Social media used to be a problem for me. Addiction feels like too strong of a word — after all, I wasn't one of those people who neglected to shower, eat, or sleep in favor of being online — but there was an urge to check it and check it frequently that was difficult to resist, and keeping up with the comunidad latina online can be a 24/7 endeavor. Latinos are, after all, the most active group on social media, according to a 2013 Pew Report.
Suddenly silent moments in my life felt as if they needed to be filled. A lull in conversation on a car ride, a commercial break while watching TV, the doctor's office waiting room, restaurants while awaiting food, even quiet moments sitting outside — they all turned into opportunities to "check messages" or "see what's going on." Instead of listening to tweeting birds I fought the urge to read tweets, and often failed to resist the temptation no matter how unfulfilled I felt afterward.
Enjoyable outings were interrupted by the need to capture it, to photograph it, and to share it. Relaxing showers were rushed as a thought would occur and a voice inside me would say, "you should totally tweet that."
What I realized was that regardless of whether people enjoyed what I shared on social media or not, whether I was inundated with "likes" or completely ignored, the result was the same; I felt a longing for the way things used to be before social media seeped in to fill every crevice of my life. Yet even after I was able to recognize this, I wasn't able to pull myself away. As a blogger, as a freelance writer, my work is online, so even though I successfully imposed weekend social media breaks on myself, I felt the need to return once my work week began.
What I realized was that regardless of whether people enjoyed what I shared on social media or not, whether I was inundated with "likes" or completely ignored, the result was the same; I felt a longing for the way things used to be before social media seeped in to fill every crevice of my life.
Over time, I found myself more and more reluctant to return and less willing to give up the balance I had gained. Weekends stretched into Mondays, Mondays stretched to Tuesdays, and before I knew it, I had spent an entire week without logging into any of my accounts. When I finally did return, I saw everything with new eyes. I scrolled through an endless supply of banal attempts at humor, humble brags, attention whoring, rampant self-promotion, validation seeking, first world problems and ceaseless navel-gazing. Don't get me wrong, among the common rubbish one can find buried treasure, but rarely anything that ever sufficiently balanced out the time spent being exposed to an obnoxious amount of narcissistic content.
Because of my work, I soon realized I faced a dilemma. I had now become burnt out on social media — the place where I network and find new gigs, the place where I share my writing, the place where I connect with readers. I no longer wanted to be there. I googled "social media burnout," secretly hoping to find a rational-minded individual who would assure me it was OK to continue to blog and write without being interminably tied to social media. But I found the opposite. Every article was intended to help the reader avoid, cure or overcome social media burnout. Somehow, in my new state of mind, this felt akin to helping an alcoholic avoid, cure or overcome sobriety.
It seems it's now considered unhealthy to prefer spending more time daydreaming and people watching than senselessly scrolling through a timeline. Perhaps it's now regarded as abnormal to do things that require more time and effort and provide little instant gratification. And maybe for some it's undesirable to enjoy the sensation of having a thought and not feeling an urge to share it with the world — at least it would seem that's the general consensus. As for me, I've decided in the blessed silence that is a muted cell phone and a closed laptop, I'm not going to attempt to "fix" what isn't broken.