Off the Grid Again. Partially.

I have officially been off Facebook for a month.

It happened in stages, of course, this social media “detox.”

I’ve never been a consistent social media consumer/user. I resisted joining for many years, and then was off for a number of years after I eventually gave in (again). But when, beginning in 2015, I had to manage my then-new employer’s social media presence, I had to re-join Facebook. I can’t blame work for allowing my nafs to take over; I always had it within me. But I had, until then, learned to keep it at bay.

Like all vices, however, unless you are actively resisting, it’s one slippery slope after another. I joined Instagram right after I got married. And then Twitter for a minute. I wrote a couple of articles for “news sites” that I now regret writing. I was slowly becoming a person that upon reflection I didn’t want to be.

Considering Mr. Rafia’s valid reasons for deleting his Instagram account a couple of months later, I soon followed. Now, I only take photos to provide physical evidence to my parents that I am alive and well. Or, if I need to remember something (I don’t always have a notebook with me. I prefer to keep my bag as small as it can be. I’d like it to be smaller actually, but I need my taharat bottle with me at all times. Only fellow Muslims will understand).

Only one thing remained.

This past Ramadan was a good time to get off of Facebook. I no longer had any institutional justification for my presence. I was merely lurking, stalking friends (current and former!), and then feeling bad about my life.

Why was I doing this to myself?

So, I deleted it again for the third time.

At first, I didn’t know what to do. I discovered how much time I really wasted, endlessly scrolling through my feed. What should I do instead? Exercise? Read a book? Write? No more excuses! Although with the former, I still manage to find reasons.

Now, I’m not saying we should become automatons and leave no time for leisure or entertainment. I have my cows and my cake. But I do think that some leisurely activities are pernicious. For me at least, it was social media. It was not connecting me to others. It was making me a purveyor and emitter of jealousy. It was more negative than positive.

Not being on Facebook has opened up my time and space to: a) actually connect with people in real life, or via phone for those who I don’t live close to, and b) seek information that was formerly not even on my radar. Metaphorically speaking, I’m done with not only preaching to the choir, but singing in it.

I agree with Jaron Lanier that people should at least try to be off social media for a few months to decide whether they are better off with or without it. I myself might decide later that I want to rejoin. But at this stage of my life, I am happy with my decisions. I’m not really missing out on anything. Sure, I still deal with thoughts of being a loser — but having 600 Facebook friends didn’t change anything. In a weird way, I’ve grown some confidence in my self. I no longer seek validation from others as much as I used to. I don’t feel the pressure to look a certain way or write on a certain topic (or multiple topics in one post if I feel so inclined!). I don’t have to use buzz words to get people’s attention. I don’t have to impress anybody.

And yet, I am still blogging. In fact, I’m blogging with even more interest and zeal. I think the nature of this particular blog has changed though. I no longer feel the need to add “appealing” photos to accompany my posts. I also don’t care if my posts are longer than the recommended word limit. More significantly, I no longer care to grow my reading audience to everyone I have ever talked to. In many ways, I feel as if I’ve returned to my blogging roots.

Is blogging considered social media? I guess it depends on how far back you want to go. If indeed it is, perhaps I’m making a claim that is not entirely accurate. To further complicate my claim: I still use GoodReads to keep track of my expanding reading list. And, I accepted a few LinkedIn requests this morning, even though I don’t really use the site as it was intended.

Maybe in this digital age of ours, it’s not possible to be a complete Luddite. But I don’t think their fears were entirely unfounded. All I know is that we all have to examine the status quo. We can’t take it for granted. If you decide to do something, know why you are doing it.

To anyone reading and willing to respond: Do you have social media limits? Why or why not?

9 thoughts on “Off the Grid Again. Partially.

  1. Bravo Rafia in finding what works for you. We live in times where people are getting lost in following trends out of fear of missing out, and in the process really missing out on getting to know themselves. You and I talked about my social media philosophy before, as we both expressed the same trepidations about these platforms.

    For me as an GenXer, I grew up in a world where the Internet was not a thing. So when social media first came onto the scene my first reaction was: what fresh hell is this? I’ve never been a social butterfly to begin with, so just thinking about the idea of having hundreds if not thousands of followers exhausts me. I don’t know how people can navigate that without feeling the pressure of constantly satisfying their followers. The only social media I partake in is Facebook, and even there I do not exceed the 40-50 friends, most of whom are people I know in real life. The only thing that keeps me on there is the cat memes and the Star Trek memes. I usually follow groups that touch on topic that interest me: Cats, Science fiction, book clubs, news. I usually will get on there 2-3 times per day for a period of 10 minutes each time for a quick stroll down. But there is nothing that engrossing or exciting happening on my newsfeed to keep in there for hours lool.

    Now that we know how social media relies on creating dopamine-driven feedback loops, I think it will do us all some good to scale back on how much we engage and partake in social media. It is not surprising that it ends up creating strong emotions in people (jealousy, depression, anger, etc…) that end up having a serious impact on not only how we engage with the world around us, but also how we perceive our own lives. Social media is basically the equivalent of a carnival mirror. It distorts reality and gives us a false impression. To me much of social media seems vapid. Even people who are engaged in legitimate activism end up falling prey to the constant need of putting on a show/performance piece on social media. I’ve seen how their stances start changing, their language becomes laden with buzz words, they become enamoured with the very image of themselves they’ve created and become prisoners of that persona. The constant twitter outrages at the drop of a hat that dissipates just as quickly without any real resolve of the issue in question, the multiple echo chambers where people just constantly rehash the same stances, the shameless displays of wealth and success that sounds forced and hollow, etc….it is all just for show and that is why can’t take social media seriously. I’m too old, too tired, too antisocial, and frankly not cool enough to partake in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very pertinent post for bloggers particularly. I’ve never been obsessed with social media, but since starting my blog I’ve put significant time into growing my social media platforms- under my blog name. I guess I had to do this as I haven’t shared it with any friends or family so otherwise no one would probably have read it! But I’ve noticed it has had a big effect on my time, and my communication with my partner. I also probably have less time for real contact which is silly. So thank you for promoting me to rethink. I’m so glad that cutting back has helped you refind your love of blogging xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha, I love your comment. “What fresh hell is this?” You were and are very wise to feel this way? You know, I like what you did with Facebook, intentionally limiting to people you actually know and like. I think because am a part of the “me, me” generation (which I hate to admit), I felt the pressure to get as many friends as I could. There was a time when I would actively compare my list to other peoples’ and again feel like a loser.

    A carnival mirror is such an apt metaphor! The sad thing is, even though the news is out that our data is being sold to third parties for nefarious reasons, a lot of people seem not to care. Or maybe they do? Once the Cambridge Analytica story came out, I was done. That really gave me the final push to rid myself of this devil once and for all. The thing is: I don’t think anything will change. These companies will just find more secretive ways to do what they’ve been doing for years. When profit is your motive, whatever scandal comes out is not going to reform people to do the right thing.

    In reference to your comment about the theatrics of social media, people that I really like and admire I have had to unfollow because of this. I was becoming to cynical and critical of these individuals. Now that I don’t see their social media activity, I like them much better. Is that not weird? I always think about something I was told my grandmother once said: “Never put personal things down in writing.” As a personal blogger, I have to ruminate over every word I write and then later publish, but what a wise woman she was!

    Thanks for your engaging and thought-provoking comment, once again! THIS is exactly why I could never leave blogging, even if it considered social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. See, that’s a problem I am currently facing. I totally understand your reasons for doing this. You don’t (very wisely, I might add) use your real name.

    I blogged anonymously for years, but then when blogging caught the attention of the rest of the world, I decided I too would use my real/full name. I kinda regret this.

    As soon as I stopped using Facebook, I noticed an immediate drop in my readership/audience. I was sad at first, but I knew this is what I had to do. Merging my personal identity with my blogging identity (which are not different, but the community is) forced me to change the way I wrote and even how I wrote. Oddly enough, I am more honest and open when I don’t actually know the people who are reading my posts, if that makes any sense. That’s probably a personal weakness of mine that I need to work on. But I first started blogging as refuge from the “real” world. Back in the day, we used to use the terms “IRL” which stood for “In real life,” contrasted with the online world. These worlds have now merged, but I am not quite sure I love that they have. That’s not to say that complete anonymity is a wholesale good, because hackers are a problem. But in my experience in blogging, it was a needed outlet for many folks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I find blogging to be a different beast though. For most of us, our blogs will never be followed by thousands of followers. Those who enjoy our posts and articles are probably people that share a common interest, or wish to find out more about an experience that is foreign to them. For the most part, it is a platform where you have a lot more control, and the commenters are a lot more civil and mature.

    Twitter and instagram seem like a total jungle to me. Just thinking about it makes me hyperventilate lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s true. You actually have to put in time and some effort to craft a blog, at least what I consider to be a blog. You can actually resist advertising! For now, anyway.

    Yeah, Twitter and Instagram gram are worse in my opinion, which was why they were among the first to go. All the arguments, which really aren’t arguments because you don’t have enough space to formulate one, and all the unnecessary photos of the different coffee shops one has been to? You really need to be on the outside to see the ridiculousness of it all! It’s so easy to get sucked in.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s honestly been really good for me. We don’t realize how much information that is unnecessary and clogging comes our way. You literally have to take a break from it to realize. But then again, I’m of the opinion that less is more. Hope you’ve been well, Kristen!


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