Every few months, I seriously consider deleting all my social media.
I picture it like the closing scene of a classic Western: a cowboy dropping his six-shooter into the dirt and sauntering unburdened into the sunset, his dueling days behind him and a world of fresh possibilities ahead.
Just think of it. To live a life unencumbered by the endless chimes and buzzes that incessantly demand my attention. To be utterly ignorant of the latest stupid controversy that everyone is going to reverse opinion on by this time next week. To never again look at a photo of a baby that I don’t care about, or at an engagement announcement that I weirdly care about way too much.
To be free.
But then a couple of hours later I’ll see a dumb little photo somewhere on the internet, and I’ll click “Share” without thinking about it, and then 30 people are paying attention to me and that’s enough of a dopamine hit that I decide to stay on social media after all.
And then I’ll ask myself: Did I decide to stay? Was it really a decision that I made, consciously and of my own free will? (Is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife?)
Or is it that I can’t leave?
In my experience, trying to get off of social media is like trying to fight a hydra with a particularly crafty method of regenerating heads. I mute my phone notifications, and my smartwatch conveniently ignores the memo. I close an app, and then the website opens in a new browser tab. I visit an unrelated blog or store even a game, and it automatically redirects me to Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or wherever else* as a standard part of the user experience.
*I specifically don’t mention Twitter; I already broke free of that wretched hive of scum and villainy, and the less said about it, the better.
I am Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III. Just when I thought I was out, someone texts me the link to a fucking TikTok.
Oh, to be free.
But even as I claim to yearn for freedom, here I am. On social media, complaining about social media, for the benefit of everyone else on social media, hoping that they’ll share links to my social media on their social media, and genuinely thinking that being self-aware about being trapped in the Matrix somehow makes it the least bit better.
#WhatAPieceOf WorkIsMan, amirite?
Now, it’s not all bad- that’s what I always end up telling myself, when I really need to dig deep for a logical reason that I keep taking the blue pill- social media isn’t all bad, right? It’s how we stay connected with our loved ones, especially in a year like this one where it was mostly illegal to see each other in person. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I’d immediately fall out of touch with about 90 percent of my friends and acquaintances.
But on the other hand…are we even friends if our only interaction is scrolling past one another, each of us more interested in our individual quests to win the title of Zuckerberg’s Favorite Lil’ Attention Whore?
I don’t know, man. I’m not here to analyze the algorithm; I just click what it tells me to click and buy what it tells me I’ll like.
Obey. Consume. Like. Subscribe.
Someday I’ll be free of this burden, the cowboy thought, looking down at the pistol gripped tightly in his trembling hand. Someday, I’ll unplug.