The first time we broke up, it was 2015 and I wanted to be a writer.
The second and third times came in quick succession, with me trying to establish some boundaries, and quickly being pulled in by a friend’s crisis, or an attractive proposal.
Facebook is a tough habit to break.
But until now, I never really thought of it in terms of a “bad relationship.” No, I was too busy being all intellectual, reminding everyone and myself that this is just a tool, that social media technologies are what we make of them, etc. etc. etc. Meanwhile, I subjected myself to a whole bunch of things I would never put up with in a relationship, and I made excuses for it.
Don’t believe me? Let me count the ways.
Lie #1: “Your life would be empty without me”
Oh, if only all my friends and my work didn’t reside on social media. If we could send each other actual texts, have conversations, and even, *gasp* see each other in person! What a turmoil! (Except we still kind of do those things. Some of us even send snail mail, like the hipster-y snobs we are.)
Here’s the thing: I wasn’t very good at breaking up with social media before, but I did not cease to exist the second I deactivated my account. The people who loved me just found a different way to get in touch.
Lie #2: “You are not good enough. You have never been good enough. And all of your friends think that, too.”
I say this as someone who used to work from home and would sometimes spend weeks without speaking to another human; it’s so, so easy to get wrapped up in social media validation. So easy to track hearts and comments and hits and views and stars and subscriptions. So easy to notice absences, and go on investigations (“Is that person dead? Or did they just start hating my selfies?”)
It’s so much easier, so much more anxiety-inducing, too, blaming yourself for other people’s slights, real or imagined. Shrugging and saying “it’s not that deep,” it’s colossal!
Lie #3: “No one will ever make you feel this good.”
How nice it is when every person you ever had a crush on, or a bad history with, is one keyword search away? Hell, most of them go by their real names, as do you. And nobody would think twice about you checking in on them. After all, casually stalking each other online is what we all do.
But deep down, I don’t feel pleasure in these check-ins. I can pretend there’s a reason for them, act like it’s mere curiosity, or a legit question, or even ‘proving to myself that I am stronger now.’ I’ll still feel sick when I do them, because the truth of it is, if these people and I had anything to say to each other, we would have done so by now.
Lie #4: “You owe everything to me, and you will have no success without me!”
I’m pretty sure some jobs I have held, I would have been better off without a social media account. As for the rest, let me tell you something as a creative-ish person trying to get people to pay me to do what I now do for free: using your social media as an advertisement megaphone can have some very mixed results. Sometimes it generates sales. Sometimes it generates 1000+ “hello” messages from people you never met (typically followed by a dick pic).
And sometimes you pour in your heart, soul, and money, and the worst thing happens, nobody gives a toss.
Look, I’m not saying that marketing yourself is ever easy. And I’m not saying that social media isn’t a good way to share your stuff. But we’re giving it too much credit when we attribute our successes to it, the hard work is all ours, and so is the mightiness.
So what do I do now?
Everybody asks themselves this when they go through a breakup. And so I will try to follow the advice I give everyone else: “Take it one step at a time. See where the road gets you.”