Should I ditch all social media?

Trigger warning: mention of suicide

This morning I was meant to be writing my novel. I am doing that thing where you finish a novel in a month by diligently writing a bit each day. We are now on the third day and I haven’t written a word. Why? Meh.

I got up this morning and doomscrolled Instagram reels. People gurning over popular music. Cats and dogs being funny. The same comedy sketch I saw last month repeated until its funniness is worn out. Adverts geared toward my greatest insecurities. Supplements for perimenopause. Skincare for ageing skin. Metabolic approaches to weight loss. A neck cushion thing to get rid of the hump at the top of my spine. My next Audible listen. Beauty advent calendars. On and on and on.

My husband got up and came into the room and I put headphones on to continue listening to an American personal trainer tell me what is wrong with me. Finally, sickened by it all, I switched it off and started scrolling on Linkedin instead. Alcohol-based news and views from when I used to chair drinks awards. I no longer drink. Impressive c-suite folk I know doing impressive things. American life and career coaches telling me how to succeed. Anger about various flavours of bigotry. Adverts for things to buy this Christmas. Links to reels on Instagram. Links to pages on Facebook.

I think I could put the people I want to hear from on a boat that can only hold about 50 people. And even those rare souls are not folks I would wade through excrement to look at their holiday snaps or what they had for dinner. I might wade through excrement to save their lives, but that is about it. The lie we’ve been told is that we need to be in the shit-pit in order to retain connection with those people. That their (and our) mental health will suffer if we don’t have that digital lifeline. That they need our likes and shares to feel validated.

I came to the conclusion quite some time ago that I don’t need the validation. A number of years back I was trying to sob as quietly as possible at 2am on my bathroom floor. A very close friend had died and I couldn’t bear the thought of never speaking to him again. I wondered who I could call to share my grief and pain at 2am. I ran through a mental rolodex in my mind and realised that even those who would want me to call them, I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the words. My crying would upset and freak out whoever I called at that time of night. I was alone.

I have noted that some people will tweet in that scenario. I just couldn’t ever conceive of doing that. I generally don’t cry in front of my loved ones, let alone complete strangers. Don’t get me wrong. I am not judging those who find solace in social media when they are upset. I think people should do whatever gives them comfort. I just know that I would never do this myself.

I have seen tweets or social media posts from friends who do share their hardships online. For those that I am particularly close to, I will pick up the phone or send a text message and check in on them. However, I know I have spoken to people I have loved in the same week that they killed themselves. So you can’t always say or do anything to help.

As I grow older, my circle of friends has grown smaller. Some have died. Some have moved away. Some have continued in lives that I can no longer join them in. I don’t resent this and, in fact, it means that the ones I do see have more of my attention. Even my closest friends I see maybe three times a year. I am not troubled by this. Intense friendships are for young people and communes. I prefer gentle neglect. Delight in seeing someone whenever you do see them and enjoying their company.

My sisters and my best friend aren’t on social media. They just never got into it. A couple of them never even made profiles on any sites. They saw the evils of social media, made the calculation in their heads, and decided that the cons outweighed the pros. I am an eternal optimist and so I embraced all the possibilities. All the jokes and banter. All the joys and thrills. And then I encountered the bad feelings, the unnecessary arguments, the racism, the trolls and the sheer timewasting potential.

I am often told that I should just keep my profiles and not visit the sites, but I am neat and tidy person who likes things to be settled. I don’t want ghostly echoes of me everywhere. The only reason I don’t leave all social media forever is fear. I fear what I have been told about the necessity of it for my career as an author. I fear that I will lose even more connection to the people I love. I fear that I will become utterly irrelevant in society.

I have never been one to let fear conquer me…