What I Saw When I Came Back to the Internet, 3 Years Later

I left social media three years ago, and when I say I left social media, what I mean is that I abandoned the preposterous idea that keeping up with Internet Culture at large was within my reach, nor desire.

I had a baby and turned 40 and there was a pandemic, so that certainly played a role in my Irish Exit. But also, the Internet became untrustworthy, as a whole. We knew this all along. We knew of filter bubbles and echo chambers and confirmation bias, but we liked to think we could outsmart the algorithm. We liked to think our sources of choice, no matter how independent, would remain true rather than loyal. But what we found is what we’d feared: black and white is unattainable. Ink, when pressed, will always smudge a little.

And in the overwhelming absence of truth, of goodness, of wisdom, I just… stopped logging on. I deleted apps, and in doing so, deleted any shred of influence that was unearned. Instead, I spent my time reciting nursery rhymes and mashing bananas, and when the postpartum fog lifted, I realized the air felt fresher than it had in years. I wrote a book for a friend, and it became a New York Times bestseller, and the truth was made evident: leaving social media permanently – experiencing strings of days unaware of comment sections, viral memes, and whatever rise of jeans we should be wearing this fall – would not hinder my work (nor life). But it just might help it.

And so, I left.

And then I wrote another book – this one for myself – and a fairly significant amount of Internet Culture research was required. And so, with trepidation, after three years of blissful innocence, I opened Chrome. 

Here’s what I saw…

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