I’ve been asking myself this question for awhile now. But then another “power couple” shared a major Life Event in an online forum. My ‘ask’ crystallized. Is social media making me ‘better’? Do I need it, or does it need me? It feels like the right time to re-visit our relationship, and re-define our connection.

( But first: couldn’t this big-tech husband and wife have made a quiet announcement to their shareholders? Did the whole of cyberspace need to know about their impending split? Was this info a value-add to my life-lessons?)

Like a lot of people have this past year, I’ve been sifting through my Essentials. What Really Matters. Staying safe, staying mentally and physically healthy, and keeping enough TP and disinfectants on hand. Turning household chores into creative adventures. And, more often than has felt right and true for me, hopping on social media for a weird kind of social interaction.

What did I find there? A sense of commiseration, for sure. Our shared strategies for boredom-chasing outlets. Cooking, music-making, crafts. Goofy, distracting stuff. Tik-Tok. Even more wacky animal videos. New footage of UFO’s. A new passion for “ancestry” searches.

I’ll admit that I made a deep-dive into cooking videos during quarantine. Helpful. But I also spent way too much time exploring pure nonsense online. When I felt like I had time to waste, I wasted time. It felt indulgent. Like having a chocolate fudge ice cream sundae for dinner. Who cares about nutrition? Who cares about calories? The point is, “It tastes so good in the moment.”

And that’s where I found myself, eventually. Realizing that most of my social media experiences were high-calorie; making me feel lazy and lethargic. Were other people’s “shares” more riveting and important than my own current existence? Was it easier, and more fun, to be distracted by their output than focus on my own?

That’s the value, and contradiction of social media. A boatload of useful, helpful information. In equal amounts, stuff that titillates and distracts, but has as much substance and real meaning in my life as ice cream.

Is social media making me a better person? Depends. What do I need to know, to make better, wiser choices? Helpful. Versus, “places” I visit just because I’m bored, restless, dissatisfied with my own life? Not so much value-add.

In the year of Covid, spending time in mindless social-media excursions felt permissible, acceptable.  It felt like everyone was engaged in the same way. But they weren’t. They aren’t. (According to those who track these things, only 7% of people in the entire world have Twitter accounts.)

Do I need social media, or does it need me? No question:  there’s a part of me that craves being ‘in the know’ with juicy info-bites. And most platforms do all that they can to monitor and supply whatever keeps me online.

But now I feel like I’m coming out of a sort of Covid-fogged mindset. I’m looking at where I am and where I want to go. With less care for what any platform has to say about my process, or my destination.

It might be a more cynical headspace, but it also feels more real. More grounded in what I know nourishes me long-term. It feels like effort, at first. Like slowly waking up from a long, deep sleep. After that major ice-cream indulgence. But it’s time.

There’s nothing unique or living-bravely about me calling-out my own Internet habits, or my goal of becoming a better person. What I needed to commit to in writing was a deeper awareness of ‘distraction’ versus ‘awareness’ of who I am and what I’m here to do.

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