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Social media, or, towards a slower internet

I’m going to try to write this and hit publish, and not think to hard about it to get it out. That means it won’t be polished or calculated, or finessed into honestly, probably anything that would be “good” but I want to see if I can let go of that for a minute, but preferably longer.

What I wonder about is how to talk about divestment from social media without sounding like a holier than thou asshole.

A little less than a month go, I deleted my Instagram accounts. I’d taken them off my phone, and after walking with someone in the bizarre 2020[1] fashion, I realized that continuing to have an account on social media meant I continued to send an illusion to the people that I was “connected” to that I would see their posts, their information, their new haircut, their new baby, the tragedy that befell their life, the success that they had. But I wasn’t seeing it, and so deleting is the most direct route I have to show that I’m not there.

“Show that I’m not there.” That’s an odd phrase.

Anyway, that’s what it felt like to delete Instagram. I know that it’s less than a month since I downloaded my data (there was a lot!) and queued it for deletion because Instagram is definitely going to send me more emotional blackmail before actual deletion date. Deleting on Instagram is currently hidden by a dark pattern, or it was at least a few weeks ago. If you have an Instagram account, have you checked recently? How to delete you account?

There’s not an option you can navigate to. I searched around (be it Google or DuckDuckGo, I don’t remember, I use Google on some machines still even though I “should” divest) and found the form described in a guide on which is, apparently, very much still a thing.

Delete your account form with password field

This screenshot was taken on a browser, and you can see (if you’ve used Instagram lately) how old this skin looks on the account deletion page.

I think that’s pretty shitty, for a platform meant to “connect” people to use emotional blackmail and, I can only assume purposefully, hide its deletion flows.

But that’s not social media divestment and slower internet. That’s me wanting to tell you about deleting Instagram, and I’ll worry that I sound like an asshole talking about it. Why? Well, because it’s related to the idea that I’d love for you to delete your Instagram and social media (particularly Facebook-linked) accounts too.

And I’m definitely going to share this post on Twitter to solicit feedback and conversation, and I am going to just feel ironic about it and get over it. Sincere, endless gratitude to the friends who read this blog from feed readers <3 <3 <3

One of the challenges that I hope for, why social media divestment excites me to a degree, is using it as a forcing function to talk to people, and on the other side, the joy of not knowing things.

Yeah that sounds bad on first pass, the not knowing things but blahhh let’s just get through it. When I say “not knowing things” I mean that I learn things by someone telling me. Wow that doesn’t sound that radical to say but let me tell you it’s an experience. This may sound benign to someone who’s never been on Facebook or its ilk where “life updates” are shared into the ether. But I find out someone has a baby by them texting me personally, or hearing from another friend and then I have a reason to check in/send a message to the new parents.

It’s actually … really quite lovely.

And I wonder if that aspect of social media divestment is shared. It’s not just that I (thanks GDPR!!) have some confidence that my data has been deleted for realsies (really hope so, otherwise happy to join the class action suit 😘) and is no longer feeding into algorithms whose entire purpose is to make more people spend more of their time staring at a glowing screen, literally, that is the only goal. Attention.

Because that’s cool and I am really into it, divesting from that but that’s the part that I think can easily get holier-than-thou (I divested, why can’t you, like whatever, I don’t actually care, live your life).

What I want to share about divestment is that in a way, it makes me feel more connected, not less.

I will cop to some bummers.

When you leave social media, there is a drop off in some category of friends. Maybe it is a group chat I’m no longer in, so it carries on without me (which is their prerogative). Maybe it’s the category of events that only publish on social media (unfortunately, a large category!). There’s missing out. Just is.

But the flip side of bummerville is that everything I learn about, I learn from a person.[2]. Again, writing this out, probably seems pretty benign. But … it’s not to me.

It makes me feel more connected.

And that’s what I mean by the “slower” internet.

I’m not talking about computing, I still want that to be cool and fast 🙂 Although there are some cool opportunities in what can arise by not thinking about that, or thinking about it very differently (IPFS comes to mind).

A couple years ago (December 2018 actually), I deleted my Facebook account. I took some screenshots then of that deletion, hoping to write about it, but I never did. Of course, that one was a bit more linked to a cliché of “got divorced, time to delete Facebook”.

This time, I’m writing about it and I’m just going to publish and ask people what you think. I’m going to post this on Twitter social media (still there 🤷‍♀️) but I’m also going to message it to some people. Because I’d like to hear what you think.



[1] I’m considering continuing to say 2020 as long as I mean “during the COVID crisis”; 2020 might last 18 or 24 months on this scale. And by “bizarre” I mean “it was less that 0C and we were walking around wearing masks and standing apart, and in the dark because it was after 5pm”.

[2] Or from an email list. I love email lists. You will send me things and I can tell you to stop? Whaaat amazing. I, of course, have an email list you can subscribe to that currently sends things at a whopping ~3x year.

One Reply to “Social media, or, towards a slower internet”

  1. I feel a lot of this but I worry about meeting new people. Early social media was so valuable to me, and continues to be, as a source of finding new connections.

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