— Melanie Miller (@duzngivup) March 14, 2019
On Wednesday, March 13th 2019, Facebook and Instagram shut down.
When it happened, the Elephant staff was working away as usual when, one by one, we noticed Facebook wasn’t loading properly. At first, we thought just a few of us were having issues, but then we realized—it was happening everywhere.
Across the world, businesses cried out. Social media influencers collapsed into their beds, pulling the blinds down. And Zuckerberg sat on his Iron Throne, a dark shadow cast overhead.
We all wondered: was this the apocalypse?
I thought about what this meant. Yes, it was likely just going to be for one day, but I thought about what this world be without social media. What would it be like without being so connected every second of every day.
Later that night, I sat down to eat dinner in front of the TV, a bad but usual habit, and instantly opened my phone to quickly check any lingering Facebook notifications, forgetting momentarily that, of course, I couldn’t.
And you know what this felt like to me? It felt refreshing. It felt like I could suddenly take a big breath of air, as though I’d finally found the surface of the water. There wasn’t anything potentially more interesting or important happening somewhere in the internet ether for me to tune into—and if there was, I’d have to find out about it some other way, at a later time, when I was in the right mindset to go looking.
There weren’t these other worlds existing while I was living mine. There was just my world. Here. In this present moment. Sitting, watching mindless television while eating my dinner.
I felt at peace.
Like most people of my generation, I haven’t really known a world without social media. Sure, when I was a teenager in the early 2000s, Instagram hadn’t really exploded in the same way, but we still had MSN, and Facebook was just on the rise.
But unlike my parent’s generation, this is all I have known. Yesterday made me long for a different time. It made me long for a time where there weren’t all these possible happenings going on simultaneously. One where there weren’t endless people to compare ourselves to or be jealous about.
I longed for a world where we only knew someone by who they were in real life—not the one they choose to craft for some image in the digital world. I longed for a world where you picked up the phone and called a love interest instead of texting and wondering why their reply is taking so long.
I longed for a world of real, genuine connection. I longed for letter writing and having to wait days to hear from someone. I longed for the mystery of the unknown—space for us to let our minds and imagination wander.
I wanted to know what it was like to have to go outside to a coffee shop if you felt the pains of loneliness and isolation. And I wanted to know what it was like to sit with that feeling, understand it, nurture it, instead of just swiping through our phones as distraction.
Facebook and Instagram shutting down was the most beautiful thing to happen yesterday.
I’m slowly reevaluating my relationship to social media—and now after this shut down, I only long for just another few days of freedom from it.
Quick tips: how can we be free from social media and still be a successful and connected creative in today’s world?
>> Write on an independent platform (like Elephant!) or create a blog.
>> Gather an email list for a newsletter.
>> Handwrite stories, write on Word, write on notes on your phone, and backup everything.
>> Subscribe to mindful journalism and support indie media.
>> Listen to podcasts (make a podcast!).
>> Go to arts and culture events in your city; support artists by buying their books and attending their shows/events.
>> Always make time for relationships in real life, whether that’s in-person, or Skype meetings, or regular ol’ coffee dates with friends.