Though I will note that my stress levels decreased remarkably, and overall I was much happier. And given the events of the weekend (massacre in Nice, shooting in Baton Rouge), I may have ended this little experiment too soon.
If you’re curious, by the way, my little diversion began on July 8, following the shootings of the Dallas police officers. My Facebook feed had become over-saturated with updates, mourning, and pontifications about race and violence and guns to the point where I just couldn’t stomach another status update.
I mean, months of non-stop stuff about Trump. Fights with friends over Sanders versus Clinton. And then mass shootings in Orlando. And the migrant crisis in Europe. And Brexit.
I just wanted it to stop. So I announced: “For one week, I’m only posting cute baby and animal photos and videos.”
And for one, blissful week, I found that I had given myself permission to not give a shit about someone’s opinion on gun control, or the European Union, or Boris Fucking Johnson. I did not feel compelled to respond to someone’s idiotic opinion about the email investigation into Clinton. Or gun control. Or, whatever. I was not laying awake at midnight wondering how to get in the last word in on some trivial argument over something that really wasn’t going to make any different to humanity.
It’s only when you stop yelling into a hole over and over again that you realize how much time and emotional energy you waste trying to change the minds of people whose minds will never be changed.
Sure, there are still positive benefits to social media. Support for people who are isolated, different, etc. Keeping in touch with friends and family.
But all of that, for me, has been drowned out by endless reminders of the world’s horrors over the past few months, which are only amplified by the obsessive hand wringing and shouting by people I barely know.
Of course, I came out of this warm cozy zone to news of the massacre in Nice, France. And then on Sunday, the Baton Rouge shooting. In making the classic mistake of trying to search Twitter for news updates, I received my daily reminder that whatever its benefits, Twitter is basically a cesspool of hatred, abuse, and racism.
Worse, the GOP convention looms, and thus we face a long week of Trump-induced hysteria in which people on social media will remind us that Trump is loony tunes, while the 40 percent of the people who plan to vote for him still won’t care about any of these Facebook posts.
Look, it’s not that I think we should put our heads in the sand and that these aren’t important issues. It’s just that I’m no longer convinced that the endless discussions on social media are really making a positive difference. The ability to vent isn’t releasing our pent-up anger but rather stoking it. Over and over again.
Whatever utopian dreams we had for the era of social media, those dreams have been demonstrably crushed. Social media is not bringing us together. It’s just a daily lens on the yawning chasm of our divisions and how they are getting wider by the day.
I guess I did learn that posting pictures of babies and dogs and cats won’t solve that problem.
Maybe this week I should try cupcakes.