Last week, the British novelist Mark Haddon wrote an essay for the Financial Times about his recent decision to take a break from Twitter. What I liked about this piece is that it unpacked a nuanced back-and-forth thought process about social media.
Many of the narratives surrounding these services stumble toward an extreme: social media ruined democracy! social media is more important than the printing press!
The people I talked to while researching Digital Minimalism, however, tended to report a more conflicted experience. Not unlike a once happy relationship that’s begun to sour, they can easily list things they like about services like Instagram or Facebook, but ultimately, with a shake of the head, they conclude that keeping it in their life is no longer sustainable.
This is the story Haddon tells.
The bulk of his article lists the many novelties and happy swerves of attention that Twitter provided him. But he still felt he needed to walk away. Why? Here’s his pithy explanation:
“I am taking a long break because every tweet had begun to feel like a peep of steam through my whistle — Listen to me! Listen to me! — which reduced the boiler pressure I needed to write another novel.”
And so it is in the real world with many who find their patience wearing thin with social media: it’s nice; it’s sometimes spectacular; but in the end, it has a way of bleeding away the steam of life, one interrupted moment at a time, until you find yourself no longer tackling the harder, analog, striving endeavors that make a good life good.
Speaking of the pros and cons of social media, my friend (and immensely talented filmmaker) Rob Montz recently released a powerful, short documentary on the harm Instagram is causing among teenagers. Take a look.