One of my longest lasting relationships has been the one I’ve had with social media. And if I still had a Facebook account, my relationship status with it would be “it’s complicated”.
In fact, my first post on this blog is a summary of my relationship with social media up to that point. I’ve also written quite a few times about my decision to delete the Facebook account I had for almost ten years. This post has been in my planner since summer and originally the title was: “The Problem with Instagram: Why I Stopped Posting, Went Private, and Started Over”. All in all, a lot of my social media posts have to do with… well, social media.
Over the last two years my relationship with social media depended on my mental health and perhaps it always has. Being an introvert throughout my teenage years made social media a blessing, especially when my best friends lived far away and we were restricted to bi-annual visits. Drifting away from my high school friends made Tumblr a haven where I could connect with people I had similar interests with – an impossibility with the 170 classmates I graduated high school alongside.
Last summer I went on the trip of a lifetime. And I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of time I spent trying to get the pictures for Instagram or film footage for YouTube. I even had a panic attack in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day because there were so many people, including armed security, and I didn’t want to take a picture. But I did. In a parking lot.
After spending just over a month driving across the country I became so jaded with posting, as soon as I crossed the boarder into the United States for the next month, my camera went away and my Instagram went dark except for occasional usage of the stories feature. And it felt amazing. No one knew where I was. It was like I was Carmen Santiago and I’d stopped leaving clues. Not that I was running or hiding from authorities or anyone else but having just a couple people know what amazing place I was in each day (from the Witch Museum in Salem, to the Staten Island Ferry, to Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, from Graceland and Cinderella’s Castle to curled up in our trailer watching Princess and the Frog in New Orleans). I went to those places. And I didn’t need to tag myself there to prove it or get validation or inspire envy. I was living for myself. I was enjoying the moment and the people I with with, not for the photo or the likes or anything other than the experience. I did so many incredible things and yes, sure, I want to share them but part of me wants to keep them to myself. There is a strange power in that.
And, to be honest, I don’t know what Facebook culture is like anymore. Do people still post obnoxious albums of their holidays? Do they still tag their friends in statuses and check in to locations? Being out of the game feels incredible, like I was always competing in a race that I would never win but desperately wanted to and now that I’ve stopped running, I can enjoy the scenery. I can breathe.
When I got back from the trip I felt this sense of denouement. It felt like I had just returned from the climax of my life and the rest, as they say, was downhill. And as such, nothing else seemed worth posting. If I wasn’t posting the pictures I took in Disney World, Nashville, or New York City… what else could be worth posting?
But I tried. I officially switched over to my new Instagram. I tried catching up and posting YouTube videos I had filmed months earlier. But it was like I was forcing myself to do it.
No longer finding joy in the things you love is a symptom of depression, and one I experienced before. If you’ve followed my blog you might know about my struggle with mental health, and I was worried that I was going back to that place.
I was so frustrated with myself for hardly ever posting on social media anymore until I realized it’s not because I am losing enjoyment in things I love but because because I now find joy so much easier in real life. With two jobs, new (and old) friends, and more big travel plans… real life is the fun part now, not the shelter I made for myself online. Instead of having to manufacture joy in a digital space, I feel it in my day. In who I am.
Like I said before, this post was originally going to be an explanation of why I switched from my original Instagram (@adriannamaryanne) to my new one (@ehdreeahnah) and my notes include frustration with the algorithm (having 1400 followers and getting 16 likes on a picture?) and just wanting a fresh start. This is not to say I’m leaving social media. I’m still going to post everywhere… just, that is not my identity anymore. I want to live more places than just online, and perhaps this is stemming in part from having watched all of Black Mirror in three days but I want to reclaim my life as mine and not have to share ownership of it with the online space I have inhabited since my first Neopets account.
I’m not pushing my “vacant” stake into the ground in front of my online real estate, but instead changing my story. Instead of deactivating and putting everything on private when I’m not okay, or posting over-enthusiastically to prove that I am, I’m going to post. Whenever. Whatever. However. I still want to share the things I create– the writing, the art journals, the unreadably long novelesque posts about my experience with something (from Accutane to subscription services) and whatever challenge I accept and may or may not complete– but I’m starting to like the idea of keeping my “real life” off the internet. I’ve been a fan of the whole Carmen Santiago, secret agent thing since before I ever logged onto something that was prefaced by www. So even though where I am in the world might be the same as always, what I’m doing there can stay a secret. Until the tell-all.
If you are interested in what I do post (in which case, bless you), the best way to stay up to date is to follow me on Twitter!
Thanks so much for reading this post and I hope you have an awesome day!