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A Review of 2018: the Year I Quit Social Media Cold Turkey

Although 2018 hosted multiple significant milestones in my life including getting engaged and moving from FL to VA, none were as polemic as my decision to retreat from the social media scene indefinitely.

I have to admit, my bold move did come at a rather interesting time in my personal life considering the eventful timeline in which it fell. Many would argue that this increased activity is prime SM time (proposal, engagement party, an out-of-state relocation, adapting and settling into a new city and state…) as it beckons opportunities for multiple announcements and updates. But actually my “disappearing act” went into effect at the very beginning of the year (literally January 1st)  and so by the time I got engaged two months later in March and shortly after moved to Virginia in April, I had had some time to really look my decision in the eye, so to speak, and feel the full effects of it. I believe most platforms mandate that some time pass before completely deleting all of your data, just in case that FOMO gets the best of you and you decide to come back. I could have turned that car around had I wanted to, and hopped back on the SM train and salvaged my entire digital account of the majority of my adult memories, achievements, noteworthy events, while augmenting my collection with an engagement post here, a bye-bye FL post there…

But I didn’t budge! I honestly didn’t even consider going back on my word. Even when it came time to help my friend plan a Going Away party for my partner and me and it became pretty apparent that using Facebook was definitely the easiest and most practical solution, I worked around it. By then I was determined to move forward with my life sans SM. In fact, both my partner where on the same page and while we had both been complaining about SM for quite some time, actually going through with the deactivation process (as opposed to abandoning our accounts like the usual non-user MO) was something in which we both partook after discussing our confirmation of our decision to continue to abort. To be quite honest, it felt like it may have been a bit more difficult for me to pull the plug simply because I had dedicated myself to documenting my highlight reel ever since Facebook became a thing back in the early 2000′s when I was in college. I was one of the early club members, and had all sorts of data that went pretty far back I’d say. In fact, at one point I would say in 2009, my Facebook account split like a fork in the road would- metaphorically speaking- and resulted in two different accounts, an Arab account for family and friends of family and an American one for -you know- my second life.

Anywho, I was tired of it all. Tired of the overzealous pondering of how to encapsulate the perfect moment at the perfect time while doing the perfect activity–and don’t forget the perfect hashtags! All the while looking perfect. It felt like a second job. It wasn’t so much that I was concerned with others’ reels- although I did have the few whose accounts I obsessively stalked for the latest trends- as much as I was obsessed with reflecting the most perfect image of myself in my own head thus reflected onto my social media identity/image. My epiphany began once I started becoming more conscious of my efforts to convince others, or more pointedly MYSELF, of my perfect life…and suddenly I just felt this urge to stop because I was really critically questioning my end game! For a long while there before we actually deleted/deactivated the accounts, my partner and I would toy with the idea of deleting them and going cold turkey but would claim the other never do it and then one day we decided to call our own bluffs and pulled the plug together, and have not looked back since.

But my other loved ones? That’s another story. It has now been a year since our virtual retreat and I personally still have to hear the countless urges of my close friends and family to make a comeback. Never mind the fire hose of studies that prove that social media negatively affects our self-esteem, narrows our perspective, and devotedly summons our evolutionary trait of relentless social gauging and comparison. No, these glaring yet easily-overlooked points do not stop my social circles from wondering aloud things like, “Sooo, how do you keep in touch with everyone?” I graciously remind them that we still have very “smart phones” that text and send multimedia messages on their own, without any supplemental use from platforms such as Snapchat, Messenger, and the like…and yet, somehow, they still seem confused…

As hard as it may be for you to believe this, I have no desire to come back to the social media world. I attribute this lack of desire to being able to break through to the other side and am now authentically happier, which is what I sought out to do by taking this modern-day plunge into social suicide. Gone are the days I am consumed with selecting the most envy-baiting picture and caption to describe my life events and happenings; instead, I JUST LIVE THEM. No posting, boasting, displaying, or unnecessary sharing of our everyday lives. I mean who ever scrolls back to read those old posts anyway? We still try to remember to take pictures here and there but it is admittedly becoming increasingly difficult as it is no longer on the forefront of our minds. And when we do capture beautiful or funny images, we choose to and with whom we share these and it makes for a more intimate exchange with increased likelihood of comments/reactions rather than the now-conventional and robotic posting followed by waiting for the likes, loves, etc.

I know many people feel that they have invested too many memories, words, pictures, time, and energy into their social identities just to have it all vanish. But I eventually reached a point where I had to ask myself if it was really serving my soul any purpose to maintain all of that. And what I have seen from my year of social media sobriety is that my carefully-constructed and curated social identity was constantly enabling a relentless fixation with the most vain and superficial parts of myself and this cast light on my own insecurities. I began to feel like it was all phony: not only the stuff I put out there but what I was consuming by others as well. The truth is who I came to be and what I came to be has something to do with my life’s presentable- or postable-moments but were predominantly influenced by the challenges, adversities, the grit, the mistakes made and lessons learned which are rarely if ever glorified on our online accounts (like -say- our new shoes are).

Call me extreme, call me crazy…but I finally did the unthinkable and said no to social media and yes to life.

And with that, I will leave you with the following quote from this article posted by The Atlantic’s Hannah Seligson from a few years ago:

“On social media, we all want to be seen as ducks, a term researchers at Stanford University came up with to convey how, like the animal, young women want to be seen as gliding serenely along, but in fact under the surface are paddling ferociously.”

Journal Me This

“Journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life. They live in the pockets and shoulder bags of all sorts of people.” -Melissa Alvarez 

A lot has happened since my last post. I’ve found other ways to channel my often-dormant writing energy or whatever you want to call it, one of which is actually writing with pens like they did back in the ol’ days! I’ve picked up journaling and I’ve taken it to some amusing lengths as I tend to do with these random hobbies I pick up. Does anyone else do this? It’s like once you’ve finally decided you like something you obsess over it and begin scanning every aspect of your life to see how you can apply or engage that new discovery? Maybe on some level I am just THAT starved for some adult-like decisiveness :/

I’m talking stickers- all sorts of them, that can apply to anything and everything. Stickers are so cheap too so it’s great, and you can find some for every type of holiday, occasion, emoji, etc. Then we have different colored gel pens that feel really good in your hands and are just SMOOTH once they hit the paper. I also indulged in some crayons. Scented ones. Don’t judge me, I told you: I go hard. I’ll stop there but I will throw in that I got some pastel paperclips because I absolutely LOVE attaching momentos, handwritten notes, receipts, movie stubs, theatre tickets, the likes.

I mean the space for creativity is just endless. And it aligns with my conscious efforts to engage more in the REAL world versus the digital/online world. No shade. And I’m trying to expand my horizons and previously I’ve admittedly never been much into Arts and Crafts. I always had these friends who loved their colored highlighters and would be sure to use all the colors while my basicness played it safe with the black ball point. But it’s a whole new world, Baby, and I’m the adult in this world which means I choose what to splurge on and if it’s not going to be a massive and chic wardrobe in lieu of more adventures and experiences (more on that laterz), we will scale back the expenses by finding a healthy alternative and that is my fun, colorful, and creative Lily Pulitzer JOURNAL.

This journal is the tangible soul. It contains dreams, hopes, aspirations, obsessions, thoughts, ALL POSITIVE. It started out being a joy bullet journal but has since evolved..gone are the bullets and now I’m wondering why I’ve kept it exclusively POSITIVE? Ever watch the movie Inside Out? You need the sadness to conceptualize or highlight the happiness, right? I should start including the not-so-positive also. *upside down smiles and nods*

My friend and I write each other back in forth in a designated and personalized journal. She was sweet enough to purchase the journal and initiate this tradition and she even put a VA State and a SC State on there (so crafty, see!). VA is where I live now BTW! Richmond, VA with my great S.O. for about 7 months now! A far cry from tropical Tampa which is where I had been for 12 years.  Anyway, we mail it back and forth and I think my neurotic entries have somewhat journal-shamed her into stepping up her game. T if you’re reading this, I’d like our journal back sometime this lifetime please *cry-face emoj* (JK, I know it’s only been a week.)

Target has PRECIOUS magnetic bookmarks that I also use in there to mark the IMPORTANT pages (YA know: breakfast smoothie recipes by Dr Mona on YouTube, personality traits you wish to improve/work on, Christmas list recipients, etc.) They are rose gold and have the cutest, most random pics like flamingos and tropical trees! Haha so Tampa. OK OK I’M DONE!

Peace Helps to Set the Record Straight

Can I just say how in love with life I am right now? Busy “af”, random monkey wrenches get hurled at me at times, but I am loving every second of it… Even the ones that seem to last longer than usual such at the courthouse downtown this afternoon while waiting to clear an order of suspension on my driver’s license. There is nothing like not-waiting when you’re technically waiting to help the time fly by. *Smiles*

One thing I know for sure now: you have to die in order to be reborn. What I mean by that is, I recently experienced, what in modern-day terms is often referred to as, a breakup and although it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as “dying” per se, it was in a sense a death as in of an era. I didn’t know what the future had in store for me and that kind of uncertainty can be scary. It’s not like the uncertainty of traveling a city for the very first time. That’s an exciting type of uncertainty, similar to that of a child’s: infatuated with discovery. No, the lack of clairvoyance associated with a “break-up” is a bit more intimidating.

Yesterday, I watched an interview with an author who described what it was like for him to endure a six-year-long indictment of his company. For him, it was one of the most memorable events of his life because it tried him, literally. What I found interesting about his description, however, was not the content (which wasn’t even really the focus) but the appreciative tone he had in the manner with which he spoke of the experience. He further went on to explicitly express appreciation for what for most people especially ones well-acquainted with the “business world” so to speak would label as Negative. Punitive. Stressful.

He did not seem to agree. He said that the experience did him the favor of stripping him bare of any ego left in him, any sense of “self” and identity, which- let’s face it- is the all-encompassing, sole distraction of all time. I would say it “cleansed” him. He even wrote a whole book while going through it. So then, by his calculations, should we start embracing “negative” happenings? Or maybe just stop calling them negative? So the letter I received in the mail from the DMV informing me that there is an order of suspension on my driver’s license that forced me to devote my day to the courthouse downtown where I was exposed to sights not to mention scents of distinct character to provide proof that I completed a four-hour online basic driving course is not negative? What I am telling you is that I have already convinced my brain of this and thus my day was spent rather pleasurably downtown this afternoon. . .

In addition to being reborn, I am growing wiser, which really does only come with age. Or “experience”. (Sorry, spoiled young kids.) But what’s funny is this: although I’m growing older/wiser, whatever you want to call it, although I’m gaining in self-esteem, confidence, am more calm and grounded, regardless of all of that… I find myself acting more like I did when I was younger. And I don’t mean young like when-you-were-a-teenager and in-your-twenties, immature type of young. I mean I’m taking it way back like crawling-and-in-diapers type of young. Discovering everything for the very first time, even if you see it every single morning on your way to work. Training yourself to feel that same excitement, that same uncertainty you feel when traveling.

The trip downtown for me today was akin to a trip to the zoo for a toddler. You should let me tell you about it one day over coffee.

Got Dough?

Recently I’ve experienced some emotional disturbance. Loved ones in and out of your life- you know how it is.

There’s something about raw cookie dough that makes it all better. Now I’m no fool: I know just how detrimental to my lactose-intolerant health that sweet piece of heaven is. I need only mention the risk of Salmonella poisoning alone to keep most from this dessert and if I do mention it, know that it stems from my gluttonous instinct to keep as much for myself as possible as I am probably not concerned with your health in the least.

Mostly because I’m sure many people out there can eat as much raw cookie dough as their Pillsbury-loving hearts desire. Sadly I am not one of them. I know what happens to me when I eat it because it happens every time. With every episode of weakness, the painfully uncomfortable bloating shortly follows along with other symptoms we won’t name. This is the part where my body lets me “have it”. Physical indications of the retribution immediately entail inactivity and a strict diet of bland foods and plenty of hydration.

Yet each time I seem to experience what psychologists call the “delusion of reprieve”: I hold out hope for a last-minute escape from my doom. This time, it’ll be different…It’s never different. Yet I continue to eat the raw cookie dough. Why willingly induce such disgusting physical maladies? When it comes to the dough, I choose yes every time. In fact, I choose yes and then follow it with a “YOLO, my bitches!”
Why so self-destructive?

Could it be the texture? I am a sucker for texture… and cookie dough’s texture is very teasing. You think it’s soft at the initial bite but then you’re in for a surprise because just as you are savoring the cushy yet sugary crunchiness of the dough, your chops soon discover little balls of orgasms otherwise known as chocolate chips and as you accomplish masticating them, you have the two combining forces, working together to cause multiple explosions as your taste buds are vulnerably defeated and become putty in your mouth. Nothing can taste good after having cookie dough, except maybe a glass of milk and by this time I am too drunk with gustatory bliss to consider opting for soy milk.

This transcendental episode costed me two days of unrelenting discomfort and inconvenience. But would I do it all over again?

You betcha.

Hello, my name is Nick Carraway.

I’ve lived in Tampa for a few years now but recently I’ve been frequenting the more “uppity” part of town, so to speak. This is known to locals as South Tampa: an area inhabited mostly by folks labeled as anything from bourgeoisie to upper class. After all, we are a culture that tends to categorize people based on their economic and monetary status.
Shallow, superficial, sad, but true.

South Tampa is fun. South Tampa is “happenin’”. South Tampa has bars, clubs, restaurants, pool halls, you name it- all condensed in a span of a few blocks from Point A to Point B. In high school lingo, it’s where all the “cool people” go. It’s where the “popular” crowd is at. The cream of the crop. If the Great Gatsby were still alive, South Tampa is where he’d want to hand out invitations to his lavish parties.

As the number of my visits to West Egg rises, my amazement with the surrounding aesthetics increases. The men are fit, handsome, and well-groomed (some down to the precision of their eyebrows) not to mention fittingly obnoxious. Even the ones who have a more laid-back devotion to their appearance bear the look of sexy scruffiness with charming smiles- my personal preference… all seemingly well-to-do folks with a decent amount of intellectual sense for a conversation.

And the women…oh, the women; as a self-proclaimed devotee of trendy fashion, I can honestly say I feel like a kid at an eye candy store in Sexy I mean South Tampa. Women who dare to wear coral lipstick and neon colors, high heels and gold earrings. I can dress like the true Arab that I am and not get mocked. Save for my star-shaped, frizz-infested hair, I fit right in. And fit right in is what I want to do!

I didn’t realize how dependent I had become to this candy store until last night when I had the ultimate wake-up call. I realized I was seeing the same people over and over again. This prompted a scary thought: that means they see me here over and over again. Granted one guy didn’t remember me but I won’t take that personally.
Have I become one of them? Am I… South Tampanian? Wait, let’s test this out: ask me where I go to socialize. *Gasp* South Tampa!

But I liked fitting in. Fitting is what we want, right-to feel a part of something bigger? I mean, don’t we all long to be one of those relatively few, fortunate ones to whom money is no object and for whom life is one big party where worries and stress do not exist? Ideally, yes. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit that I am eagerly seeking some semblance of financial freedom.

But are they free? Are we free… or are we prisoners to the modern-day definition of what’s “hip”? As the number of my visits to West Egg rises, my ability to become impressed with the surrounding aesthetics decreases. My tolerance is building and it takes more to impress me or should I say it’s my intolerance that is growing? Think of it this way, put more simply, if you will: The first time you go the circus, it’s all new and fun and exciting but then that excitement tapers off until eventually it just becomes a thing you do with slight variations from each time to the next. The first bite of the chocolate cake is divine and by the last bite, you’re thinking “get this away from me”.

I’m not quite at the last bite yet but I see myself getting there. Then what?

Practice What You Preach

My title at my day job is GED Instructor. On a daily basis, I have a classroom full of students who are preparing for the GED examination and I am their teacher. Today was a bad day. I have increasingly become frustrated with their lack of motivation and attendance and today my frustration happened to coincide with some stress I was having from the pressure of my superiors and I snapped. Who was there to bear the brunt of my anger? My students. It was a very vocally passionate rant if ever there was one with an F bomb thrown in there somewhere. Are teachers allowed to say the F word? I don’t know but I’m pretty sure my credibility was questioned at some point even if subconsciously and even then it was probably drowned out by the high decibels of my tirade. Score.

I told them that if they wanted something, they shouldn’t sit around and wait for it to happen to them. They have to make it happen. I told them that I can’t take the information and install it in their brains. I told them that they can’t come to class a few times and then go MIA on me and come back weeks later, expecting to still remember what they learned before. You use it or lose it- that’s the way it works. I reminded them that they are being given a second chance, a rare opportunity that is being handed to them on a silver platter (The program is completely free of cost to them.) and if they don’t exploit it and use it to their advantage, chances are, they are not getting their GED. I boldly demanded that the “quitters” exit the classroom and save me as well as themselves a lot of time and energy. Finally I said at the end of the day there is nothing I will say that will make a difference because nothing will change unless the motivation comes from within.

In retrospect, I think I lost it. By that I mean I had an insane moment (or day). I am usually a very calm, very centered person with a tranquil demeanor but today I let my emotions get the best of me. Although I acted out of character, many would argue that my behavior could have very well been the “shake” or push the students needed to get them back on track. But let’s face it: how long will the effects of this aggressive speech last? Deep down, we all know the truth whether we are conscious of it or not: if you want to get something done, it starts with YOU. You have to REALLY want it and I mean want it with all your heart and soul.

In many ways I feel like a hypocrite. There are so many things I say I want, I think I want but why do I have yet to achieve them or why aren’t I at least well on my way to achieving them? Am I scared? Maybe. Scared of what? Am I lazy? Do I really want those things? What you judge in others, you perceive in yourself. The very qualities I criticized my students for today, I see in my own self. Everything happens for a reason and while a part of me wishes I didn’t act so impulsively today, I am glad I did because it has forced me to reflect on what I myself have been putting off. Hence my first official blog post :)