Self-imposed Social (Media) Exile
One day it happens——You find yourself checking your Facebook or Twitter feed while sitting next to a friend or family member while they talk and you don’t hear a word they are saying. Or you wind up looking back and forth at the movie you are watching and the computer on your lap. You inability to go without updating your status feels too compelling, too difficult to resist, even as you say out loud “Nothing exciting happened.”
This is where I was about a month ago. I would bring my rather useless iPhone to work and check feeds on my break; I’d check them when I got home; I’d check them in the morning, and so on ad infinitum. Why? Who cares? So I took a break for just about 2 weeks and it was refreshing to not care about more than what was going on in my immediate life. Not that I didn’t think about or care about those friends who I wasn’t able to see, but did I not care about them or think about them before Facebook or before the internet?
There is a story about a French general named Jean Baptiste Antoine du Leon who during the French Revolution was on the outs with the people of Paris and so he opted for self-imposed exile from Paris and the surrounding area. When he eventually was able to return months later he looked out across the streets of the city he had left and bluntly stated, “Il est exactement le même. Rien n’a changé.” It is exactly the same. Nothing has changed.
I find the French general’s exclamation (a person and name I just made up) to be a perfect example of what we each need to acknowledge, because in acknowledging it we can each aim to take a much needed self-imposed exile from the repetitious emptiness of the social media world:
It is exactly the same. Nothing has changed.
In acknowledging this we will come to see that there can be a benefit and pleasurable purpose to social media: keeping in touch with distanced friends and family, hearing about the daily lives of those we care about, offering humorously entertaining remarks on a friend’s outfit. It can also allow us to recognize that the inane and tiresome details of the world get played out every second of every day, but we don’t have to be tethered to them.
So next time you find yourself feeling compelled to check your feeds thing about Jean Baptiste Antoine du Leon’s self-imposed exile and yell out his storied exclamation: “Il est exactement le même. Rien n’a changé!”