Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence
Lieutenant Reginald Endicott “Reg” Barclay III is a recurring fictional character from both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. He is socially awkward, hilariously uncomfortable in his own skin, and is initially the butt of cruel jokes among his peers. He often retreats to the comfort of his imagination, which manifests itself in acute holodeck addiction (which lands him in hot water on more than one occasion). On the upside, he also frequently mines his own imaginative thought experiments, using innovative, unconventional solutions to resolve complex problems.
Lieutenant Barclay has his own Wikipedia entry if you want to learn more about him. I can’t imagine why you would want to. Just know that I hated this character intensely. I don’t anymore, but in the moment, he felt like a cruel slap in the face that I took personally.
I hated Barclay because he reminded me of myself.
This isn’t news for anyone close to me, or who has tried to become close to me, but I am an introvert who also frequently suffers from debilitating social anxiety and depression. Oh, I can function in goal-oriented social functions like work (where the goal is solving technical problems to get PC users back to work) or team sports (where the goal is to come together to defeat opponents), but the moment the focus switches to happy-hours, wine parties, or just hanging out, I struggle greatly and must rely on a series of complex coping mechanisms to get by.
Or I just flake-out and bail, or I spaz-out and make a jackass of myself before flaking-out and bailing.
Like Barclay, I have a rich, active imagination, but as a young adult, I slowly came to realize that living inside my own head wasn’t enough. Even a social weirdo like me craves social connection of some type. Social media filled that void handily.
I first discovered social media several years after its commercially embryotic phase in something called Yahoo! Chat. I tried it for about ten minutes, and was hooked instantly (Say what? Instead of focusing on improving the tragedy which was my life, I could escape to the internet and make fun of celebrities, kings, and sinners who dare to live in the real world? What a concept!) Before I knew it, I had lost count of how many chatrooms and message boards I frequented.
It wasn’t all escapism though. Occasionally, if I found a fellow chat-head compelling enough, I would sack-up and attend a real-live meet-n-greet to see if their reality matched their online persona (which, much like my own online duality, was almost never the case). Once, I was digging this female chatter and our chemistry was intense. We agreed to meet at the birthday party of a mutually-acquainted chatter to see where things might lead. We didn’t hit it off in person, but she introduced me to her friend, and four years later, her friend and I were married. By transitive property, I owe my twelve-year marriage to social media.
As social media evolved, I came along for the ride. GeoCities, Open Diary, LiveJournal, Friendster, OkayPlayer Freestyle Forum, MySpace, Google+ for some reason… and then onward to my current dopamine connection go-to’s; Facebook (my primary social surrogate – more on this later), Blogger, WordPress (well hello there!), Tumblr (where I do most of my fanboying), and two Twitter accounts (one for my back-of-the-bus mocking of all things pop-culture, and one for my poetry, which, I guess means that if I ever become famous, I’ll have to mock myself? Not sure how that would work.)
But something has changed within the past two or three years. Interacting on Facebook use to leave me with an improved outlook, but recently, I’ve found myself angrier, sadder, and even more depressed after perusing my newsfeed. Obviously, my country’s uglier aspects and the rise of toxic nationalism, leading us to this vile new administration manifested itself in Facebook, as did the Fake News Era. We all know of the many ways that Facebook and many other social media outlets have betrayed our trust, and I won’t be getting into any of that.
I decided to take a series of breaks from Facebook to see how I felt. My absence was probably unnoticed, as I continued posting via my Twitter link to Facebook (I call it “face-twat” for short because I exist simultaneously as a high school sophomore and a dirty old man.) My last break was during the month of April as I participated in NaPoWriMo for the tenth consecutive year. In each of my breaks, including the last one, I noticed that I wasn’t as down in the dumps as I normally am.
That’s when I decided that I would permanently deactivate my Facebook account.
I have selected a target date of Labor Day to finally and completely rid myself of this oddity that has oddly become a sad, compulsory element in my life. That gives me time to ensure that I find other ways of keeping in touch with online friends dear to me; friends who make me laugh, who make me think, and who make me want to become a better person – but not necessarily friends who I wish to see every day, as I still lack the social ability to make that a comfortable experience for me.
Also, I suspect that this won’t be the only social media that I give up on. In fact, the only social apps I’m certain that I’ll keep are my WordPress site and my poetic Twitter feed that links to it. All other apps are open to further evaluation.
It may seem trivial to some who read this, and I totally get it, but seeing how Facebook was (and in a way, still is) my social surrogate for the past decade, this is a big deal for me. The fact that it should not be a big deal is one of the main reasons why I must make this change. Lieutenant Barclay was compelled to severely curtail his holodeck usage as it was impacting his ability to exist in the real world. Those peers who initially mocked his oddities made a good faith effort to accept him, and he did the same for both them and himself. It was far from perfect, but Barclay formed lasting friendships.
I’m no fictional character, but I am compelled similarly, for vaguely similar reasons. As always, thanks for putting up with me.