Editor’s note: As frontman of Every Time I Die, Keith Buckley has traveled the world gaining insights about the universe. In this bi-weekly column he’ll use those insights to guide our readers with heartfelt and brutally honest advice. Have a question for Keith? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEAR KEITH: Sometimes I feel like I live in a different world than the people around me. I don’t use social media. I gave it up several years ago because I got into a little bit of trouble (drinking and Instagram don’t mix). Now, I feel like i’m completely and utterly out of the loop. I don’t follow all of these pet subjects and micro-conversations that are so popular on Facebook, so it’s news to me when a friend tells me that it’s not right to use certain words or phrases anymore. That this artist or that artist is evil because it turns out that what they did in the 1990s is considered cultural appropriation now. I still like No Doubt.
These are my peers and they treat me like I’m from their father’s or grandfather’s generation. What really bothers me, however, is although I’ve cut social media out of my life, I can’t cut my life out of social media. Don’t get me started on unwanted photos of myself that turn up on social media. There’s also the fact that any fleeting insensitive or dumb thing said in what you believe is the privacy of your own home can be recorded without you even realizing it. Hell, there are cameras on every corner! I’m no criminal or racist, but I have this uneasy feeling that something I do will someday go viral and it’ll ruin my life as I know it. I guess my question is, how do I deal with this world which I can’t adapt to quickly enough?—ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA
ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA: Nothing says “I’m kind of racist” like prefacing a confession with “I’m not racist, but…” However, there are so many addressable issues here that your latent fear of someone finding the picture of you and your roommate at a Halloween party dressed up as the Siamese Twin Gang from Chip ’n Dale Rescue Rangers might actually have to take a back seat to the more shining examples of the neurosis brought on by the ubiquity of social media. It is my hope that, in true “Assisted Living” fashion, I can address absolutely none of them properly.
Look, I commend you for acknowledging your dependence on and therefore ending all usage of social media, and I say that without sarcasm because—like the US Constitution, the Bible, and rollerblading—I think it’s great in theory. It’s fairly self-evident that the more we’re connected, the less we’re in touch, and I certainly cannot overstate the importance of simplifying one’s life in order to even partially revisit the sense of awe that has been so dulled by the prevalence of opinion. But having said that, also much like rollerblading, you usually end up looking like a fucking idiot trying to do it. You’re not Henry David Thoreau. You’re not attempting to reflect on simple living or to “live deep and suck all the marrow out of life.” You’re bummed because someone posted a picture of you barfing into your own turtleneck on Instagram and you’ve determined that you will be less ashamed if you can just learn to dismiss everyone on social media as voyeuristic busybodies hellbent on gossiping. I know because I did the exact same thing once, and it didn’t work. (I mean I tried to look cool in a turtleneck, not to forsake my beloved internet.) You’re not untied from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram if your mind is still where your eyes aren’t, so to angrily throw your hands in the air and resign from taking part in this phase of evolution isn’t making you more mentally and emotionally stable, it’s just facilitating your inevitable drowning in the flood.
In a world that changes as quickly as news can reach you, abandoning all social media is impractical. Moderation is not. None of your friends expect you to have a resolute opinion on all national and foreign affairs while keeping up to date with fashion and music trends. If you think they do, maybe it’s your relationship with them that needs a break. (Aren’t they the ones tagging you in the embarrassing pictures after all? Did you ever think maybe they hate you? If not, you should definitely spend long, sleepless nights considering it.) You’re also not required by law to post a selfie a day in order to stay relevant or to have “big news” to tell Facebook in order to feel accomplished. It is perfectly okay to casually log on in the morning, get all the news you need to know by reading only the headlines of The Drudge Report, make a joke about your dogs sizable dump on Twitter, do a quick scroll of Instagram to see that every single member of every single band that has ever been on tour posted a picture of the Breaking Bad house at the same time, and then go about your day uselessly stressing out over money like a typical human. Unfortunately, your problem may be a lot deeper than just an aggravation caused by social media. You seem to not be confident that you’re living life “well”; that liking bad things makes you a bad person, or that being wildly out of touch and paranoid 100 percent of the time makes you a “grandfather.” It doesn’t. It makes you a Republican, and look at how many of them are still somehow navigating through life. Social media is not making irrational demands of you, you are. Relax. Zooming in on an unsolicited picture of Justin Bieber’s dick that was shared by someone I went to traffic school with eight years ago is proof that “alive” is quite a remarkable thing to be.
Assisted Living: Getting Under My Skin
Assisted Living: Every Time I Black Out
Assisted Living: Exposed on Tinder
Assisted Living: My Man Run Amok
Assisted Living: Forever Buffalone
Assisted Living: Is “finding yourself” a farce?
Assisted Living: I’m thinking about joining the military
Assisted Living: Facebook Isolation