On Nuking Social Media & Identity Maintenance Costs

Image via How to Start a Blog Online used via creative commons attribution license.

Last week, I nuked my social media.

What does ‘nuking’ mean? In the case of twitter, I deleted all previous tweets and likes. In the case of facebook, I deleted all posts, deleted my pages, left all groups except those few related to organizing with individuals in my immediate physical environment. I have setup both to auto-repost links to my work and articles published elsewhere (I fully expect most of my friends to not actually see these as exterior links are heavily suppressed by facebook sorting algorithms). I have set an intention to not post or comment on either platform for 30 days (other than the aforementioned automated reposting) and we’ll see what happens.

This act is part of a long term strategy of social media divestment while avoiding deletion (although it feels like I’m drifting towards the surgical cleanliness of simply deleting my accounts). This disengagement from social media feels to me to be especially important now as my feed has become increasingly toxic coupled with the increasing evidence of not hypothetical abuse potential but actual, real life harassment facilitated by social media & guilt by association.

Doing this allowed me to keep one useful feature of Twitter (that is, the propensity of people to use it as a crappy RSS reader) and the two ‘killer’ features of Facebook (the ability of anyone to reach out and contact me without us sharing contact info in addition to event invites and coordination). The only other social media I have a private Instagram and a forlorn, uncurated google+ I’m not sure what to do with.

The most important thing I ‘gained’ by doing this (besides a slight hardening my life against attacks that make use of a long litany of public pronouncements) is that it has freed me from the ‘identity maintenance’ costs of the platforms. That is to say, nuking has helped me better manage the natural human tendency to become interested in projecting a certain image of oneself, and going to increasing lengths to maintain that. (On a related note, I deleted my twined linkedin accounts last year and it made me feel better).

This is slightly charged due to the conventional wisdom that as a working artist I need to master social media as part of my career. I don’t think this is actually true, I think it’s simply something people say (only a slim minority of traffic and funding has ever come from facebook or twitter and on a career level I’ve decided to double down on platforms that have shown a better, direct benefit to promoting my writing and creative life). But, even if it is true, it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I have to take control over my information inputs and outputs. The ‘default’ option, the unthinking drift towards hyper-connected reflexive sharing has become something of a default option was never designed fully with my interests in mind.

It’s been interesting ‘weaning’ myself away from mindless posting. I miss that ineffable feeling of connections to my friends, the quantified approval for my thoughts or images. This is all learning in real-time with constant readjustments. However, I seem to have been reading and writing more. And, most promisingly, I seem to have been thinking longer thoughts than the scraps of cleverness that would be better formatted to fit in a status update box for which I fear I might have been previously conditioned. For this, I’m grateful and for this I’m happy to see what the next 20 out of 30 no comment/post days will bring.

And what about you? How has your relationship to social media changed? What platforms do you use and how do you use them?

Image used by permission of Creative Commons license attribution 3.0, source.

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