Faux (adj.)-made to look like something else that is usually more valuable.

In 2016 I made the decision to get off of Social Media. I had been edging that way for some time. During times of prayer and fasting it had consistently been the thing I gave up, the thing that was always in the way of my connection with God. Finally, my keen mind realized that it needed to go.

At the time it was for reasons more personal than global, but with time and distance I can report that I’m concerned about the effect it’s having on the world, on us as a species. Like a gun, it’s a neutral force , the harm depending on who is wielding it; but it is also true that guns were made to kill things. From the remove of 6 years it now seems to me that Social Media is a Trojan Horse, something that looks good but tricks you into letting something bad within your gates.

For me it became a seduction of sorts. I began to share pictures of my kids and share the funny things they said and did. I came to enjoy the attention it got me, the “likes”. I had no thought for the fact that my kids had not given their consent for their words, their images, their whole lives to be put out their for all the world to see. A vehicle for their mother’s dopamine hits. By the end it became common for them to have my “friends” approach them, to have people they didn’t even know know a lot about them. The dark underbelly of parenthood is that we get reflected glory from our kids, but Social Media has elevated it to the level of a sacrament. (I have since apologized to my kids and offered to pay for their therapy).

I hesitate to talk about my reasons for decamping, much less blog about it. It seems to make people feel the need to justify to me that it’s okay for them to have Social Media. It absolutely is. So please don’t blow up the comments section to tell me that you use it to keep up with your Aunt Pearl in Omaha, Nebraska (say hello to Aunt Pearl for me), or so you’ll know what your kids are doing (you still don’t, trust me on this). As you were people, I just found in me that it fed things that needed to be starved and starved things that needed to be fed.

*Sidebar, Social Media platforms make it very difficult to actually delete the account, and I think that’s on purpose. I had to Google instructions and eventually call in my tech support (read my teenagers) to do it. And even then I got a message from Facebook that was the digital equivalent of a bad boyfriend saying:

“You don’t know what you want. No one will ever love you like me. You have 30 days to come back or all your stuff will be out in the yard.”

(Think King George singing “You’ll be back” in Hamilton).

But finally I succeeded and then there was silence. I had the strange sensation of coming out from under something. I was stunned to realize that somewhere along the line I had begun to live and view my life in terms of how I would post it, how I would present it to others for their approval, what caption, what hashtag. Now I just lived. I took less pictures. I had more time and less anxiety. It was a relief to not have to know what everyone was doing, and what everyone felt all the time.

I was surprised to see how few of my “friends” were actually a part of my life, the ones that you called or they called you, got together with, actually saw in person. I had a benignly positive feeling towards them as though we were friends in theory as long as no effort was required. I came to see that there was really no relationship. Social Media had created the illusion of relationship, a facsimile of friendship, a faux intimacy where none really existed. It was as though I walked through neighborhoods, peering into windows, making note of what was on the table, the pictures in the fridge of school first days and vacations and yet didn’t really know them well enough to come in the house. There was no “there” there.

A few months after the big break up I was in the mall during the holidays. I saw a woman I’d known in high school who’d been one of my “friends”. I’d seen her wedding, vacations, her sweat streaked face moments after giving birth to the little boy standing beside her waiting to see Santa. We inquired after each other’s families, plans for the holidays, remarked on the busyness of the season. And within 5 minutes we were completely out of things to say to one another. I said goodbye and walked away from her, a very nice woman that I hardly knew at all.

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