Life without social networks, 2014.

If you’ve followed me for more than two years, you know that I gave up Tweeting for Lent 2012. It honestly wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, particularly because I was still hitting the Facebook Kool-Aid pretty hard in the absence of Twitter.  But this year, I decided to go a little crazy.

On Ash Wednesday, I took to my Twitter for the last time in 40 days, and also to my Facebook. And my Instagram.

I announced, “Hey guys! I’m going off my social networks for Lent. See you on Easter!”

Yep. With the exception of Pinterest (which I don’t really regard as a social network, since you’re just pinning shit to online inspiration boards), I’m completely and utterly shut off from all of my networking sites until April 20th.  The response has been a mix of “Dammit!” and “Good for you.”

Here’s the deal, people. I’m a teacher, a writer, and an academic. My life is lived on a computer screen, trying to connect words together that make sense and radicalize conversations about children’s literature, gender, sexuality, and feminism. And I also think Buzzfeed lists are awesome. My social networks are to connect with the other like minds that share my aspirations, and without those networks I would not be in touch with a lot of the people I consider to be my closest friends, simply due to distance and time. Basically, I use Facebook and Twitter and social networks as a desperate link to the outside world. So I did have a bad feeling at first when I deleted the apps off my phone and got ready for a month and a half without any of the things that I normally use to procrastinate.

Surprisingly, it’s been much, much easier than I thought it would be. I haven’t felt the urge to check my networks once except for when I randomly go onto Facebook to clear my notifications; I don’t want to get back on Easter Sunday and be faced with sorting through a billion red flags. And what have I learned from this mass hiatus from constant connection and status updates and sharing?

1. Woah, talking to people is terrifying and awesome.
I’ve reconnected with so many people because of Facebook, and that’s not something I’ll ever take for granted, but that being said, it’s been very interesting to see how many people are contacting me now that I’m not on it. I’ve gotten lots of texts from people who just genuinely want to talk and see how I’m doing without Facebook, and it’s made those interactions richer because I can’t just look at their newsfeed and see what they’re up to in life – I have to actually ask. I went to a baby shower this weekend and because I couldn’t just stare at my phone when I felt awkward, I had to actually go up and talk to people. And because of that, I actually had the best time ever rather than retreating into myself. It felt great. Plus, I got to put on a rubber horse head and dance around to Taylor Swift, and eat a shit load of Swedish meatballs.

3. Look at all the free time!
I was productive as shit this week, and not just because for half of it I was laid up in bed with a rampant sinus infection; I was legitimately doing things that fed my soul. Did a ton of yoga, ate great food, hung out with friends, and taught great classes without having to share it with everyone. I mean, sure I’m tired as hell but that’s just because my brain is overstuffed with a lot of things and I’m actually allowing myself to deal with them, not just pushing them aside in favor of a sassy tweet. I can’t wait to see how this continues from now until April 20th.

There are a LOT of things I want to talk about (OMG I still haven’t found out about PhD stuff, OMG I want to see what my friends are up to, OMG I think the Mother ends up dead on How I Met Your Mother, OMG the men are playing St. Joe’s in the first round, this is my worst nightmare manifest) but I will have to wait. 

4. Holy stress reduction, Batman.
Ever get that heart-punch feeling when you wake up in the morning and the day literally cannot start until you check all of your social networks, and if you’re not caught up with everything in your friend’s lives you feel horrible? I don’t have that anymore. And it’s awesome. Sure, I substituted it with looking at my YouTube channels, but still! Also, I have a history of panic attacks and it’s awesome to be away from something that can be a trigger for those emotions.

5. Relationship privacy, man. Do you speak it?
I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two and a half years.  I’ve gotten questions from people sometimes about him, mostly hinging around “How do you make a long-term relationship work when you’re both so busy?” My answer usually is something like “Well, when it’s the right person, blah blah blah” but what I really want to say is “Our relationship is lived out in real time and not on a social network.” We actually talk to each other, not to each other’s Facebook, and my Lenten sacrifice has made me fully realize how awesome (or stalkerish) our communication is. We keep our business private, and that’s quite rare among people my age.

The boyfriend will remain nameless and faceless on this blog, but I hope that my writing and the urgency behind it has taken on a new facet since we’ve been together. I think that would be the best way to reference him -he’s changed me as a person, and as an extension he’s vastly improved my writing. When I got off Facebook, our communication didn’t change at all, which I don’t think would happen with a lot of people I know. Which is kind of…gross. I have friends who post, like, every single thing they do with their significant others and it makes me nauseated. Do they say these things in real life? I feel like they just want to brag.

The only people who can make their relationship through social networks and not piss me off are Wil and Anne Wheaton. Because let’s face it, they are absolutely adorable on Twitter. But they’ve been together for like 20 years, so I’ll give them a pass. They didn’t bone each other once and then start taking brunch selfies together 10 hours later.

And the top thing I’ve learned from a week of not being on social networks?

I’m remembering who I am again. I want to lie and say that I’m a snark-filled shitkicker with piss and vinegar in her veins, but in actuality I’m a very vulnerable soul who just wants to leave this world a better place than she came in, and my social networks aren’t really helping that positivity. A lot of the time, they make me feel like I need to be more of an asshole, or quieter, or louder, or more educated, or more of a feminist (which, I mean come on, how much more do I have to do? I kind of like shaving my legs TBH, doesn’t mean I’m a slave to the patriarchy, I just don’t like body hair!)

I’m not spending my days inundated with people who think they have their lives figured out and feel compelled to shove it in my face. I’m not dealing with the comparison trap of the vegan/crossfitting/yoga-ing multitudes who constantly brag about their new lifting/running/whatever PRs and then chased it down with a weird protein shake. I’m not constantly facing my own insecurities in the face of people who I really do think have it all figured out.

I love making people smile and think. I’ve gotten away from that, partially because I’ve let the wrong people influence me and partially because I am very much motivated by fear of failure and fear of being myself, which IS this very light and happy person who bruises easily.

When I’m off social networks I am able to remember who I am. Knowing your truth is always worth sharing.

ally

PS. IF the basketball gods are kind, I will be in Music City for the Final Four! But that’s only if we get in, obviously. That weekend may be hell if I can’t tweet, but I’ll power through! We’ll just do those good old fashioned Final Four recaps, like in 2009! Although I’m not going to make myself go to every single one of the team’s activities…I’m pushing 30, that’d be ridiculous. I’ll probably just be blogging about drinking with my grandmother and eating a shitload of Tennessee barbecue.

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