Ridding oneself of social media isn’t an act of bravery the same way one becomes an apostate. True apostasy takes a measure of courage that I’m not even sure I have. Yes, I’m an atheist, but that took no courage; I just casually left the way one leaves a store when they don’t find what they’re looking for. True apostasy in the religious sense can get a person killed. Having said that, in the current age where social networking has surpassed religion and become the new “opiate for the masses,” choosing to exit the digital space where everyone congregates can, to some, seem like social suicide – in other words, the digital apostate is oft considered to be a fringe character.
After all, to disconnect from all social media is to effectively isolate yourself, sealed off from the goings-on of the digital public square where so many choose to spend the majority of their day. But is it isolation? Is it truly antisocial behavior? Is it madness? I left it all several years ago, and not once have I regretted severing my connection to the blood server. I saw the writing on the wall back in 2015 or so, and I left – every single person hooked into this server, tubes dangling from their arms feeding their blood into the network, wholly absorbed by their own existence and bent on projecting a construction of themselves to the world around them and abroad. I have since returned to Instagram only for sharing my writing and art. But, I knew then that leaving was the right thing. I found myself disgusted by what I saw in the posts and comments. The lights had come on in the digital vomitorium and I saw the mess of fluids, depravity, and desperation that it had become. I wanted out, so I left. It wasn’t a “too cool for school” situation.
I didn’t like what I saw – shameless self-promotion about the various mundanities of everyday life, faceless bullying with seemingly no consequence, unwarranted opinions, and an insatiable hunger for validation. Eating a meal isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a necessity, and yet millions of users a day share pictures of their meals or their view as though anyone is clamoring for it. And in truth, people do like to see food and dogs and vacation spots – it’s rather pleasant. Hell, even this crank likes them, but only when offered and not injected directly into my brain whether or not I care. Sure, life can be wonderful and absolutely worth sharing. But when did it go from “I need to show this to my sister, she’ll love this,” to “Everyone must know I went on vacation here,”? This is the type of self-involvement I’m talking about. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that everyone not only needs to see what we did, but that through these postings we can rewrite our personalities and characters. To people who haven’t met the poster, all they know is their online avatar – that vacationing, life-loving jetsetter must really be something. Actually, they’re just like you and me. Yes, they show you the beautiful places, beautiful people, and beautiful things, but they’ve got the same ugliness we all do. Addictions, abuses, neuroses, compulsions, obsessions, anger, depression – all of these malignant delights that balance us humans out are within everyone, especially those posting constantly.
All of the this alone would be cause for alarm, but that’s not all. No, the internet and social media have given a voice to the voiceless – it just so happens that sometimes those voiceless groups are racist organizations who finally have an easy means of gathering and planning. The murky backstreets of the internet are overpopulated with white supremacists, Incels, and conspiracy theorists alike. They’ve taken the advent of all this revolutionary technology as a jump-off point for their movement. Misinformation has never been easier, nor has designing a credible looking website. And so, we face dangerous uprisings, mass shootings, and an all-around erosion of our collective ability to distinguish truth from falsity.
While these concepts will be examined in greater detail as we go along, the heart of the matter is this: the internet and social media have changed us. We’ve been corrupted by the instant availability of information, the fame that seems to be within our grasp, and we’ve shed some of our basic decency. Many have been lost in the shuffle. Seeing others’ posts about their beautiful lives has left a lot of people wanting for more and lamenting their own life. Comparing one’s life to another’s has never been easier, and it’s never been more destructive. Through this, I hope to open your eyes to the darker side of what social media has brought us. It’s not all pretty drinks, gorgeous vistas, delicious meals, and bikini pictures – real life continues. I’m not trying to change who you are, just pull back the curtain a bit to see the serious problems that social media and the internet have wrought upon our species as a whole. My name is Christopher Goodlof, and I’m a digital apostate.