have jobs that place them in front of a computer, with a healthy dose of downtime. Maybe they just have better self control. I, however, am glad for my escape from social media.

Advertisements

The Time I Tried to Go Back to Apple

Y’all, I’m gonna be straight with you. I have not been happy with Samsung, lately. Having switched from an iPhone 4 in 2012, I’ve loved every Samsung phone I’ve had, from the S3 to the S5 to the Note 5… until April, when I got my Galaxy S8 Plus, the IT PHONE for Android users. Despite the rave reviews I’ve read online, I hated this phone. While I’ve always liked the slightly larger phones Android offers, the S8 Plus wasn’t just big. It was proportionately awkward. I’d carry it into the stacks to have internet access while helping a customer and it felt like I was roaming the children’s area with a paddle… which is admittedly a dream of mine, some days.

giphy8

#notachildrenslibarian

Combine the sheer screen size with the fragility of the absolutely pointless curved screen and I broke my new phone, within a month, on my honeymoon… when it fell three feet from a toilet paper dispenser. After years of throwing my Samsung phones down the stairs without a scratch, I assumed this was a fluke… until Jake broke his S8, despite the Otterbox. Add this to the beta test Bixby software and physical button and I was done. Samsung had finally pissed me off enough to convince me that I should go back to the only other smartphone I’d ever had: iPhone.

Y’all, I was convinced this was the simpler route. I just wanted a phone, without gimmicks. I researched phones that had physical keyboards, attachable projectors and boomboxes, edges that responded to being squeezed, and they were all huge, which was the thing I hated most about the S8 Plus. I desperately wished I’d never handed over my Note 5… but I still had to make a choice. Many of my friends and family have iPhones and other Apple devices and rave about how well they work together. They insisted that they no longer suffered the same restrictions (no Google Maps, third-party music apps, waterproofing, etc.) that I remembered. I was actually willing to forgo the ability to make all my apps look like Christmas ornaments, a bigger deal for me than most, because there must be something to it.

giphy

Folks, if I thought the size of my Galaxy S8 Plus made me look like I was using Zach Morris’s phone, the capabilities of the iPhone 8 made me feel like I was using Zach Morris’s phone. I could overlook the fact that the glass body so closely resembled the iPhone 4, that the LCD screen wasn’t even as nice as the one on my $120 Kindle Fire, that the style itself hadn’t changed since the iPhone 6, and even that it took three times as long to charge.

My first real sign that I couldn’t be an iPhone user, however, came with the photo gallery, which automatically organized my photos into little default albums, like Selfies, People, and Places. The only way to view them by date was through the Camera Roll, which showed every single thing I’d ever done, from selfies to screenshots to videos. I would have to thumb through every catty Facebook screenshot I’d ever taken (and that’s a lot) to find my holiday photos, unless I wanted to go through the trouble of creating an album. While I could download the Google Photos app, it was slow and buggy. A Samsung phone would provide just as user friendly of an experience to search Google Photos as their own gallery, which is also divided into similar screenshot/downloads/camera albums, but I can delete them. I’m not a 22-year-old barista! I don’t want a folder full of fucking selfies! Fine. Fine. I’d ignore the photo gallery and work on something that I knew was a new capability for IOS: free ringtones via the Zedge App… but only if I sync my phone to iTunes. WHAT FUCKING YEAR IS IT, APPLE?!?!?!

giphy1

I wasn’t done, though. I was going to give this phone a fair shake. Maybe it was just the appearance. I mean, the iPhone 8 does look substantially more dated than the iPhone 7. There’s something about the glass and aluminum combination, especially with the home button, that looks especially 2012. The fingerprint scanner was honestly really cool and I’d never bothered to use the one on my S8 Plus, since it was enormous. Siri seemed nice and could definitely help me out of any future Gerald’s Game scenarios. I could learn to love this phone… but maybe I’d prefer one that looked a little sleeker… and maybe I’d consider the Plus, since I was so used to a larger screen. Hopefully the proportions just wouldn’t be as wonky. Of course there was no way my husband was right and Apple just fucking sucked and I’d made a terrible decision on a big ticket item again.

revolvingdazzlingeland

So, the iPhone 8 arrived on a Friday and there I found myself on Sunday, driving to the AT&T store to consider another phone, while I still had the 14 day grace period to confess my buyer’s remorse, with that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had once again committed to an $850 phone I regretted. I’d typed the address of the store in Google Maps, thinking at least Apple has Google Maps now and suddenly, on the side of the road, I thought I saw a dog playing… except…

dun-dun-dun-gif-18

The dog wasn’t playing y’all. The dog had been hit by a car and was clearly paralyzed from the waist down and was yelping in agony. I immediately burst into tears.

“Siri, give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare.”
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”
“What? No. Give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare.
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”
“What the fuck is ‘animal birth control’?!? Give me the number for Metro Animal Welfare!”
“I found the number for Metro Animal Birth Control Clinic. Will that work?”

Fuck Bing. Fuck Apple and Bing. That’s when I nearly ran a stop sign and was almost t-boned, because I was busy Googling (not from the home screen widget Android allows, I’ll note) something that I’d never have to actually Google on an Android phone. It would have been as simple as “Okay, Google. Call Metro Animal Welfare.”

I called Jake, crying hysterically, and told him about the dog. He promised he’d take care of it. I continued on my way to the AT&T store and walked into the store red-faced and teary-eyed and explained my dilemma to the sales clerk.

“I’m sorry. I saw a dog get hit by a car on the way over here. I’m not crying because of a phone.”

5enao_f-maxage-0

Ultimately, despite talking to sales people and browsing the other phones, I couldn’t decide on a course I was sure I wouldn’t regret and left, just as frustrated as before, without replacing the iPhone. On the way home, though, I decided I had 12 more days to change my mind and this was my day off and I needed to just get it done. There was another AT&T store in a nearby city.

“Siri, give me directions to AT&T.”
– a screen pops up asking me if I want to download Apple Maps again, after I deleted it for sending me to the wrong place earlier –
“Siri, use Google Maps to give me directions to AT&T.”
– a screen pops up asking if I want to download Apple Maps –

… and that was was it.

“Hi, welcome to AT&T. How can I help you?”
“I just got the iPhone 8 and it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I need to pay the $45 restocking fee and get something else, because this is the worst decision of my life.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-24856-1365207225-3

It all worked out in the end, when I bought the S8 Active and gave it to Jake for his broken S8. Because AT&T had a promotion going that said I could bring in any old phone for a $300 credit, we got three times the worth of Jake’s cracked S6 he’d been trying to sell since March, which covered the insurance claim to repair the S8. Jake got a heartier phone out of the deal and I got a smaller phone, the week Samsung released an update that allowed me to disable Bixby and finally found a wet application screen protector that clings to the edges and works with an Otterbox. I sold my S8 Plus to Amazon Trade-In and plan to use the credit to buy a new tablet, specifically not an iPad.

I’ve shared my story with my Apple Fanboy friends, much to their dismay.

“Why don’t you just scroll through the pictures?”
“But you can download ringtones from third party apps. You just have to sync your phone.”
“Why don’t you just type in the address in Google Maps before you leave?”

Why don’t I use 35mm film? Why don’t I roll out a paper map and write out my directions by hand? Why don’t I just type up my blog posts on a fucking typewriter? Because I’m used to the technology of this century! Yeah, I just wanted a phone that works, but my definition seems to drastically differ from that of Apple owners. When you’re used to verbally asking for directions, you realize how incredibly dangerous it is to type in a request for them while driving and/or how inconvenient it is to have to do so while in park. This technology not only exists, but it’s a staple of Android phones. We’re talking bare bones phone capabilities, but it’s not present on an iPhone. After some of their latest inconveniences, I won’t claim to be a Samsung loyalist, but I will claim to be an adroid loyalist after three days with IOS. Who knows, maybe there’s something to it I missed.

ydmkq

I’ll risk it and enjoy my Christmas ornament icons, hassle-free Zedge ringtones, headphone jack, fast charging, voice activated Google maps, and the plethora of uncomplicated, yet necessary, capabilities of an Android phone.

As for the dog…

Me: “Did you take care of the dog?”
Jake: “Yes. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, but I drove over there.”
Me: “So, he’s not in pain anymore?”
Jake: “No.”
Me: “Do I wanna know why?”
Jake: “Nope.”

yep