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Youngblood

Breaking up with social media

04:04 AM July 04, 2017

Today I woke up with a sense of clarity. This toxic relationship has to end. We used to be full of love and optimism. How did we end up like this? I look at you and I see only a shadow of the platform I fell in love with.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on you. It was 2009 and I was at a crossroads in my life. It was months after graduation and I was still hunting for a job. In between submitting CVs and asking for referrals, my sister introduced you to me. I was smitten. Before long I was spending most of my waking hours with you, sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning. You opened up my world.

We’d innocently poke and post, share and comment, like and tag each other. It was sweet and innocent. Sure, there were annoying chain mails and third-person updates, but we were testing the waters and trying hard to be cute. We started going steady soon after.

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Then we began getting to know each other on a deeper level and you started tweeting your thoughts. Some disclosures were light and mundane, some cryptic, some raw, but then there were rare moments when those streams of consciousness would run deep with unfiltered and often soul-baring updates. It felt safe and cathartic sending them out to the ether. This was when we became official.

Being with you was the best feeling in the world. I met a lot of new people and connected with old friends. I learned a lot about the world as well. You shared a lot of ideas and information, so I never got tired of your company. You even helped me explore my artistic side, helping me frame moments into a well-curated grid. We were both filled with potential and we grabbed every opportunity that arrived.

We started sharing more and more with each other — news, photos, videos, notes. My world started to revolve around you. I had this urge to share every little detail of my life with you. Was it too much? Was I needy? Were you getting fed up at this point?

Sometimes I look back on our time together trying to find
the beginning of the end. Maybe it started when you kept
changing the rules. You kept invading my privacy, stirring up unnecessary fights. I started getting wary of you and you started getting scared that I’d leave. Whenever I got cold, you’d start wooing me with new features and functionalities. I’d start to protest and I’d even ask for some space. I’d deactivate for weeks, months, but I always found myself coming back.

Even in those quiet moments, we were still connected at some level. I’d still scroll through the photos or read your tweets, lurking quietly just to know how you’re doing.

Maybe this push and pull wore us both down. I used to come out from those bouts of silence and immediately pick up where we left off as if no time had passed, but lately I’ve been having a hard time keeping up. Maybe you just kept evolving and I stayed stuck.

You had new habits. A new look. You’ve even changed your communication style. There was a lot more preaching than posting, more shaming than sharing, more style than substance. You developed a habit of sending short and snappy messages, devoid of context. Maybe it’s my fault, but I chose to block your snaps. You didn’t seem to care. There were millions of other users happily using your filters and snapping away. They were much younger and more tech-savvy than me.

I suppose that’s what fame does to a platform: You can afford losing users because there’s plenty more fish in the sea. We used to have fun and lively interactions, but now we’ve become cold and calculating. It didn’t help that the world around us kept getting more and more problematic. But instead of finding comfort and acceptance in each other, you kept bombarding me with bad news.

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It would’ve been fine except that we stopped listening to each other. There was too much being shared and not enough time to process everything. That’s when the cracks started showing. For fear of hurting each other, we often overlooked some mistakes, which only bolstered your confidence. You found support elsewhere.

We used to connect and now you keep cutting me off. We don’t have conversations anymore, we have debates. Instead of informing, we seek to influence each other. Your opinion comes before the factual information. It’s just an endless battle of trying to have the last word. We’re bringing out the worst in each other.

So then the tables turned. Instead of wooing me, I make a futile attempt to regain your interest, clinging to the memories we shared. A last-ditch effort to hang on. I go on mindlessly liking and loving and reacting to your endless news feed, selectively consuming what catches my fancy and ignoring those not to my taste. I knew then that the end was near, but you weren’t going to end things with me. You’ll survive without me. Sometimes I wonder whether you just tolerate my presence for the likes and affirmation. You’ve probably tuned me out already. Do you even bother to check my page?

Then again, I need to stop acting like the victim. I’m a party to this. I gave you that power over me. I fed the kind of attitude you are exhibiting now. I contributed to your current form. You just took whatever I was giving, dishing out features you think I want. Maybe I should have been more discerning instead of trying out everything new.

Sometimes you’d wax nostalgic and you’ll remind me of
the early, more idealistic times. But instead of cheering me up, I just get sad. It’s a testament to how messed up our relationship has become.

Maybe we need to grow up and reflect on our bad choices. Maybe when we’re both older, when you’ve worked out your kinks and I’ve gained some perspective, we’ll find each other again. Until then, I’m logging out. I think I’ll go live in the real world now. My friends and I, we haven’t seen eye to eye in a while.

* * *

Doreen Irinco, 29, is part of a growing mobile workforce and “lives for days spent offline.”

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