In October of this year, my almost-brand-new Instagram account was hacked, starting a long chain of unpleasant events that included stolen passwords, barrages of phishing emails, my inadvertent deleting of my entire hard drive (I got it back, thanks to the Cloud) and weeks of stress and paranoia. At the end of this awful experience, I vowed to leave all social media by December 31, 2018.
To be sure, I’ve had a less-than-perfect year with social media. Someone has been figuring out my Facebook passwords for the past year and logging on to my account from places as near as Seattle and as far away as Moscow. Some of my Facebook friends engaged in increasingly weird, “Stranger Things”-type conversations with someone posing as me before they realized it wasn’t me. And to cap it all off, I received a letter from Bowker, which runs My Identifiers. I had registered the ISBN for STONE empty chair, my haiku book, with Bowker, who now informed me that, back in October, an “unauthorized code was added to the checkout page” and apparently vacuumed up my name, address, email address, payment card number, expiration date, and card security code. Well hell. Now I know how the hackers got ahold of my information.
I joined Facebook in 2009. Like so many others, I’ve used it to re-connect with friends I’d lost contact with over the years, share my latest publication successes and occasionally indulge in a political opinion. My feed is full of family photos, poetry and literature, calls for submission, videos of toddlers escaping from their cribs, links to news outlets, pleas for Obama to come back, invitations to join the latest Joni Mitchell fan club, and ads for useless junk. I could leave it, for sure. But I’ve decided to stay for now.
Part of that decision is due to one of my favorite books of all time, The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. After years of living simply, supporting themselves on a small piece of land, and causing a ruckus whenever Scott Nearing published something criticizing capitalism, they were suddenly cool. Thousands of people visited them every year, most without notice, showing up on any given day and expecting to be fed and entertained. At first, the Nearings did just that, which probably explains the ever-increasing number of visitors, but eventually “the handling of hundreds of visitors had become so serious a problem that we put up a sign at the entrance to Forest Farm stating that our mornings were our own and that we could accept visitors from 3 to 5 in the afternoon only.” Further, they decided to take a whole year off from any unexpected visitors in order to finish writing The Good Life.
This strikes me as a sane, doable approach to handling social media, which is a bit like dealing with unexpected visitors. Limit yourself to the amount of time you can allow from your schedule. Remind yourself that your time is your own. Take breaks for as long as you need. And change your passwords!