Eight months ago, I ‘disappeared’.
In January I set my personal Instagram account to private and cleared out my personal Facebook page leaving behind only one previous post, which was this…
In the last eight months, there have been no coffee catch-ups, drinks nights, brunches or shopping trips with friends. My only significant social interaction has been with family. If I bump into a neighbour I’ll stop for a brief chat and then go on my way.
And that’s it.
To be fair, in the lead-up to ‘ghosting’ everyone outside of family I hadn’t been overly social anyway. The text messages from a small group of friends asking to meet up for coffee/drinks etc had gotten fewer and farther between (for reasons I will go into shortly), but I was at least ‘keeping in touch’ on Facebook and Instagram.
So why did I ‘ghost’ everyone? Well, it was mostly to do with timing. I had just entered my seventh year of wrestling with a long term illness and I felt physically and mentally drained. Even social interactions on Facebook and texting felt too much by this point. I longed to be left alone to ‘reconfigure’ everything. I wondered what would happen if I devoted the entirety of 2016 to my home, my work, and socialised only with my very nearest and dearest.
I wondered if I disappeared from my personal social media accounts, would it be noticed? Would I become more productive if I had the opportunity to really focus? Most importantly, would my health improve?
There were risks, most importantly to my mental health. It was possible that the relief of not having an active social life would be outweighed by boredom and loneliness.
I also risked alienating people permanently. I mean, would you ‘take back’ a friend who had ghosted you for a year or longer? What I was about to do could be called selfish and cold. By arbitrarily deciding to opt out of friendships without explanation, would I be waiving the right to reconnect in the future?
So what has happened eight months in? After not posting on Facebook for a few weeks, I did receive a couple of messages asking where I had gone. I didn’t reply. I sat and thought long and hard about whether to reply. I could have just sent a simple ‘I’m okay, just taking some time out.’ but even that seemed difficult, and to be honest unnecessary. I felt like I didn’t have to explain myself and my silence didn’t result in any further messages.
I suspected that my disappearance would go largely unnoticed because I had taken breaks before, and said as much, but I had never cleared out my account and made it so ‘final’. I also think that it says a lot about the quality of my relationships with others. Clearly, my friendship skills need some work.
Overall, things are travelling well. To be honest, much better than I expected. There was a glitch mid-year when my illness made a spectacular return, but it was relatively brief and was soon under control. My days now revolve around writing, design, housework, talking to three cats, going for a walk, and cooking.
I keep in regular touch with family via text and family get-togethers. The social contact with family has turned out to be all I have needed and I’ve enjoyed it. Recently we were all together in the country.
My overall mental health and productivity are good. I am thinking more clearly and creatively than this time last year, and I have also set myself attainable goals. My physical health has also improved. I now have a normal sleeping pattern and I have lost weight from eating better and exercising more.
You might be wondering if I’m lonely. To be honest, no. I largely put this down to being an introvert. However, I am very mindful of the fact that if I didn’t have my family things could be different.
There is one outcome that I’m not yet able to articulately explain. At the beginning of the year, all personal social media interaction felt like a burden and it became something I wanted to avoid. And yet, I am thoroughly enjoying the interaction I now experience via Mirror Balls & Confetti.
Is it because I am talking with a like-minded community of people who have no expectation of meeting up for coffee or cocktails?
One thing is absolutely clear; being an introvert has made the last eight months possible. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to spend hours alone in a quiet space. I now decide who and what my energy is directed to more than ever. My mind has calmed significantly and has made room for creativity.
Oh, and my house is freshly painted and really, really clean.