Yes, it feels like that.
I’ve written this post a few times over… or rather, I’ve started it at least that many times. One post went down a very detailed path diving into loss of identity. One post barely skimmed the surface serving mostly as a “hey, I’m here” kind of thing – much like those weird parties people do when returning to a community to let employers know they are here and ready work by offering up an open bar and mediocre catering (I’ve heard about this, I’ve been invited to one, it’s a thing). And then there is this one.
I’m not sure where this one will take me. Why don’t we find out, shall we?
I know a good handful of people who have left social media behind at various points in their life. Be it long term, temporarily, or with the loss of one account and adoption of a new one. I’d love to get all of them in a room to bend their ear about their experience around this. I find it fascinating when people start diving into their reasons for leaving, their reasons for returning, how it felt during the process, and so on. My reasons are personal to me, as they are with so many, but my feelings around it are less so. I know that now.
But I didn’t know that before. Before, I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t talk about how I felt, I was defensive when it came up from those who mean something to me and when it came up in a public setting, I masked my true feelings around it and wore it like a badge of honor – I’ve left social media behind, what are you doing with your life?
That wasn’t it though. Leaving it behind created a loss that sat heavy inside of me. I thought about it often, although, less so as time went on. I missed it most when I had something I wanted to share with friends. A photo I liked, a new brewery we stumbled upon, something funny that would be lost forever if I didn’t share it. And folks, I need to be honest, these things happen EVERYDAY in my life and so I felt this almost daily. When Rocky and I moved to the PNW, we swore we wouldn’t let the days pass without fully living our life here. We let them pass in Arkansas. Living in a beautiful space but letting time pass us by without stopping to fully enjoy what was around us. I throw this out there as I know there is the wave of complaints that what you see on social media is curated to weed out the bad, and while I won’t argue that, I do also want to say that what I want to share is real. I’m not an influencer who looks for a shot to put together, or looks for an outing specifically because it will lead to good social media content. What I post is what we do because we like to do it. And who cares if I move a less than perfect mess out of the way to get that shot?
So back to the point, I have a lot that I want to share and it was not lost on me that I didn’t have a place to share it and on top of that, I didn’t feel I should have shared how that made me feel. I left social media behind to pull focus to what was in front of me. Was it selfish of me to feel that way? I thought so, and so it didn’t come up.
Until it did. What I’ve discovered over the last almost year, is that the ones you love the most, know you the best. They know your best you, your worst you and everything in between. A few weeks ago, Rocky brought up my absence on social media – I’m sure he could sense it was crossing my mind. Sure, I’d dropped hints that I was out of touch because of it – not sure what my friends babies looked like, not knowing that one of my brothers won another sword fighting competition, not knowing that our favorite restaurant was hosting a tap takeover and bringing out their tiny wing smoker for the event… but I never flat out said that not being on social media made me feel like only one person would know if I died tomorrow.
And I did feel that way.
And it hurt.
In fact, the last time that thought crossed my mind, it took everything I had to push it out just so I wouldn’t show that something was bothering me. It wasn’t that something was said that brought it up, or that something was done, it just crossed my mind as I looked out across the Columbia river one afternoon while we were sitting in Astoria having lunch at one of our favorite haunts. A lovely day, one of the best days in fact, and there that sat.
I suppose I didn’t push it out as well as I had thought because there Rocky and I were, sitting on our back porch one evening following that day, winding down, and he brought it up. Perhaps he could sense something was up, and how he knew exactly what was bothering me, I’ll never know, but there you have it. Hit the freaking nail on the head.
Through tears I rambled on about how the loss felt, why my online presence wasn’t just a thing I did since Facebook started, but a thing I did since 1995… with AOL, then AIM, then I started a blog in 1999 (which was the start of what you’re reading here… I even had my own domain name for a time), then Myspace, then Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/LinkedIn … I’ve had a presence out there in some form for years. It wasn’t the most important thing, but it was a big thing. He understood and through the tears, he didn’t laugh or look at me puzzled… he listened.
And then he encouraged me to dip my toe back in the water.
And so, two weeks later, I found myself with a new profile on Instagram. The first week was weird… like… WEIRD. Perhaps like leaving a job for a year and then coming back. You know all the players, but maybe they are looking at you differently, not sure where you’re coming from, how different you are. But then I settled in. Adjusted my new username slightly to look a certain way I liked, posted some pictures that looked similar to what I used to post and then it just fit.
So now I can share, there’s no imaginary padlock on what I’m experiencing, no ocean dividing me from my family and friends.
This is my version of sending postcards.
This is a good thing.