Have you ever been in one of those moods where you look at a cluttered room and realize you’re actually in the mood to get rid of things? That box of cables that you’ve been hanging on to, “just in case,” or that huge pile of clothes, most of which are out of style or no longer fit? It’s not enough to know that you should do something about it, you have to be ready to do it. You have to be so sick of the mess that you immediately turn around, grab the giant trash bag, and go to work.
That’s where I found myself earlier this week, but instead of that multi-colored sweater from the 80s, I was purging people. Or less dramatically, purging my superficial online connections to them. As of today, I have “unfriended” (what a wonderfully manipulative word) or stopped following between 50% and 70% of my connections on Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn will be next, but I need a more formal plan of attack for that one.
What was my tipping point? Well… let’s just say 2020 in general. Pick almost any story from March onward and it would be as good a moment as any other, it just took me until this week to act on it.
Sadly, though, the main reason was my increasing realization that many of the people I consider friends are far more gullible and far less likely to exhibit critical thinking skills than I have given them credit for. Everyone has a bad day. Everyone has the occasional rant. Everyone has an opinion. But a large majority of my friends had started acting like terrible people. That doesn’t mean that I think they are terrible people. It’s disheartening, though, how many are acting exactly like the people they oppose. The gloating, the screeching, the rage, the schadenfreude, the arrogance… it’s fundamentally depressing.
I would actually have preferred to simply delete all of my accounts – I think that would probably be a far better course of action for my productivity and happiness – but I still hope to carve out a creative presence in the world and, for better or worse, I need to be on many of these platforms for marketing reasons. But that doesn’t mean I have to subject myself to the insane race to the edges that these platforms, our leaders, our media, and, sadly, many of my friends seem determined to perpetuate.
There may be additional posts about this in the future as I reevaluate my priorities for my online presence, and if there are, I plan to discuss some of my specific criteria in case it can help someone else break away from the misery cycle and doom scrolling. In any case, if we were once connected in one of these places and no longer are, please know that this was not a personal thing, but rather a choice I’m making about what kinds of content I consume.
I don’t like glurge movies, so I don’t watch them. I don’t like mumble rap, so I don’t listen to it. I don’t like spam email, so I don’t open it. I don’t like multinational corporations and politicians who prefer to throw gas on a fire instead of water, so I don’t support them. I don’t like clickbait, so I don’t click. And I don’t want to see my friends showing slavish adherence to a cult of personality or being unwilling to do their own homework and think for themselves, so I’m no longer going to watch them dig their own trenches.
Instead, I’m choosing to be happier. In the three or four days since I started the great purge of 2021, my Facebook feed has actually been enjoyable for the first time in many years. Amazingly (but unsurprisingly), Twitter actually got worse, but I’m not done with it. The rule for the coming year, however, is that if it’s making me unhappy and I can’t do anything about it, I’m deleting it.