So Ends The Silence
A month ago I posted that I was going to be off social media for a month, and so I was. It was WONDERFUL.
And yes, it took a little getting used to at first. One of the reasons I wanted to wean myself off it was that I found myself far too inclined towards it, if you know what I mean. I felt as though I was waiting for something all the time. Who would tweet me? Who would comment on my post? What offensive thing out there did I simply HAVE to comment on? What petition must I sign? Who would favorite me? On and on. I don’t think that’s healthy. One forgets to realize where one’s feet are when constantly focusing on such things.
The first morning post social media, when I was out walking The Rescuepoo, I saw something quite lovely and found myself composing a post/tweet in my head. I stopped myself, aware of the insanity of that. I wasn’t simply where I was, in that moment, but I was projecting myself out of that space and that time, into a virtual one, in which, hopefully, someone would find me interesting in a Mary Oliver kind of way, because I had noticed that robin there, doing that thing. And so I regrouped, snipped off the thread unraveling before me, and simply let the moment be what it wanted to be. I felt my breath deepen. I settled.
I was surprised at how many times in the first few days my default position was an outward one, an inclination to an unspecified other, some pair of eyes gazing at another screen somewhere. I was surprised at the lack of self-containment I noticed in myself. I was also surprised at how quickly I was able turn my back on it. It was as though someone had turned off an irritating jingle that had been playing on a loop in the background. I hadn’t really noticed it, or told myself it didn’t bother me, but now that it was gone, how sweet the silence was.
It seems being off social media is a form of meditation.
I did miss knowing what was going on with some folks, but I also think I didn’t miss much. I might not have heard right away that someone’s daughter said something really cute at breakfast, or that someone else was lounging on a beach, or that if I see the word “love” first in a jumble of letters it says something about me, but I suspect I am not harmed by the omission. And anything important, it turns out, people are willing to share with me via phone, or email, or when I see them.
I found I had more time, which was no surprise, but the degree of calm I felt was. I can only describe it as a coalescing of self, a sensation that parts of me that had been dangling a bit loosely came back together. I felt more solid, more rooted. My thoughts became more complicated, in a good way. I know that sounds odd, but it’s true. When I look at the writing I’ve done in the past month, the ideas are more complex, and even, dare I say it, a little more profound. Sharper.
It was as though all the virtual socializing was diffusing my self, dissolving it into something foggy and undefined.
I have no idea whether any one else would feel this way. I do know that writing a short essay like this one does not have the same effect as does Twitter and Facebook and so forth. Perhaps that’s because an essay like this assumes an intended reader who approaches it not as a time-waster or a distraction, but in a more thoughtful way and, if the reader has read this far, with a shared curiosity in terms of subject.
Some of the people in my professional life were aghast, of course! But what about my ‘branding’? What about my public profile? Snort. I’m not sure I’ve ever really had one, frankly. But lots of writers I know and admire are no more on social media than they are on the moon — Lawrence Hill, Colm McCann, Alice Munro — for example. (Margret Atwood is, but then I always wonder if it’s for research, and besides, Atwood is sort of super-human in many ways.) I don’t think their book sales suffer as a result. Perhaps a little distance even adds to the allure.
But I know what they mean, and I am not as well-known as Hill, McCann, Munro or Atwood, so I agreed I would return to social media, but in a different way. It probably won’t look much different to anyone who follows me, but it will feel different. I will not, for example, be active on my personal Facebook page. I don’t think Facebook is great for relationships. But I will continue to keep up my Lauren B. Davis ‘writer’ page and Tweet if it’s about books/book reviews/appearances and so forth. But I will no longer comment on political posts, or get drawn in by those “OMG — this is the most amazing video EVER” posts.
As I’ve always done, I’ll write about other stuff here, since this feels more like a conversation with interested readers than a way to catch up on clever cat antics.
With all that extra time I’ll do what I feel I’m meant to be doing, which is to write.
It’s been a lovely month, and I feel refreshed and refocused. I love the quieter world.
I saw your post when you started well, on the 6th to be exact. And after taking a month off twitter too (inspired by you.)
It was nice to break the addiction. Too many hours have I wasted waiting for those comments, reply only to be met unfulfilled.
And the amount of progress I made on the WIP -and I found a writer’s group –
And may you get lost more in the days of moments
Thanks, Julie — and good for you, too! Isn’t it amazing the amount of writing one can get done when not distracted!
Hello Lauren, happy to read your update, I was much looking forward to hearing about your one month hiatus from social media. Your writing and thought process is as crisp and clear as ever! Sure sounds like the break was inspirational and healthy for you, as it likely would be for any of us disciplined enough to follow your example…such as Julie in the above comment.
Look forward to your future posts. All the best, Jane V.
Actually, Jane, it didn’t feel like discipline so much as relief! Thanks for the comment.
This is both thoughtfully and beautifully stated. You have articulated what many of us have been thinking about this frenzy for some time now. I’m glad that the experiment went so well for you. A retreat is always good for the soul and the mind. Thanks.
Thanks so much, Daniel. Much appreciated.
I’ve been thinking about this very subject…and what you say really resonates with my experience of social media. I do find social media invaluable as a way to connect with a certain community that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise, but it is very difficult to separate out the meaningful and worthwhile aspects from the jingling/jangling low-level anxiety and ‘social media audience’ which you articulate so well. I certainly have found myself framing my experience as shareable content (discontent?) which, while walking, is a way of not seeing the forest for the shares. I am going to consider how I can create some kind of disciplined approach to social media, as you’ve suggested. Myself, I wouldn’t want to give up all the verbal quipping and commenting, but I wonder if it could be contained and compartmentalized–the way my parents suggested that we plan ahead and control what we watched on TV and not just assume that TV-watching was our default at-home activity. I have found the random intrusion of some content useful while writing, but, to be honest, probably my own mind could supply that more efficiently while writing.
It was really good to see you in the non-Facebook flesh and to hear you read in Hamilton this past weekend.
If you find a way to contain it, Gary, I’d be interested to know how. Keep me posted. And it was wonderful to see you and Beth as well. I’m only sorry we had to leave so quickly and couldn’t hang out for a bit. Next time?