Permission Requested, Permission Granted

Today, I pull the plug on my social media accounts.

I am acutely aware of the dangers. I may be making the biggest mistake of my entire professional life. Subtle doubts are pushing on me to stay, to give in to the seductive pull of being hyper-connected. In my mind’s eye, I can see the fragile connections crumbling as I consciously, with deliberate intent and purpose, walk away from my digital network.

“Why?” you may ask. When the call came, I asked myself the same thing.

I am walking away because I am weary. I find that the never ending connection consumes my mind, vibrating constantly at a persistent low level inside my brain. My heart feels no rest being so connected.

As an introvert bordering on a hermit, social has been a godsend, but it is a frenetic and cruel mistress. She demands much of those who can hear her call. I feel a poignant obligation to the community I live within, a driving duty that triggers feelings that I “should” and “must” show up because people are counting on me. I recognize that this may be all in my head. I’ve tried to ignore it or reframe it, but I cannot.

Am I being self-absorbed and arrogant? Possibly. If so, my departure will be of no consequence.  I will be just another presumptuous jerk leaving the grid, a douche bag who imagines that people give a shit about them. Fair enough.

Instead, though, based on the reactions I have gotten, it is clear that I am not the only one who questions the psychological and autobiographical impact of their social media participation.

Many have confided in me that they cannot get quiet anymore. They are compelled to stay in the noisy space because they fear being out of the loop. They dread being alone. They long for real connection but feel overloaded by superficial exchanges. They miss a handshake, a friendly hug – the simple joy of being touched in real life. They get twitchy if they are without their cell phone. They know all that is somehow not quite right.

When I reflect on my decision, some key factors have influenced me. I experienced a heavy and long year, filled with debilitating grief, after my father’s sudden death in mid 2011. It was an intensely personal wake up call that demanded a response.

I knew I did not want to continue forward the way I had, so I radically changed my life. Goodbye to news, goodbye to TV, goodbye to my boyfriend of twelve years and our home together, and goodbye to nearly all of my possessions. I now call it the Grand Purge. I knew my old life didn’t fit, just as surely as I had no idea exactly what my new life was going to look like.

The 2012 Presidential election played its part. The intense online vitriol, hatred, relentless verbal abuse, and condemnation took its toll on me. The picture was ugly, especially on social, and I felt affected by it.

The Sandy Hook school massacre and the incendiary rhetoric surrounding gun control set my final hopes for a peaceful virtual neighborhood ablaze. My heart was toast. I began to more honestly consider my place in it all.

Did I have to meet the sense of obligation that drove me with social? On bad days, I despaired that I did. On good days, I experimented with how it felt to say that I had the right to choose, that no one else but me got a vote in it. I realized, after much reflection, that I just needed to request and grant myself permission to do what I preferred.

At the intersection of personal choice is where I sit today.

Do I hate online life? No, absolutely not. The power of the Internet to change lives, fortunes, and minds is a tsunami of epic magnitude. I am fascinated by being a modern global citizen. I have faith that I will find balance and strike the right chord – my chord – in my time.

Will I return to social media? Maybe. Regardless, I am still an avid believer in producing prolific original content. My aim is to do good work and be compelling enough to earn being shared by virtue of that work. I don’t know the future, but I feel sure that I will be creating more. I do not know how it will look in the end, but permission to disconnect is the next step for me.

What will I do now? I will write, because I am a writer. I will create, because that’s what I do. I will connect and share in my own ways, because my soul asks me to. And, I will keep exploring until I find what works for me. Most importantly, I will disconnect for now and be at peace with walking away.

Permission requested…permission granted… permission acknowledged…[DELETE].

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