People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take. ― Emma Goldman
All humans want to matter. We want to believe that, even in being so infinitely small in this great big universe where any one of us is so easily lost, that we are important enough to be seen, to be counted, and to be looked for. We want to know that who we are, what we do, what we have to say, our lives, and our deaths, have reason and purpose. We don't want to be just another number, and we definitely don't want to feel as if we are expendable to some other human who feels that they have some manner of power.
There are many people to whom the larger number of souls are expendable. Throughout history, we have challenged those. Whenever the general population felt that the powers that be - whether church, rulers, governments, or policemen - were acting in ways that disregarded the fact that they (the people) were alive too, the people would rise up and revolt. But what happens when you give people a global presence, popularity that can be tracked, a voice that echos eternally in the ether, a platform which allows their lives to be seen and makes them feel like they matter more than they normally would, and once they are thoroughly integrated into this 'service' you provided, you have them sign a legal regulation that basically states that you own their shit and will do with it whatever you want and they may not hold you accountable for anything that happens after? What happens when people have to face the conundrum of either revolting against this and losing the space where they showcased their lives, or continue using the 'service' and having no say over how they are used? How many ways will people validate and justify the abuse that is taking place simply because they love being seen?
To be clear, I don't have an answer, and this is also not entirely the thought pattern that I had before I left social media. This is today's journal entry. I had to leave the platforms (which I loved once) in order to see how weird my thinking had actually become. I am reminded of how I wanted to quit smoking (also a decade long habit) and one of the reasons that I wouldn't was because I had such an awesome lighter; I had to quit in order to understand how bizarre that thought was!
I have been on the Book and the Gram since their inception, and I have loved them both for different reasons. Both these platforms were invaluable during a time when every choice I made was at odds with nearly everyone around me; these spaces gave me support, connected me to people who were making the same choices, and provided knowledge and advice to understand and learn more about the things I chose.
I met some amazing people! I also met some amazing people pre-social media, and people in-between who had little to no social media presence. I have experienced both platforms for well over a decade; I am neither disregarding their value, nor abolishing them without knowing them, the flaws they came with or the weaknesses they exacerbate. To some degree social media has helped me to stay in touch with people all over the globe, but after I sent out an email to explain my reasons for leaving these platforms, it dawned on me that it has also made me lazy: with me posting my life and seeing other people's lives on social media, we had less motivation to actually get together and have the coffee we always promise we would. We were staying in touch after all, weren't we? On the other hand, the people I really loved and were intricately connected to, hardly ever looked at my social media pages. They also didn't know every detail about my life, but they checked in with the most important bits:
how are you?
how are the kids?
can I help?
I need help...
and always, let's do coffee!
To make another thing clear: I am not anti-tech or anti-internet, and I have never been under any delusion that anything that we put on the internet has not been available for those that wanted it (ok, two points). The problem that I saw was that up until now anyone that wanted the information had to break through or down walls into order to get to it. And even if they were given or sold it, should any harm have come to myself, my reputation, or my business because of it, someone could have been held accountable in a legal manner. The chances are next to nothing that I or what I have or do am of enough importance to anyone out there, but at its very foundation the reason for my exodus was the blatant disregard for accountability or ethics: I matter enough to myself not have someone else use me (whether my data, my photos, or things taken that I cannot see) in ways that I do not agree to, especially if there is not going to be any accountability; I matter enough to not have someone else disregard my rights to myself, even if the potential of their abuse is very minute.
There are no easy or absolute answers, but for me it was at least clear what I needed to do. I honoured my boundary without judgement of those who choose differently, and with absolutely no desire to enter into an argument or to try and convince anyone to do the same. I am talking to a lot of people though, and I think that these discussions are both due and important.
The changes to my life, my time, and my way of thinking have been sudden. I no longer see the world through a lens or with the subconscious idea of posting every major event/thought in my life. It took me a couple of days to stop thinking in terms of what I need to capture in order to send it out into the ether, but getting there was much quicker than I anticipated. Turns out I have actually been yearning for this unexpected freedom for a while now.
When I do take photos, they are few and they clearly mark a memory I want to retain. Mostly I am just experiencing moments as they pass without the need to hold on to them.And isn't this what life is actually about? Moments. Forgetting. Remembering. Basking in the live you live(d) and the people around you.
Sometimes a well lived life with those you love is all the importance you need.