Breaking Up (with social media) Is Incredibly Hard to Do.

It is SO hard to leave social media. I thought I’d left it, but now I know that in this life, and without much more blood sacrifice, I may never be able to truly pull free.

On November 16, I pulled the plug on Facebook. I was firm about it. In no uncertain terms, I let it know that we were done forever, that the breakup was final. I packed my virtual bags, I thanked it for the beautiful (and pretty horrific) years we spent together, growing, learning, developing awareness (AI tech, anyone?) and self-awareness (me), and I quietly shut the door. I dusted off my hands, picked up my bags. I didn’t look back. And off I went into my happily ever after.

Except not, because f*ck all that image crafting baloney. Happiness is not a destination, and my mind is my own worst enemy. Social media is a soulless, mindless collective of control, and it doesn’t care if I left, because it knows that I can probably never get away. It doesn’t have to expend any energy mourning the loss of me because it hasn’t lost me. It doesn’t love me, it doesn’t care about me, and it will destroy me to get what it needs. I am one tiny player in a 100 million person wheel.

While getting off social media to the extent that I have has helped immensely with emotional balance on the days when all the rest of my ducks are neatly lined up, I don’t think that any of us can truly appreciate the possibly permanent damage that being on it so dependently for so long has done. Unless you’ve built yourself super strong, real life, social circles, leaving social media is akin to being cast out of society. It is a beast that once embraced, will hook us, turn on us, and never, ever relinquish its distortive power over us. It feeds off our insecurity, our disconnect, our fear, our vulnerability.

It gives license to the worst kind of faceless bullying and microaggressions, in quadruple time, so that we don’t even have a chance to ground and regroup before the next level of damage is inflicted. The attacks are relentless. For those, like myself, who felt a need to be seen, who couldn’t keep healthy boundaries, who sunk into it as if it would keep us safe from dreaded irrelevance, we lose hours of sleep, hours of presence, our vision, our mental health, our lives. It’s the ultimate narcissistic relationship, and it wants us to think that we cannot survive without it. And the sad, scary truth is that if we are people in business, people of influence, people with obligations, people who build communities, it’s quite possible that we actually cannot survive without it. Leaving has consequences. The amplifying effects infect daily life, even without being on, because we’ve spent so many years allowing it to rewire our thought patterns. We can’t get away.

Our new normal is hyper-vigilance, and hyper-vigilance is a huge contributor to our chronic anxious and subsequent depressive states. I wish I didn’t know what I was talking about.

To quote Amy Winehouse:

“They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no”

I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to regain my lost emotional management skills, or to stop falling prey to the re-activations of my social-media related emotional traumas. But I feel like I’ve lost parts of myself I may never find again, because they have been irreparably damaged. And I’m grief-stricken about it. And yet, social media’s impact keeps showing up in my life, over and over again, in insidious ways. What will it take to recover from the addiction? When will I stop mindlessly swiping my phone with nothing on it, seeking my next hit? What happened to my wherewithal? I am lost.

Two weeks ago, I took the next step and de-activated my main Instagram account. I spent so many years so afraid of becoming invisible that I left no corner of my life unexposed, and I wasn’t prepared for the kind of vulnerability this reality inspired. The world of online dating, into which I tentatively dipped a toe or two, showed how my need to be seen and my fear of invisibility put me at so much risk for exploitation. I de-activated my main Instagram account because it tells the story of my life. And today, when I went to peek at my ballet account, there was my main account again. I had not reactivated it, and now I can’t de-activate it again because that service is only available once a week. I’m sure it’s been more than a week since I de-activated. I don’t know why it suddenly re-appeared and I can’t make it go away without deleting. So now it’s a private account, waiting to be de-activated again, and one day I will summon up the courage to delete it forever. It side swiped me and sucked me back in, and I need to go, forever.

We can rationalize the need for the connection until the cows come home. I did until I couldn’t anymore, until the fracture in my soul was so severe that the only alternative to leaving was to pull a Humpty Dumpty and to shatter into a million pieces that could not be put together again. I barely made it, and four and a half months later, I’m still trying to collect the shards that skittered out of my reach.

I want off. For good. There is no balance. I have not learned how to compartmentalize. I will not drink or take drugs to still my hyperactive hamster mind. I will feed myself nourishing food, I will remember that my life has shaped me and that I’m resilient, that I can walk to the edge and jump and walk away from my own gory remains.

And I will wait.

I don’t know where to go from here. But I do know that when I reach the end of one path, and when vision alludes me, my only responsibility is to get quiet, listen, surrender, and trust. The new path will show itself. And I will walk it, damaged but intact.

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