My first brush with social media was ‘chatting’ on Yahoo messenger in 2003, on a dial-up connection. This was followed by Orkut in 2005 which was the thing for a year or two. And then Facebook happened.
I started hearing about Facebook in 2007. It went mainstream in 2008 and that's when I created my account. I probably had the graph of a typical user. My immediate friends from real life were my first friends on the site. I scrolled more than I posted. A 'like' here, a 'comment' there. I used it for about three years actively.
At some point, it exploded and a lot of people from my extended network became ‘friends’. Now, there were too many people I could stalk, keep tabs on and constantly compare myself with.
What started as something innocent—an online imitation of my real life with friends—started taking over my life and that of those around me. This transition was seamless and it might have coincided with the introduction of the ‘like’ button.
One odd day in July 2013, I saw a post on my Facebook feed, where an acquaintance received an award for an accomplishment. I immediately felt like a loser. And I got annoyed by my own feeling: I didn’t know this person well, their award had nothing to do with me and yet here I was, feeling inadequate.
This had been happening for a while and that moment was the last straw. I decided that 'Facebook is trash'. I immediately deactivated my account. I had some initial withdrawal symptoms for a few days, but got over them pretty soon. Now I knew very little about what happened in others lives. This did wonders to my mental well being. I was immediately a happier person.
Since then, I have not returned to the platform, barring a few occasions to temporarily check something and deactivate it again. Honestly, I was not even that active a user. I was rather timid. Always too worried about what I posted, how I came across and worried what others thought of me… very similar to how I was in real life.
I persevered to not use a smartphone for quite a while but eventually ended up getting one in May 2014. By then apps were the thing. So I made an Instagram account, I made three posts and lost interest (and access to that account). I signed up on Snapchat, played around with the face-swap filter. Ditched it. I already had a Twitter account, so I signed up for Vine, posted a clip or two. Same story, I logged out of it.
You get the idea.
I hated all of the vanity, the false camaraderie and the portrayal of a perfect life. I figured out that social media was not for me. I signed out of them all and was blissfully oblivious. Good for me.
But in doing all of the above, I was making one ‘mistake’–I was treating social media as if it were an extension of my real life. And, to be fair to me, that is how most people treated it back then.
These platforms are built by some of the best designers and marketers of the world. They do a great job of convincing most people that we are all connected through these apps and that there is value in every like, share, comment or whatever. Which is why everyone talks numbers all the time (and these companies promote such talk); x no. of views, y no. of followers and so on.
Now, there are real repercussions of using these platforms. And it is a spectrum—from people achieving overnight stardom due to a meme to companies getting cancelled for a tweet and everything that falls in between. So when I say it isn’t ‘real’, I mean it isn't an extension of my personal life. Internet is very very real but no matter how hard these companies try to convince everyone, social media is not the internet. I was(and still am) in touch with the countable few people that I trusted and relied on, even after being inactive on social media for nearly a decade. I have counted on them through thick and thin and I will continue to stay in touch with them irrespective of their engagement with what I put up on social media.
And most people have those countable few in their life. You can usually count them on one hand (two, if you’re really lucky).
Apart from this intimate inner circle, everything else is really just noise. Every follower, every like, every share, every comment on these platforms is just worthless noise. It is only people signaling something to their own social network. Obviously, someone that engages with you in private the same way they do on social media, are not ‘noise’. But those who are loud to profess their love, friendship and support on social media but do nothing of that sort in private are absolute worthless noise in your life.
So, why then do I want to come back if it so 'worthless'?
Because social media is a place for distribution and engagement. The best form of promotion is a reference from someone you trust. These companies have successfully convinced me (this time around) that their platforms are the second best form of promotion. (And that the conversations that happen there may lead to the first.)
By now, this probably reads like a post from 2010. I am sorry if I wasted your precious six minutes to tell you something so obvious, but it was not that obvious to me. I thought social media was an utter waste of time; which I still think it is–more than ever–if I were to exist on it as a consumer only. I didn’t understand intuitively that the only reason heads of state or some of the greatest thinkers, scientists, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, leaders, organisations and Elon Musk exist on these platforms—is to promote themselves. That these platforms treat these people very similar to the way they treat me, a lay user. That I have the exact same tools of promotion, as some of the most powerful people in the world.
When I stumbled upon Naval’s video and learnt about the idea of ‘permission-less leverage’, it blew my mind away.  Here was something so obvious and I had been blind to it, because I treated social media as if it were an extension of my personal life. It was liberating to realise that I needed nobody’s permission on these platforms. That all I had to do was not care what others thought.
And in all honesty, I have been scared to put myself out there, online or otherwise.
I am aware that stage fright is a real thing. I’ve been on stage before, as a musician and an actor. I have learnt from performing in gigs and a countable few plays, that it takes a bit of courage and a bit of practice to get comfortable. But you eventually lose the fear. I think social media is like that, a stage to perform. Only here, the audience is not restricted and everyone is a performer.
It is going to be tough to only seek engagement and not validation; to not scroll aimlessly through feeds; to not try to keep up with the algorithms; to not cringe at my older posts; to only post and forget about it. And because you get to watch your own performance (and that of others), over and over again, it is difficult and scary; but so is anything worth doing.
I was done being a lurker a decade ago, this time I am coming back only to belong to the 1%. 
And for those reasons, I am returning to social media—to promote my thoughts, my ideas, my content; I am coming back solely to promote myself.
Stan (by) me.
Below are links to all my ‘socials’.
Twitter is where I will be most active.
YouTube is... good. Make sure you Subscribe to me there.
Instagram is dog shit and I am afraid I am going to love it.
LinkedIn is Facebook in an ill-fitting suit.
Clubhouse buzz already seems to be wearing off.
I haven’t fallen as low as to return to Facebook. But you just never know.
Should you choose to follow me on any of these sites, rest assured, I will not follow you back. But, hey, if you write me an email or reply to my newsletter, you can be absolutely certain I will reply.
Email is still one of the greatest things on the internet: sumeru(at)sumeruraut(dot)com
The only terrifying fear on social media, is the concern with privacy. But that is a story for another time.