the following post was written by joseph tatum. joseph is a 24 year old designer (he's behind, in, and through my new website), artist, ridiculously compelling story teller, and all around wonderful person. he is originally from the south and now hails from portland, oregon. his blog post reflects a trend i am encountering with many young adults across the country who are deleting their social media accounts, reverting to flip phones, or taking other measures to regain healthy relationships with all things digital. it is my hope that you will find his honesty encouraging to you as you consider your own relationship with the social networks of which you are a part. you can find more of joseph at josephtatum.com and his blog at josephtatum.com/blog (and, if you need a good designer...he's your man).
February 17, 2016
I deleted my 7+ year old Facebook account last November. It was terrifying. It was silly that was so terrifying. It was also not silly that it was so terrifying.
I started my Facebook Account when I was 15 or 16 years old and my profile was a documentation of a big chunk of high school, of my entire my entire college experience, and all of my adult life up until November 2015. It was difficult to remember a life where I didn’t use it everyday.
I realized I’d had an active Facebook account for 8 years, which is 1/3 of the entirety of my existence. That isn’t something one easily tosses out the window. I realized that Facebook had become this quietly monolithic thing that had infiltrated every aspect of my life. It was how I kept up with college friends, high school friends, even some friends here in Portland. These aren’t bad things, and Facebook seeping into all the corners of my life wasn’t bad; per say.
But all of those things weren’t the unhealthy part for me. Facebook is a great tool for those things. The darker side is when you kinda start to fall more and more into the dualistic lifestyle social media provides us. Since entering post-grad life and starting over, Facebook had given me an outlet to really easily live in the past. I could sit in my apartment in Portland and relive my past lives because they were all so well documented. Photographs, statuses, old messages from 2009, videos I’d made of friends in college, their profiles, and even ridiculous things I’d written as a 17 year old allowed me to take cover in a space outside the physical. Feeling scared about where I am in life? Facebook. Don’t want to deal with some project I’m working on? Facebook. Miss my college buddies and just want to transport myself back to the college days? Facebook.
In social medias defense, this is something people have always done. Plenty of folks have photographs and videos of their childhood that they look through every now again. But “every now and again” is the key phrase in that sentence. It got to the point that I realized I had a Facebook tab open for 8+ hours per day. It was the first app I opened in the morning and the last I closed before going to bed. I was spending all my time living in the past instead of meeting new people. Not that I wasn’t meeting new people at all; but Facebook was noticeably throwing my life out of balance.
Last November I was telling my friend Darcey about all of this. I decided I wanted out. Not that “deactivate your account” bullshit; though. I wanted it gone for good. So I deleted it and didn't really think too much about it. It later hit me that I had obliterated 7 years of my online existence. I didn’t back one single thing up. It was exhilarating, terrifying, and relieving all at the same time.
4 months on from the demise of the core of my virtual reality and I feel a lot better. It helped me embrace my physical reality a hell of a lot more. I feel a lot better not having constant access to the minutia of the thoughts and feelings of the past 7 years of my life. It was a massive purge. But we live in a technology driven world. I work in technology. Things like social media are mostly unavoidable. How can we maintain a balance of the physical and the virtual? We live in a time where both of those things are just as real as the other and it’s neigh impossible to exist without a virtual presence of some kind. I want to give Facebook a space in my life. Facebook is an incredible line of communication and it gives one the power to have a reach with a lot of folks; even those they don't know. When I publicly came out, Facebook was key in getting my story into the world. I got Facebook messages from strangers that were some of the kindest I’ve ever received. There isn't another platform that would've given me the kind of reach Facebook did. I feel ready to embrace it again with a sense of cautiousness.
I encourage you to consider the same things. How does your virtual world affect the physical relationships you have and vice-versa? I’m back with a fresh account. As long as I feel healthy about it, I’ll keep it around.
If you have question. Ask away. Being healthy online is something people should talk more about.
joseph w. tatum
PS. My Oregon mom, Doreen Dodgen-Magee talks about these kinds of things all the time. I guess she's rubbing off on me. You should watch some videos of her talks. They're amazing, inspiring and incredibly informative.