I went on vacation last weekend. By vacation, I mean that my boyfriend and I drove ninety minutes outside of Denver to spend the Fourth of July weekend in the beautiful mountain town of Estes Park because nature and the city are not far apart in Colorado, which is why everyone is moving here -- which you might want to do if you haven't done so already. (Also, legal weed.) Convinced that we'd be able to "just find a hotel room," I realized only upon arrival that the Fourth is probably the busiest day of the year for this kitschy village. We did not find a room so we had to do something I loathe: We had to camp.
But the events that transpired over our two and half-day vacation -- which included but were not limited to um, not just fucking camping but car-camping -- were nothing compared to another long-desired personal accomplishment. That singular triumph was this: a total disconnection from social media. This meant I did not show or tell Instagram, Twitter or Facebook about my trip. See also: My fake Facebook engagement to a gay guy
In fact, as of the original writing of this story on Monday evening, I had been off of all social networks since last Thursday night, July 3, when I smoked a little pre-bedtime reefer and made the declaration to Twitter, specifically, that I was outta the virtual here.
Though the declaration of social media sobriety was only meant to be instituted for 48 hours, I decided to keep going for a few more days, based on how good I felt without my Internet drugs. I felt good about not being attached to a thing that I am attached to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days year otherwise.
Does this all sound insane to you? If it does, you are one of those lucky fools who has not become glued to the ego-stroking machine that is the cult of Internet personality. You are the kind of person I want to be -- unless your life is boring and that's the only reason you don't take and post photos of your pho/miniature pincher/six-month-old baby/gardening and/or home-improvement project/new guitar/new shoes/new girlfriend to the Internet 700 times a day.
But for the rest of you who are with me on this sinking ship of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram (I'm just going to refer to it all as FaTwitterGram from here on out) addiction, just know that there is hope. Don't get me wrong: It's only July 8, and I am still in the thick of this separation shit. I am feeling depressed and disconnected, scared that I am falling off of some sort of weird seismic chart of fabled popularity that I didn't even know I cared so much about. But when you hold your phone in your hand 16 out of the 24 hours in a day, I think you know what I'm talking about.
I told my bf Fang (I forgot that's what I decided to call him a while back for the sake of his mild anonymity and in honor of the Phyllis Diller joke, oh, and for your sake of not having to read "the love of my life" twenty times in this story) back in May that I wanted to do something for the Fourth of July this year. Actually, I said, "I think we should go camping!" Which was just me trying to be the awesome girlfriend I'm not most of the rest of the year. I think camping is for idiots who like to be uncomfortable -- Jim Gaffigan says everything I might possibly need to say on the subject, so I won't repeat it -- and mostly, I just hate anything that isn't a hotel. But Fang loves the camping.
Like amateurs, we thought we could reserve a campsite for the Fourth of July, no problem. Not true. (I'm pretty sure every campsite in the state was booked by January of this year.) So on July 3, we finally got around to looking at hotels and cabins in Estes, all of which were booked. This led us to the idea of just driving up there and "seeing what we could find," as if there was some magical, well-furnished cabin that was going to grow out the ground and be like, "rent me." Keep reading for the rest of my vacation. More than just enjoying a vacation with Fang, it was this little idea of adventure that made me want to dump social media for the weekend. I thought, 'Wow, what if I just enjoyed each moment of our trip instead of documenting the perceived enjoyment of our trip, while bragging like a total fucker about it on FaTwitterGram?' With that, I deleted all networks off my phone and by the afternoon of the Fourth we were on our way and I was free.
For the first thirty minutes in the car, everything was awesome! Then Fang said something so Tweetable I could physically feel myself getting upset that I was unable to share his goofy quip with the world. See, my bf Fang is incredibly funny, even when he doesn't mean to be (if you follow me on Twitter, you know this). He says things that blow my mind daily, and it is those things that I must share with the Internet world. I must share them or I want to die.
But for the first time in our sixteen-month courtship, I couldn't. I was trapped in the car with Fang and no Twitter and I had no way of conveying to my invisible audience how cute and hilarious he was being! What was the point of all of this? What was the point of our relationship if it wasn't all over social networks? What as the point of liiiiiiiife?!
I took a deep breath. We reached Estes in one piece and started looking for places to stay -- I made Fang call fifteen hotels, motels, inns and best value whatevers with no luck. He kept trying so hard, even though he could see me quickly losing my shit. With no option left but to go home, Fang did something I never thought he would do: He recommended that we sleep in the car. Essentially, he wanted me to camp. To me, sleeping in the car is just ill-prepared camping.
Sleep in a car? When I have a bed 69 miles away in a house? Fuck no, I was not sleeping in the car. This was the moment when I thought I would step out of my own body momentarily and watch myself break down and log on FaTwitterGram. I was ready to explode with frustration at my own lack of planning for this idyllic vacation and had no social network to put all that ranty energy onto. Then something else even more Facebook-share worthy happened: I got my period while I was driving.
If you are also a lady who gets her period, then you know that no matter how well you chart your cycle or diligently take your pill, every month it is like eighth grade all over again. Your period will sneak up on you at the worst moment and ruin your life and outfit at the same time. I screamed at Fang to find me a temporary solution in the form of a napkin in the glove compartment from some shameful late-night fast-food run.
We found a Safeway and I dealt with the immediate situation. I found myself washing my clothes in the sink of the employee bathroom in a grocery store and all I could think was, 'I can't even tweet what I am doing right now. What I am doing right now is so ridiculous and I can't even fucking tweet about it.'
Once I freshened up, I was back to the reality that Fang wanted me to sleep in a car. I put up a fight of serious semantic proportions for a good 45 minutes (even though I secretly did not want to drive home because that would mean the vacation was over) and finally agreed to sleep in the back of my own car on a single blanket with some reusable shopping bags for pillows. Again, another opportune time to get some love from my fellow Instagrammers regarding the ridiculous situation I was in, but no. No photos were taken.
The rest of the trip got dramatically better after I decided to stop being such a brat (though I will say I bet I would like actual camping better than car-sleeping because car-sleeping in the mountains is like hot-boxing body sweat until you create a thin layer of moisture that then turns to ice in the night. By sunrise, your car becomes an oven with windows on all sides that reach obscene temperatures by 7:30 a.m.).
I may have slept like shit, but I was feeling good about not being on FaTwitterGram. I was relaxed. I was happy. I was paying attention to Fang as he sat across from me at a McDonald's at 5 a.m. instead of staring down into my crotch at my phone. If fact, paying attention was sort of the theme of my trip -- rather than taking two dozen shots of the fireworks over Lake Estes just to get the perfect capture, I sat and stared up at the sky and enjoyed it in real time. In lieu of tweeting every awful/sexist/racist saying I saw on a T-shirt and/or leather vest (example: "fuck illegals, learn English"), I just pointed and laughed out loud at the idiocy.
I almost convinced Fang to buy me a T-shirt that said "nice rack" in tacky tattoo script above a bastardized Marilyn Monroe image, one with her in a Confederate flag trucker hat and camouflage bikini stretched over giant non-Marilyn tits posing with a buck. Instead, we ogled the ridiculousness of every touristy T-shirt shop together and moved on. No Facebook moment necessary.
For the second night of our trip, we managed to score a room in a really adorable, mid-century modern, woodsy-looking motel. The entire town was full of architecture from every decade of the last century and a half, the kind of stuff I would normally spend all day Instagramming. Instead, I just looked at most of it and moved on (though I did grab the photos in this story for the sake of having imagery to go along with it -- but did not upload them to Instagram).
I wanted to brag and share and overshare so badly what a fucking awesome time Fang and I were having on our vacation. But I didn't. I started to think back to some of the warning signs that I was just on social media too much that I must have missed -- like the three different times Fang was recognized in person by my friends who had never met him before, just because they follow me on Instagram. Or the times I probably I let a story die an early death because I designated an original thought to a tweet, instead of letting it fully form by writing more than 140 characters. Or the moments when I know my blood pressure has risen because of a fight I was part of (or even just privy to via the newsfeed) on Facebook. Why didn't I see these as problems before?
After almost five days off of social media, I sort of expected to get one of those "are you still here?" e-mails from FaTwitterGram. Because just as much as I think I need social media, it really needs me more. It needs the data I provide to "connect" me with friends and strangers through their data, all in an effort to feed me weird advertisements based on the stuff I look at outside FaTwitterGram. It's a druggy thing, this relationship.
But I am back on social media now and I'm a little bit scared. It is anxiety-inducing thinking about being a part of this thing I used to look to 500 times a day to see what everyone else I know was doing at that very moment. And though it is a way for me to conduct a lot of the business I do as a writer both looking for stories to write and sharing the stories that I've written, I am reevaluating how much I need it. If the great emotional Facebook experiment of June 2014 taught us anything, it should be that less is more. The less time we spend in the virtual world, the more time we have to feel and experience the physical world.
I'm starting back on social media slowly -- this week, I'm teaching at Girls Rock Campand I've decided to not reinstall FaTwitterGram on my phone. I don't need to brag to everyone on my social networks that I get to spend the week hanging out with cool girls while they form a band, write a song and perform it live for the first time after only four days of practice. Plenty of my adult camp cohorts will be capturing the moments and posting them and tagging them and showing off for me. (Which is great! By all means, my friends.)
Meanwhile, I might actually read a book during my breaks at camp, instead of, you know, checking my Facebook sixty times to see who liked the post I'm going to make about writing this article. How meta-boring is that?
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Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies