- Avery Garn
Conclusions I came to during Quarantine (April 7, 2020)
Truer words have never been spoken. (Actually, Jesus definitely spoke truer words, but Andy is close.) I have spent the better part of 2019 and now 2020 off social media. Boycotting social media is my passion project, and I have probably already informed you of my relatively uninformed opinion. If you are familiar with the enneagram (or maybe if you roll your eyes at personality tests), I’m pretty sure I am a classic Enneagram One: I see things as black and white, either/or. There is no gray. But I’m learning that life does not happen in these polarities. Life is not made up of clean lines. So here goes my attempt at “Braving the Wilderness” as Brene Brown has dubbed it. My crack at finding the middle, living in the gray, and not staking my flag on an impassable side. Almost three years ago, I got married. I had a wedding and a reception in a barn with lots of friends and lots of flowers.
Throughout our engagement, I debated whether or not I would share pictures from my wedding on Facebook. What a dilemma. My internal dialogue went something like this:
If I was not close enough with someone to invite her to my wedding, was it really necessary for me to share with her all of the photos from a party she wasn’t invited to? And for the people I loved who couldn’t make it, didn’t I hope to share pictures with them personally at some point in the near future? In a medium other than a mass export to my 1000+ closest friends? And for my family and close friends who did want pictures from our day, couldn’t I share those with them some other way? Say, a real life photograph? I just couldn’t come up with an angle in which a Facebook photo blast wasn’t inconsiderate to all of the people I loved who couldn’t be there. But of course, I posted. How could I resist? The pictures were beautiful. I wanted to brag. And then, I changed my mind. Later that year, after seeing a friend in tears over a post about a party she wasn’t invited to, I threw in the towel. I resolved that no good that could come from social media. I deactivated all of my accounts in hopes that Mark Zuckerberg would take personal offense. About a year into my self-induced social [media] distancing, my sister-in-law studied abroad in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Clint and I flew to the other side of the world to see her, because, why not? Like any good millennial, we documented our adventure abroad. All the while, I couldn’t help but wish I could share the moments with all of the “friends” and “followers” that I no longer had.
And then, a simple question: Why? Why did I want to share these moments? Answer: So people think I’m cool/fun/adventurous. I couldn’t even come up with a good lie to tell myself, like how I wanted to inspire or encourage people. I just wanted people to know I went to Fiji. I wanted people to envy me, envy my life. I rolled my eyes, affirmed in my decision to boycott all social media. Nothing beneficial could come from that kind of self-glorifying platform. I continued in my hypocritical and self-righteous boycott for another year, longing for people to choose to share their lives with the people who actually mattered to them—the same people who we often ignore when together, easily exchanging their physical presence for the digital presence of people we haven’t seen in months or years. And then, my mom showed me a post by my cousin who lives in Boston. I loved seeing her daughters, and I loved getting a glimpse into her life. Then I internally kicked myself for finding pleasure in Instagram--and I knew I had a problem. It dawned on me that Instagram did not have to be all good or all bad, inherently evil or benign. I could smile at my cousin’s post without sacrificing my ethics. Erin Loechner says it best: “Forget Black Friday - sales! stuff! more! - but also forget Pure Friday - boycott! buy nothing! minimalism only! A gentle reminder: You can be a concerned citizen of consumption and also want to get your niece the glitter nail polish she wants at the price you want.” She’s referring to the day after Thanksgiving, but is this not true of every facet of our lives? There is a gray. There is wilderness. There is not only either/or, but both/and. So here is the conclusion I have arrived at (for now). It is not a new conclusion. But it is one that I hope was worth your time: I return to this space with the goal of seeking engagement over approval, to practice living in the messy middle. I can enjoy seeing Taylor Swift and Joanna Gaines on Instagram, and I can also desire that people put their phones down and spend time with the people they follow in real life. I cannot single-handedly take down the billion dollar monopolies that monetize from the way we spend our daily lives. But I can chase slow, look people in the eye, and share life with up close with the people I love. And finally, I want to leave you with a takeaway of my own: I did not miss the news of one engagement, one baby, or one wedding during my time away from The Feed. I found that my friends still crave to share news with one another, even when news is new to no one because everyone already saw it on Facebook. So if you choose to take a digital fast, do not fear you will miss out. Human connection will endure. People will talk. People will touch. All it requires of us is to look up.