I used to spend hours scrolling through my social media feed, which gave me a sense of excitement and belonging in ways I never had before. Being a part of various online communities was like finding a home away from home, a place where I could connect with people from all over the world and share my thoughts and experiences.
At first, it was innocent enough. I joined social media to keep in touch with friends and family, to share pictures of my life, and to stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends. But as time went on, I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in this world.
The endless stream of notifications, the constant need to check my phone, and the fear of missing out on the latest meme or viral video – it all became too much. I was no longer in control, but rather a willing participant in this digital cult.
Like a true believer, I began to internalize the values and beliefs of this community. I felt a sense of validation from the likes and comments I received on my posts, as if my self-worth was tied to my social media presence. I began to compare myself to others, constantly striving for more likes, more followers, more engagement.
I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I felt like I was trapped in a cycle of addiction, unable to break free from the grip of the cult of social media.
Since the early days of Twitter, I had my own account, as many of the people I knew on Facebook also had accounts on Twitter. In the beginning, Twitter was a platform where one could share almost anything, and I setup my blog to automatically post a status update every time a blog post was published.
It was a beautiful day in 2020 when I first came across Amelia, who went by Prosemachine on Twitter. As I scrolled through my feed, an ethereal beauty caught my attention. Her words spoke to me like a gentle whisper on a warm breeze, and I felt drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She had posted a writers lift, asking others to participate in sharing what they had written or published recently.
At the time, I was caught in a failed relationship with a woman I thought I loved, and maybe I did at first. It doesn’t really matter, I just posted a reply to her tweet with a link to my piece, A Little Ghost For The Offering. At the time, I was not expecting much other than, at the very least, she or someone else might read it.
To my surprise, she replied to me almost immediately, and I was awestruck by her wit, her intelligence, and her kind-hearted nature. Every tweet she sent out seemed to radiate a warmth that enveloped my soul. I was completely enamored by her, and I knew deep down that I had to get to know her better.
So I summoned all of my courage and reached out to her via direct message, hoping beyond hope that she would respond. And to my delight, she did! We struck up a conversation, and I found myself completely lost in her world – a world filled with laughter, joy, and seemingly endless possibilities.
Our connection grew stronger with each passing day. We talked about everything under the sun, from the trivial to the profound, the fascinating to the mundane. I felt like I had found my soulmate, my other half, the missing piece of my broken heart.
And as fate would have it, we eventually decided to meet in person. As I saw her walking towards me, a rush of emotion swept over me. It was like seeing an angel come down from heaven, with all the grace and beauty that one could imagine.
We spent the day together, and later I returned to explore the city where she grew up, as we basked in each other’s company. It was as if time had stopped, and we were the only two people in the world. I knew then and there that I had found my forever love.
Despite its initial promise of being a space for free expression and connection, Twitter eventually devolved into a breeding ground for negativity and hostility.
Every time I logged on, I was bombarded by a constant stream of tweets filled with vitriol and anger. It seemed that no matter what the topic, someone was always ready to unleash a barrage of insults and attacks against anyone who dared to express a differing opinion. To make matters worse, Amelia and I began to collaborate, and we had mentioned on Twitter that we were now a couple. This news was a catalyst that edged both of our accounts past the point of no return.
The anonymity that Twitter provided seemed to embolden people to say things they would never say in real life. It was as if the lack of face-to-face interaction had stripped away all sense of empathy and civility, leaving behind only a cold and callous demeanor.
The advent of cancel culture on Twitter only added fuel to the fire, as people gleefully jumped at the chance to take down anyone who they perceived as having made a misstep or said something offensive. It was a constant witch hunt, and the casualties were often those who had said something innocent but misunderstood, or who simply had a different perspective.
Even worse than the hostility that permeated Twitter was the way it could seep into one’s own psyche. As I read through the endless stream of negativity, I found myself becoming more irritable and cynical. It was as if the toxicity of Twitter was contagious, infecting all who dared to engage with it.
I took a deep breath as I clicked on the “Deactivate” button, watching as the familiar blue bird logo disappeared from my screen. Closing my Twitter account wasn’t something I had taken lightly – after all, I had spent countless hours scrolling through my feed, liking and retweeting posts from people I had never met, but felt like I knew intimately. Most of all, it was where I had met my wife.
As I confirmed my decision to deactivate my account, I felt a strange mix of relief and sadness. On one hand, I was excited to take a break from the constant barrage of information and opinions that had been bombarding me for so long. But on the other hand, I knew that I would miss the sense of community that I had found on Twitter – the people who shared my interests and passions, and who made me feel like I belonged.
Later on, Facebook decided to ban me following some innocuous and insignificant comment I made through Messenger to a friend stating that I didn’t like men. The platform decided to flag me for hate speech, ignoring the fact that I only said this because I have identified, publicly, as a lesbian since age 16. The fact that I don’t like men would make perfect sense in the romantic context, but it didn’t matter. Facebook had a hair-pin trigger that flagged me for hate speech while failing to take the context into account.
I decided to contact the moderation team, who repeatedly ignored my explanation, as I tried to cite the basis of the conversation as being about sexual orientation and romantic attraction, not hate. Eventually, after repeated attempts to resolve the problem, the moderators resorted to sending me copies of the terms of service. I was then dealt the final straw; I was banned from using Facebook or any of its related services for 30 days, pending further investigation. Faced with the inevitable, I simply closed my account.
My heart was heavy and my spirit was downtrodden when I was unfairly cast out from the digital realm of Facebook. Like a bird stripped of its wings, I was left grounded, unable to soar amongst the vast network of friends and acquaintances that I had so carefully cultivated. The majority of my friends were people whom I had known almost my entire life; we had created a community of sorts, though our greatest mistake was perhaps the reliance on a website to serve as the sole conduit of our communication and connectedness.
It was a crushing blow, for Facebook was not just a website to me, but a living, breathing entity, a place of solace and comfort amidst the turbulence of daily life. It was a space where I could express myself freely, share my thoughts and feelings with those who would listen, and connect with others who shared my passions and interests. In many respects, it was my one and only connection to the people from my past. Though retrospectively, perhaps it was nothing more than a catalog of people who have come into my life at one point or another, if only for a short time, like two ships passing in the night.
With the loss of Facebook, I felt compelled to reach out to another social network to try and regain some of what was lost. I recall the day with disappointment when I reluctantly created my Reddit account. Although the sun was shining outside, I was stuck inside my house feeling disconnected and alone. As Amelia and I hadn’t yet met anyone in Vermont who shared our interests, I craved social interaction, but my options were limited.
With a heavy heart, I created my Reddit account, but the excitement I had hoped to feel never materialized. As I filled out my profile, I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment that I had once again resorted to an online platform for social interaction.
I browsed subreddit after subreddit, hoping to find a community where I belonged. But as I read through posts and comments, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disconnection from the people on the site. Although we shared common interests, the reality was that we were merely strangers behind computer screens.
When I finally mustered the courage to make my first post, my disappointment deepened. The responses were lackluster, and I felt like nobody truly cared about what I had to say. I felt more alone than ever before.
As time went on, I continued to interact with people on Reddit, but the spark I had hoped to find never ignited. Instead of feeling a sense of belonging, I felt more and more isolated.
It wasn’t long before I received a notification that my account had been banned from the platform. It all began with Reddit, which in recent years has gained a reputation for being a toxic community. At first, I couldn’t believe it. How could this happen? What had I done wrong? I felt a wave of panic wash over me as I realized that my digital life had been abruptly cut off.
As I tried to appeal the decision, I was met with silence from the platform’s moderators. I felt as though I was shouting into a void, my pleas for understanding falling on deaf ears. It was as though I had been stripped of my voice, my identity erased from the digital world.
I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss and grief. All of the connections I had made, the conversations I had participated in, the memories I had created – all of it was gone in an instant. It was as though a part of me had been taken away, leaving me feeling hollow and incomplete. And ironically, all that I had posted and contributed to the platform was now permanently displayed under my old account, only this time I had no ability to edit or remove any of my content.
Against the terms of service, I signed up for another account using a different email address. The moderators soon realized that my posting was similar to that of my previous account, and and soon thereafter, I was banned again. The reason was stated that, “I was posting false information”. It was revealed to me privately that the reason was that my second account was flagged was because I was, “lying about being in a relationship with a woman who was out of my league”. Ironically at the time, Amelia and I were married.
I tried other social media platforms such as Snapchat, Mastodon, and Discord. Yet, despite my intelligence, I couldn’t seem to find my footing in this realm. I had delved into countless esoteric topics, hoping to find a niche that suited me, but each exploration seemed to lead only to dead ends, rejection, and frustration.
As the days turned to weeks, my sense of dismay deepened. I felt like an outsider in this world which was completely devoid of clarity, or a purposeful direction. There were large groups of anonymous users posting nonsense, wandering in circles, and getting nowhere fast.
I finally gave up on social media entirely. As time passed, I began to realize that perhaps this was a blessing in disguise. Maybe it was time for me to disconnect from the constant stream of information and validation that social media provided. Maybe it was an opportunity to rediscover who I was without the influence of external factors.
As I reflect on my experiences, I can’t help but wonder – how many others are in the same boat? How many are willing participants in this grand cult, sacrificing their time and energy to the endless scroll of social media?
Perhaps it’s time for us to step back, to re-evaluate our relationship with these platforms, and to recognize the hold they have over us. Only then can we begin to break free from this digital cult, and reclaim control over our lives.
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