Why I took a break from social media

facebook-fatigueOne day last month I was driving on I-90. It was snowing and the person in the car next to me was smoking a cigarette and checking his phone. He also wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

As I watched him steer with his wrists, and balance ash, I composed a status update in my head. I wanted to capture the right words to explain just what happened — but I needed those words to take up no more than 140 characters. My FB profile is connected to my Twitter account and, ideally, I don’t want people to have to click through to read my thoughts.

When I got to my destination, I grabbed my phone and pulled up Facebook to deliver the status I’d mentally crafted. I hadn’t shut off the car or undone my seatbelt. I may not have put the shifting gear in park.

Then I stopped.

Were statuses and tweets and pins so important I was going to put them before everything else — before going into my family’s house, having in-person conversations and true interactions?

The answer, it seemed, was yes.

If I were a cartoon character I would’ve slapped myself till my head did a 360.

I’d become that person — the one whose thoughts were, essentially, soundbytes — observations, thoughts and declarations that “worked” well on social media due to content and voice and length.

It was time for a break.

taking-a-break-from-facebook-copyI’d been debating stepping away for a couple weeks. My breaking point — the moment when I got so frustrated with users’ behavior it started effecting me emotionally — coincided with Kenneth White’s death. I was appalled by what people were saying online — the way they were talking to, and about, Kenneth’s parents and the Albany county sheriff’s department. The threats people were making and their wishes for torture and death were disgusting. What happened to that little boy was sickening. The way people were speaking about his death publicly was almost as nauseating. At times, the vicious, graphic commentary choked me up.

So I stopped posting. No status updates meant no place for arguments and nonsense. If I didn’t post, people couldn’t respond. They couldn’t attack one another, or me. They couldn’t speak without reading because I wouldn’t give them anything to read — at least not on my profile.

Tonight I wrote a blog post for OTE — the blog I authored, solely, for about seven years. After that long (I wrote more than 10,000 posts and columns), I’m used to contention and arguments and disagreements. I learned early in my blogging tenure people struggle with having a civil conversation about much of anything. But what happens on social media seems so much more contentious than any conversation we ever had on the blog.

When I shared that most-recent OTE entry on Facebook and Twitter the irrational, misinformed comments flooded in proving conversation based in reason still can’t be had. The ability to admit one misunderstood (or didn’t read past the headline) does not exist. I was reminded, yet again, how erratic people can be — especially online.

FB3I don’t like that it’s come to this. Social media has been a passion of mine for a long, long time. I can’t imagine my personal, or professional, life void of Facebook, Twitter and the like. Social media is invaluable for breaking news, and for keeping up with what people are thinking, and discussing. I love digesting what readers care about and turning that around into a story, a column or a blog post. Journalism today is more fun, and more interesting, than it was even five years ago. That is, thanks in large part, to social media.

Links and photos and status updates often entertain, educate and inform users, but the conversations on these platforms can also be ugly. And that ugliness, combined with what bordered on habitual behavior, drove me to the hiatus.

For now, I post when I need to (AKA a call-out for stories, or an ARA-type request from a follower) and I scroll through my feeds every day reading, and observing. I respond to DMs and answer questions posted to my wall. But, other than that, I’m sticking with this break. The toxicity is avoidable, and I don’t benefit from profanity-filled nastiness that often dominates online conversation.

10 thoughts on “Why I took a break from social media

  1. Diane Hillerich

    Dear Kristi: I thought that I hadn’t heard or seen any posts from you lately. I have missed them. However, I applaud you for taking this stand, one of which I would have a much harder time doing. I think that the presence of social media is it’s own enemy in which this problem of lack of tact in expression has formed. When there is such a lack of face to face conversation where one might be more inclined to consider others feelings, there is a free for all for hatred, nastiness and anger. I suppose it is easier to express the negativity if you can escape retribution or repercussion by shutting down. I shield myself from that and/or try to overlook it. And, silly as it may seem, I mostly like Facebook to play a game here or there. Well, that isn’t totally true, I like to be informed of news, I like the silly stuff people post that makes me laugh. I am an animal lover and enjoy posts that are positive in regard to animal welfare. Yes, I love cows too and even have two cow pictures in my kitchen and am thinking of purchasing another. I am diverting. Sorry about that. Anyway, thank you for your thoughts in this regard. And though I miss seeing your posts, I can appreciate and am grateful for position. – Diane Hillerich

    Reply
  2. Shannon

    I feel like I know the exact person you are talking about because it sounds just like him. I’ve missed your posts. I was wondering where you went. But, I figured it was a break for some reason. I had a bunch of speculation in my head, but I won’t post it :) I saw the post you’re talking about and was dumbfounded at all the comments regarding leggings! What is wrong with people? I too am saddened by the distaste of people who with their emotions high thought they knew everything about the Kenneth White case and said horrible things about his parents. I try not even to look at posts like that anymore. I wish that I could take a break from social media because it’s so addicting…

    Reply
  3. Roger Green

    Facebook is a waste of time, except when it’s not. I follow my sister’s cute sayings because she just might post pictures of our late parents that I haven’t seen.
    I might have a useful conversation, but more likely I’ll get someone to say something like “you said all white people hated Martin Luther King when he died” – I assure you that I did not,. Frrankly, defending myself to a stranger – the comment was on a friend’s FB feed – falls in the “NOT worth my time” category.

    Reply
  4. Nicole Maguire

    Good for you! I went on a mass delete spree of Facebook “friends” just last week. Since my family has moved to Georgia, social media has become a great tool to keep in touch with family back in New York, so I couldn’t justify deleting all together. The rotten comments and attitudes have taken over the internet it seems and no one needs to make time for that. Making the decision to remove the negativity for yourself is so much more healthy then trying to convince those posters that there is a nicer way to live. I’ve tried and they aren’t interested. What a shame.

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  5. Holli

    As someone who posts on social media professionally I also find myself crafting updates in my head. I need to step away from controversy and anything that has to do with politics and religion. I try to post positive messages and I no longer read comments posted in response to news stories as they are often the most ridiculous. Fb is my primary news source. I do like keeping up with long lost friends, getting tips on cleaning and cooking etc. Thanks for your honestly Kristi.

    Reply
  6. Mamasaurus Roars AKA KHF

    Kristi,

    By the fact that you’re even presenting this and questioning your involvement with Social Media speaks volumes to your character and ethics.

    Rock on with your awesomeness!

    Love your friend “On the Line”,

    Mamasaurus

    Reply
  7. Kathy Connolly

    I think a blog is a better idea. I started following you because I enjoyed you OTE blog. I didnt always agree but you are always interesting and thought provoking. However, because Facebook is made up of soundbites, it is not the best venue for thoughts that might be controversial (such as anything on Kenneth White, which was highly emotional for most.) There are no filters and there is no editing. Once its posted, its there…. And as a public personality, people often took things that you said as “fact”, when it was clearly opinion. I have to admit, I responded to one of your posts out of pure frustration and had the same type of “epiphany” that you did about Facebook. I think everyone has done that at some point and it might be good for everyone to step back and consider what they do and say on facebook. I found it interesting that people commented on your comment that its “ugly out there”. Yes, it is but many of us allow it and perpetuate it. I look forward to reading your blog. It is a much better venue for thought provoking opinions.

    Reply
  8. Kyla

    I frequently take breaks for weeks at a time from facebook. I also opt to not read comments on any story most of the time. It’s so much better for sanity and peace. So many news stories are bad enough without hearing what everyone else thinks.

    Reply
  9. Miss Erin

    Whenever I comment on something I see on the news – like the Kenneth White situation – I do so knowing that I don’t have all the facts and I don’t actually know these people. I think in this world of social media it’s easy for people to forget that. My take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt opinion on the White family is that they need serious help, and I hope they get it. It isn’t up to me to judge them or presume I know more than everyone else who has seen and read the exact same things as me.

    Reply
  10. Roz

    I would not blame you for taking another break after the response you received to simply posting a link to Steve Barnes’ article on Draven Rodriguez’ suicide.

    And I’ve got to stop bullying roller derby broads. I guess it’s only OK when they bully everyone else. ;)

    Reply

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