The date is 20th August 2019. In the week following a significant birthday, I make a significant decision which will positively shape the rest of my years (many decades, God-willing) on planet Earth. I'm coming off all social media channels under my personal profile.
My author accounts will stay open––more specifically, I will post images to my Instagram author page, which will feed automatically onto my Facebook author page. But all other places, I'm done with.
Social Zoo Media
As a surprise for my 40th birthday, my lovely wife took me to Vienna for a few days. Neither of us had been to Austria before which made it a perfect destination. While there, we visited the zoo together, located in the vast grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace. Zoos are similar the world over––animals, big & small, safe & dangerous––behind clear glass.
Life through a window.
We watched a tiger feed, the crowds huddled behind the viewing windows. We saw a baby elephant displayed with its mother, playing together. We saw all sorts of animals, the glass keeping us safe, keeping us away, keeping us apart. Sometimes there is silence, sometimes laughter, sometimes pointing.
But distance. And certainly no human touch.
And, if I think about that tiger in its cramped enclosure, I'm not even seeing the best of it. I'm seeing the small aspect of life we get to see. From behind a window. Behind the glass. Fake. Unreal. False.
For a little over 11 years, I've been a user of Facebook. These years have seen my family move (and grow!) from our home in England to the wilds of the world––Russia first then Estonia. Life through a lens, I know, has been the only way for people to get a glimpse of us, but it has become a zoo to us, no less.
People watching from behind a glass pane––be that a smartphone, tablet or computer. Watching at a distance, removed from real interaction by the limits of the social media platform. Even that word now grates with me. There has never been anything social about this type of media. We are just zoo animals, devoid of human contact, admired (I hope) from afar, but with just the best bits on show. A fake life, a life at a distance. A life people observe and, satisfied that they've had their fix, move on to the next enclosure, the next beast on-show for them.
Eleven years in and I don't find it very social. Not from this side of the glass. And, like the caged animal, I have two options. Continue as I am, or change. Break the glass and take back the relationships which have sagged and struggled through this glass-held relationship, and even if its harder, make a point at genuine interaction, an actual connection.
Wouldn't that be nice?
So if you have my email address, my phone number, you live nearby or you are connected to my author channels, feel free to keep that personal touch going. I'm not looking to cut myself off from you––quite the opposite, actually. You see, 11 years behind the glass and, if I'm honest, I feel more isolated and removed than ever before. Wasn't the era of social media meant to end all that? Yet it's made us lazy. It's made it easy––easy to think we are in touch with someone because we see photos from their latest holiday, a status about some recent success, a comment from a friend. But we've not really made contact with them.
We've merely watched life through a window, the same as we did in that zoo.
And in the meantime, Facebook has been making money from us by feeding us adverts when, ten years ago, we heard updates from family members. In the place of messages from the heart, we find money-grabbing marketing pressing for attention.
One man can't stop all that. But, this one man can stop being a part of it. So I am. Because I'm still using Facebook as an author, I'm not deleting my personal profile (because the former cannot exist without the latter) but I am deleting the apps from my devices and switching off the notifications from these sites. So while that means you can still message me, I won't see it.
I'm also not deleting because perhaps I will one day find a new approach. But for now, I'm content to live the moment, to return to personal emails, to share news over a coffee (or tea, if you know me!) and do life one conversation at a time. I know there are exciting things ahead, even for us this coming year. But I'm no longer tied to social media anymore and forced to bare all to the one-way glass.
I'm free. I'm no longer in the zoo, and if you are here reading this, that's good. You care enough to want to know what I mean, where I'll be. I'm still here, right where I've always been. Life in colour. So come find me. Continue the adventure with me. And let's see where we end up!