Jessie never gives up. Jessie finds a way. But what if supposedly “giving up” is what you have to do to find a way to go on? That’s where I’ve found myself in the past week.
Those who follow me on social media know that I recently disabled my Instagram and Facebook page accounts. And since there are probably questions as to why I did, I figured I should post something on here to clear things up as best I can. First and foremost, above everything else, I’d like to say thank you to the kind, supportive followers I’ve met over the years. I appreciate you all so very much, and it’s you who made my decision to step away a difficult one. But it’s gotten to the point where the negative overshadows the positive, and no matter how many encouraging words are spoken, the belittling ones drown them out.
When I started this blog, not long after the announcement that Toy Story 4 was in the works, my hope was for it to become a reliable source of news surrounding the new movie. I do think I accomplished that to some degree, even if it was just a little. In the earlier years, it was exciting and fun to find some new little tidbit of information, and to share it with fellow fans. But the months leading up to (and continuing after) Toy Story 4 became increasingly stressful, especially on social media. What was once a quiet little Instagram account – previously more of a personal account with pics from my family’s Disney trips – suddenly started to grow along with the movie’s hype. And since I never sought out fame in the sense that aspiring influencers crave it nowadays, I was not prepared for the trolls that come along with a greater following, or the competitive, contentious supposed “fans” who try to raise themselves up by putting others down (or even stealing from them). I’d get a barrage of rude and argumentative comments on my posts, most of which nobody ever saw, because I’d delete them and block the offenders. In recent months, however, the hateful remarks have been coming more and more in the form of private messages, so the cowards sending them won’t risk the chance of other people talking back. And even if I didn’t open them to read the full message, just the preview on the screen where you can delete them from was bad enough.
This has all been wearing heavily on me for a while; I had to take a break around the time Toy Story 4 came out, and I’ve been seriously debating my future on social media in recent months. Nevertheless, I have tried to make my Instagram account a positive and fun place over the past year and a half. And as 2020 has brought so many challenges to all of us, I have tried to maintain my account as a happy distraction, especially for those who struggle with anxiety like myself, and need to escape from the overwhelming, upsetting influence of the news media for a while. There have been days during the coronavirus pandemic that I could barely function, but I pulled myself together to post something lighthearted. I have never made my account a political forum, either. Not because I don’t care about current events, or am not affected by them, but because that wasn’t my platform. My account was a fan account, unrelated to what I may do within my community on a personal level. And honestly, no matter how good your intentions may be, someone’s going to attack you for speaking out on any issue, and tell you how wrong you are. It’s just reflective of how toxic social media has become.
I continued to put forth an effort to keep going, even as I became more disillusioned with social media in general – not only within the Toy Story fandom, but within my personal life as well. I attempted moving all of my apps to the back page of my phone so that I’d quit habitually checking them. I hadn’t really used Tumblr for a year, Twitter for maybe six months, and Facebook since the pandemic started. Instagram was my last holdout. I had stopped scrolling my feed, though, and in the end decided I’d try posting once a week, and see if I could keep my account active at the bare minimum. But I couldn’t shut out the negativity, even if I didn’t use the app. I started to dread the little red notification bubbles. One more deriding private message came through, and I reached my breaking point. I decided I was done then and there with the damaging impact social media was having on my mental health. My anxiety couldn’t endure it any longer, especially the pressure of keeping up a public presence. Because NO ONE, whether you have 10 followers or 10,000, is EVER required to put up with cyberbullying of any kind. It’s not some forced burden that comes with the territory. You have every right to deny those people access to you, and the ability to cause you emotional harm. So, that’s ultimately what I did.
Another aspect that helped me come to this decision was that I have nothing to prove anymore, really. I know who I am. I know how fun the Toy Story fandom used to be, and how it’s changed, not for the better. And I’m weary of being part of something now that forces competition, and defensiveness, and sucks the joy out of one of my favorite things. I know how much I love these characters, and that’s not going to change whether I’m sharing that passion publicly or not. In fact, I might just find I love them more when I don’t have to constantly keep my guard up about them. And you know what? As hard as it has been to walk away from something that’s been such a big part of my life for so long, I feel like I’m finally free. I can appreciate the Toy Story franchise in my own way, on my own terms. Which is what really matters, after all. Numbers shouldn’t hold more value than authenticity.
I can’t say at this point if I’ll ever be back on social media. I’m going to take some time for myself, and see how I feel after several months have passed. I do know that I’m not going to delete this blog; I disabled comments on it a year ago, to make it a place free from the discord that I was finding elsewhere. So, if there should be anything new in the Toy Story world, like something celebrating the franchise’s 25th anniversary this fall, or new content on Disney+, I’ll still share it here. And I don’t intend to abandon my fanfiction, either, even if it takes me a while to get the last two chapters written and posted. I’ve invested too much time and love in it to let it go unfinished, regardless of what my future may end up being with the fandom as a whole.
To those of you who’ve tagged along from the very beginning, or joined the journey somewhere along the way, thank you. We might cross paths again sometime down the road. But in the meantime, I can’t let myself become a lost toy. Not anymore.
UPDATE: After several months’ absence – and kind messages through mutual friends asking about me and where I’d disappeared to – I decided to come back tentatively, to a few of my social media accounts. I have reinstated Instagram and Facebook, but Twitter and Tumblr will remain inactive. Whether I stick around will be dependent upon whether the trolling and harassment continues to be a problem.
Image © Disney/Pixar.