Having been on social media for quite some time now, I've seen my share of Facebook and Twitter flameouts. It usually begins when a person is going through a rough time personally or is forced to suffer through a public controversy. But it can be triggered by almost anything. The problem is that when a meltdown occurs, it rarely holds. Once the problem passes and the person who left starts to miss it -- or when he/she decides to stalk a love interest -- everything changes.
Suddenly, what was once a wretched hive of scum and villainy is now just a friendly cantina with a bunch of weirdos who like to play Candy Crush and take pictures of their pets and kids.
So before you go on a rampage and shut down your social media accounts, consider the process you are about to put yourself and your friends through. Weigh your decision carefully.
The Opening Drama
The first stage of any social media breakup is what I call the "THAT'S IT, I'VE HAD IT!" stage. This is where the person, so fed up with social media or whatever controversy happens to be plaguing him at the time, goes dark. There is usually a message posted on a wall or a photo of a message telling everyone of that user's intentions. It may, on occasion, be simply meant to elicit the "Oh, no, don't go" responses of well-wishers, or it may be serious. But make no mistake, it's an announcement of intent and is meant to grab attention.
Most explanations of why people are leaving include a combination of "needing time away from the computer" and "social networks are stupid." The former makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't normally require a relinquishing of an entire profile, which means something else is at work. The latter is a cop-out, like saying, "I hate hammers because sometimes people use them to kill people, so I'm never using one again." That is, until you need to hang a picture...
The Inevitable Return
The irony of the return to social networking -- and it nearly always happens, often within just days of the leaving -- is that very few people ever call someone out on it. For as rude and crude as many can be online, there is rarely an "Oh, I see you came back with your tail between your legs" comment on a user's page or timeline. So the consequences are minimal, but you know what you did. Hopefully, you've learned your lesson, but if you are really dramatic, you might do it again, in which case you should learn the rule of social media...
Better to Fade Away than Burn Out
Unlike with rock and roll, if you want to make a gracious exit from social media, the best way is to simply stop interacting, slowly, gradually. Eventually, you'll be like a ghost and no one will even notice when your account goes poof. That's the right way to disassociate yourself from Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, very few who should will heed this advice. In that case, reread and repeat.
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