How & Why I Shy Away from Social Media

It has been months since I have fully engaged in the goings-on of social media, and I am delighted by my decision to shy away from it all. I don't miss it, and the more I stay disenfranchised from social media, the more I wonder how I ever fell into its cold, clammy grasp. These days, I sit perched high about the Twittersphere and the Gram, watching as millions of people lose their minds. And I laugh. It has always been apparent to me that the term social media is a misnomer. There is nothing social about it, and as networks grow, they become uglier. They have become hotbeds for judgment, personal attacks, and threats of bodily harm. They have become a dangerous place for delicate children and sensitive adults, as well as those who thought they could handle anything until the crowds turned on them. Social media has become a place of false idol worship and the tearing down of those same idols. It is a place of orchestrated mass-hysteria and fear mongering. It is a place of comparisons and complacency, low self worth and high expectations, lofty ideas and pedestrian wit. And I've had enough.

The Laureate and the Learned:

There was a time in history in which only intellectuals, proven creatives, and professionals were allowed to speak to the masses. I wish these were those days. Now, we live in a world in which every idiot gets a soapbox. Millions upon millions of people with no education, people who do not or cannot read, and most certainly have no idea how to spell, are on social media misspelling threats and hate speeches all the live long day.

People who don't even know how they are going to make it between paychecks have something to say about how others spend their money. People who are stressed out and downtrodden are on social media, angry about a complete stranger's happiness. People who have never owned anything in their lives, have advice about how you should run your business. Men who could never in a million years get within five yards of a beautiful girl, use the anonymity of social media and the opportunity afforded by it, to slut shame, body shame, or sexually harass women. To say nothing one every bigot, sexist, racist, ageist, and overall halfwit in the world being given a platform to spout hurtful, deadly rhetoric with absolutely no recourse, all in the name of free speech.

Back in that time in history I mentioned earlier, if random "crazies" just got up in the middle of the town square and start shouting random, unfounded, underdeveloped thoughts into the ether, they'd be assumed hysterical and thrown into an asylum. Today, social media is our town square but unfortunately, it is also our asylum.

You Don't Have the Right:

Someone wrote to me once on Instagram, I have the right to say whatever I want. I wrote back, Not here you don't. One of the worst things social media has done is made almost everyone think they have the right to say whatever they want, when they want, however they want, and this is where people get the freedom of speech confused. Sure, you can sit in your house all alone and yell the word bomb all you like, but try that in an airport and see what happens. Walk into your bathroom and yell, "Fire!" for no apparent reason. Now, try it in a crowded public space.

The fact of the matter is that you have the right to say whatever you want, just not to me. No one can come into my physical or virtual home and just start talking disparagingly to me or about me. As a matter of fact, I don't even allow anyone to talk poorly about other people while in my space. I'm just not a fan of, or slave to, negativity. I don't like it. It makes my head hurt.

So, on social media, I found myself blocking people who felt they had the right to just say any ol' thing to me, as well as people I saw arguing with others on my timeline. Like, seriously, you guys! Exchange phone numbers. Argue in your own space. Get this nonsense out of here! And for those who have an issue with me, I have always said this:

"If you have a problem with me, call me and tell me. If you don't have my number, you don't know me well enough to have a problem with me."

No One Cares About You:

Social media also created this incessant need for validation by strangers from strangers. How weird is that? Most people live mondane lives, never being noticed or acknowledged. They get up, they go to work, they go home and struggle through the week, waiting for the weekend or a day off. Rinse and repeat. What social media does is give the average person, who has no voice except maybe on election day, the voice they so desperately crave. But taking photos of every meal and describing the mundane details of their lives isn't enough. They need to be acknowledged. They need to be answered. They live for replies and likes and retweets. They are validated the moment someone virtually communicates, I see you, and there is nothing more validating to them than being seen by a celebrity or public figure with a taller, wider soapbox than theirs.

But here's the thing...

Most of these people feel unworthy of positive reinforcement. Internally, they feel they are beneath the object of their obsession and, therefore, seek negative reinforcement like screaming children on the floor of social media's cereal aisle. They kick and scream and yell their version of, "I hate you, mom!" like so many unruly children we've seen before, scraping for attention. It's obvious, just by glancing over comments on social media that this particular set of people don't care about those they are so obsessed with, the people from whom they seek validation. And that's weird. They are essentially saying, "I don't care about you as a human being, I don't like you, I'm jealous of you, but please validate my existence with a response."

How backward is that?

Followers vs. Audience:

The fact of the matter is that everyone who follows me is not my intended audience, and this is the same for a lot of people with public jobs and personas. If I could whittle my followers down and only include the age range, educational station, socioeconomic standing, and overall social media performance history I prefer, I would.

Yes, I'd like to profile my followers.

In real life, there is a number of demographics with which I wouldn't engage, and I would prefer not to engage with these demographics on social media, either. As a woman who is nearly forty years old, I have no interest in engaging with children. As an educated woman, New York Times bestselling author, and university keynote speaker, I am more interested in engaging with the literati and the intelligentsia than I am the vacuous. This is how I live in actuality, and I prefer my virtual life to mimic that. Social media, however, does not make this as easy as I would hope. All-in-all, I have learned that everyone who follows me is not my audience and I no longer feel the need to sift through the weeds to find the fruit.

How I Managed to Remove Myself:

I just did it. I'd had enough, and my self care and happiness became more important than keeping up personal or professional appearances. I realized that I don't need social media to do what I do. Social media does not affect my bottom line and, therefore, doesn't support my lifestyle. For most of you, this is also true. You don't need it. It hasn't made you wealthier by any definition of the word. It hasn't added value to your life, as it hasn't added value to mine. My most profitable business does not exist on social media and, with most of my followers being of a demographic with which I wish not integrate, it was easier than expected to walk away from it all.

Well, almost all.

On my private accounts, I am able to keep up with friends and family, especially those living in other cities and abroad. I follow only accounts that inspire me and speak to the joy I have and wish to see in my life. I follow some news accounts and accounts that speak to my hobbies, interests, and goals, accounts focused on family life, travel, spirituality, food, and decor. I follow the accounts of local shops, venues, and restaurants I like to frequent, and only people I know personally. This way, when I check my feed, I am uplifted and inspired. This way, when I post a personal photo or caption, I don't have to police the comments.

This way, I am protected.

Are you?

self careElisabeth Ovesen