I’m an American citizen, and I’ve been voting since I was 18. Supposing you can do basic math, the following will give you an idea of how old I am. The first presidential candidate I voted for was Walter Mondale (against Ronald Reagan) in 1984. That year, Mondale won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. I had no idea what the electoral college was, and I still don’t despite the many articles I’ve read on the subject.
I voted in every following presidential election until the one in 2016. After much research, soul searching, arguments and conversations with family, friends, and strangers on social media, I decided I just couldn’t stomach either candidate. I wasn’t that impressed with any of the third party candidates either, so I sat the election out. Like most Americans, I was surprised to wake up on November 9, 2016 and learn that despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump.
Now, this post is not about how the electoral college is undemocratic. It’s about why I decided to delete all my social media accounts. The answer is, in short, I panicked. All throughout the election, Trump said the most irrational, sexist, racist, ableist, anti-veteran things with no repercussions. I read article after article comparing his rise to the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany. I listened to friends who were LGBTQ or undocumented immigrants talk about how afraid they were. What really spooked me was that story about the Rutgers University professor who was involuntarily detained in a psychiatric ward for his anti-Trump tweets.
I debated for weeks about whether I should get off social media. Then one day it just hit me: I’m just an ordinary person. Nobody really cares to see a picture of what I ate, where I vacationed, what I got for Christmas or my birthday or about my new job. I remember life before social media. We survived. We thrived. We talked to strangers in the bank line or on public transit. I wondered what it would be like to wake up and not reach for my cell phone to check the likes to my social media posts. When did I become so dependent on other people’s feedback anyway?
Like millions of Americans, I believe that Trump is a sociopath and a narcissist who cannot stand the slightest critique, and under a Trump Administration, the crackdown on free speech was imminent. So, in one quick fell swoop, I promptly deleted all my social media accounts. Now, I’m no celebrity with millions of followers but I had spent years cultivating friendships, chronicling my life, uploading pictures and videos on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Instagram. I knew what I would be giving up, and I decided it was worth it. After all, I had been becoming increasingly disillusioned by social media. I got especially overwhelmed and depressed by my Facebook timeline, which was flooded with stories about anti-Black racism, homophobia, the murder of transgender women, and other such tragedies. Conversely, on Instagram, every image was carefully curated, posed, and filtered, giving an impossibly perfected view of life designed to cause envy and despair. And Twitter? Well, I’ve often likened Twitter to the Wild West with its bullying, celebrity Twitter wars, and misguided vigilante Beyhive mobs.
It’s 2017. A new year with endless possibilities.
I’ve been off social media for about a month now (except for Facebook which I kept only so I could access the brilliant Son of Baldwin page) and you know what? I don’t miss it a bit.