Withdrawing

I walked away from Tumblr yesterday. Perhaps permanently this time. After posting to a Tumblr account more or less consistently since the platform launched back in 2007, I walked away for a while in the late summer of last year. Within days, a number of those I had become friends with expressed sadness at my departure, essentially leaving the door open for a return at some point. In the late autumn I returned, began posting again, and began following, reading, liking, and commenting on the posts published by the community I had known for years.

While tidying up my Twitter account last night (read: trying valiantly to remove spam from it), I found an online tool to help discover non-reciprocal follows – those you are following that are not following you back. It got me thinking, and I discovered a similar tool for Tumblr.

It turns out three quarters of the people I had known for years at Tumblr – who’s posts I had read, commented on, and liked – and who I had shared numerous private messaging conversations with in response to difficult times in their lives – were not following me. I’m not sure if I was stunned, surprised, shocked, or if I quietly expected so many people to be so self absorbed.

Within ten minutes I had written and published a “goodbye” post, then headed to Facebook and began un-friending people there too – whittling down the friends list to actual friends, rather than random acquaintances.

While it feels like I’m withdrawing, it also feels like a weight has been lifted. Social platforms have a weight associated with them – a weight of expectation to present yourself in a certain way, to appear popular, to take part in conversation – to be social, I guess.

Here’s the thing – I’m not a very social person in real life. I have one or two close friends on the internet that I try to keep in touch with regularly (and I often fail at that too), but beyond that I’m not really worried about cultivating some huge fake network of pretend friends.

I know posting a public blog flies in the face of that, but then you guys aren’t really friends, are you – you’re readers – just like I’m a reader of your blog. Sure, we might become friends at some point along the way, but at the moment we’re more like strangers on a train – where I nod “hello” to many of you each day, but there’s only really one or two that I choose to sit next to, and share my day with.

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