Social (Media) Experiment

In the summer, when I spend the most time writing music, I try to only check email at the very end of the day. I do this to conserve mental energy. I think of email as a kind of brain pollution: whatever its content, an email means “you need to do/think about this,” which means fewer brain cells to simply think, and be, without external prompts or demands.

For the past three months, I’ve attempted a similar change in my use of social media. I’ve kept up my personal and professional posts, and I’ve (mostly) responded to messages. But I only check notifications once a week, on Sunday nights, when I also put in some time scrolling through other people’s posts. I've taken breaks before, but nothing on this scale. 

I made this change because social media disrupts my access to a place of private empathy. When there’s another mass shooting, when another black person is killed by a police officer, when an attack occurs in another country, the communal conversation, no matter how thoughtful, can be numbing and predictable: earnest pleas, outrage, counter-outrage, profile picture filters, humans turned into hashtags, all in a matter of hours. It often takes a few days until I’m able to feel something for myself. 

The heart of the problem is the speed with which social media processes the world. Instant, polarized responses make it harder for me to think and feel intentionally. My mind becomes more reactive than creative, attuned to the social media dynamic surrounding an issue rather than the events that sparked it. In the words of comedian Keegan-Michael Key: “You know the old adage, ‘Tragedy plus time equals comedy?’ Well, there's been no time.”

I’ve encountered people and ideas on social media that have inspired and transformed me. But I’m concerned that so much of what I think and feel is filtered through online discourse. This raises new questions: why would I keep posting if I’m not reading other people’s posts as much? Why should they read mine? Is this a sustainable way to engage with a broader community? Regardless of the answers, the time and mental space to consider these questions is what I’m looking for.