When social media was small, it was a bubble: a quiet conversation among friends. It was nice, but not particularly challenging. Pleasant, but maybe not useful.

Then there was a moment. A short one. Social media was perfect. The bubble popped, and suddenly there were voices from outside the bubble. But it was still small, still manageable, not yet the all-consuming force it is today. I felt comfortable sharing all sorts of things. Poorly-thought-through arguments that might be wrong. Positions that didn’t track popular consensus. Politics that didn’t neatly map to left or right. Questions I could barely understand well enough to ask. The network was big enough that I’d get great feedback! If I was wrong, I’d hear about it (gently). I’d hear that my contrary view wasn’t entirely abnormal (or, that it was). Friends would engage even when my questions sucked or made stupid assumptions. I learned so, so much in this moment.

But then….social media turned into something else. A cacophony, an echo chamber of thousands of voices all saying the same thing, competing to say it the loudest. I no longer want to share much at all, least that massive shouting match be suddenly pointed in my direction. It’s not that it’s unsafe. It’s not that I don’t care for criticism – shit, I miss criticism! I’ve learned so, so much from criticism, even when it stung. It’s that now I no longer get that criticism once or twice; instead, a firestorm of reactions from a thousand connections-of-connections-of-connections, all competing to shout louder. It’s overwhelming, and exhausting, and just… not worth it.

Social media once made me feel connected, and I learned so, so much in that moment. I hope somehow, somewhere, to find it again.