By Lane Noble
Around two months ago, I slowly weaned myself off of social media. Keep in mind that this is something that I’ve had since I was eleven years old. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that an eleven year old should not be on social media at all. It’s not a place for children. I would also argue, however, that it’s not a good place for teenagers and adults either.
The first social media platform that I ever joined was Facebook. That was pretty much the most popular website to be on alongside Twitter and YouTube at the time. I then joined Twitter, and then a few years later joined Instagram. I finally graduated to Snap Chat, and, for a time, with the exception of Twitter, I loved all of them.
Once people saw the potential of social media and how exciting it was, (there was a time when it was an exciting concept), it seemed as though everyone was joining. Even kids were lying about their age and joining Facebook. (Like me.)
Now it seems like social media is a sinking ship, and many people are deciding quickly whether or not they want to jump off or climb to the top.
I, for the longest time, was one of the many people that climbed to the top. For a long time, I was afraid to get off of social media lest I miss something important or I have ties severed with friends that are on there too.
I now realize that jumping ship was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. After about two months, I have noticed a huge difference in my life. I didn’t realize how harmful social media was until I got away from it. I want to share with you four amazing changes that I’ve experienced because since my exodus from this platform, and then I want to respond to some objections for quitting, because I realize that social media, more likely than not, is harming you more than you realize too.
1. I Was Less Angry
This is probably a more obvious one, but it’s still worth mentioning. For me, Instagram and/or Snap Chat was where this was most prominent, but it happened on Facebook and Twitter too. I would log on, and at first something nice would pop up. A family on the beach or a photo of a newly married couple. I then proceed to scroll down and, WHAM! Somebody has posts a mean and vicious attack on my political views. I take a deep breath and scroll some more. Somebody did something stupid and they knew better. I scroll some more. More politics. I scroll some more. More politics. I scroll some more. Somebody is insulting my religious views. I scroll some more. Another person did something stupid. On and on and on and on it goes. On occasion I may get a break, but typically I would have to do something to relieve my stress before doing something else, and it was making me less happy throughout the day, which leads me to the next reason.
2. I Was Way More Productive
I can’t emphasize enough how much more productive I was once I got off of social media. My academics improved. My work life improved. My room was cleaner. My life was dramatically improving in this area.
There are two reasons this happened. The first is that I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or going through snap chat stories in an effort to procrastinate what I was supposed to be doing. This happened more than I realized. Especially during the pandemic.
Secondly, as indicated above, I would usually be anxious, angry, or depressed once I got off of social media. I tried to correct for this by hiding certain people, reporting ads I didn’t want to see, and not opening stories from people I knew would negatively impact my mind, but no matter how hard I tried, I was almost always worse off for logging on than if I had done something else. As a result, I would need to take more time to get myself into a better head space, which would give me less time to accomplish the things that I needed to get done. With less time to get things done, I would get even more anxious and depressed and it became a seemingly endless cycle.
This doesn’t happen nearly as much anymore. Not only am I getting things done, but I’m finding more rewarding ways to spend my leisure time.
3. Less Self-Comparison
This was something that I didn’t realize that I actually did, and I didn’t usually do it intentionally. It would typically happen when someone would post what they were doing of what they’ve accomplished online, and I would beat myself up over the belief that I haven’t accomplished that much. The only person one should measure themselves against is the person that they used to be. Progress and growth is not a race.
I’m much more confident in my abilities and in my accomplishments now. I don’t compare myself to others and I don’t feel as inadequate as I used to feel. People try to present the best image of themselves on social media, and often at the expense of authenticity. Therefore, it really is inevitable that people would be tempted to compare themselves to others and beat themselves up over their own perceived flaws when frequently engaging with social media.
4. Better Information
The world has been flooded with more information than it ever has before, and the obvious reason for that is the internet. Believe me when I say that I love the fact that I can learn about almost anything that I want to on the internet. Seriously, I can become an expert in anything that I want without even getting out of bed. Websites are a great place to get find information you want to know…except for social media websites.
The year 2020 has been a great illustration of this. False information about the coronavirus has been spreading faster than the coronavirus itself. False information about the Black Lives Matter movement and false information about racism. There has been false information about the election. Heck. I’m still not even sure if I know who actually won the election. For all I know Kanye West is our president and I’ve been believing it’s Joe Biden because I saw it on social media.
All joking aside, I’m not being fed nearly as much garbage on social media as I was, and it has lessened the sense of confusion that I feel and am sure a lot of people feel about our world today. I’m getting more information from reliable sources, in part because I have more time to seek out such sources.
That’s four ways my life has been better. Now I’d like to respond to two objections against quitting social media that most people have because, honestly, I think you would probably be better off quitting as well.
1. I Need (Insert Social Media Platform Here) For Church, Book Club, Keeping Up With Friends, etc.
This was actually one of the main reasons I didn’t get off of social media for a long time. If I had known two years ago that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were spending a lot of money trying to get me to believe that lie so that I would keep using their platforms, I would have likely gotten off at that point.
The fact of the matter is is that you don’t have as much control over your social media use as you think. The people that work for social media platforms are experts in psychology. In fact, a lot of companies hire psychologists (known as Industrial-Organizational Psychologists) to learn how to get people to use their products.
Social media is more different. The longer you’re online, the more opportunities for ads to show you. The more ads they show you, the more money they make. They will do anything to not end up like MySpace.
If this sounds far-fetched, you can experiment with this yourself. Quit social media for at least a week and see what happens. You can always get back on. For most platforms, you have thirty days to reactivate your account before it’s gone for good.
Believe me, you are not as dependent on social media as you think you are. If someone who has been using it since they were eleven years old can quit, so can you.
2. Social Media is How I Keep Up With People I Don’t Usually Get to See
Whenever I hear adults talk about high school reunions twenty years after they graduated, I usually hear them say something like this, “If I haven’t seen you in twenty years, I probably don’t care much about seeing you now.” That’s not to say that you don’t like those people. It’s just to say that the people that you really wanted to say in touch with, you did stay in touch with.
I think the same principle can be applied to social media. If you look through all of the people you follow on social media, my guess is that the people you really want to stay in touch with have a means of communicating with you outside of Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Even if they don’t, if they really care about staying in touch with you they won’t care if you give them your phone number to text or your email, and you don’t have to know every single thing that’s going on in their lives by keeping an eye on their posts on Facebook. In fact, you relationship with them will probably improve because you’ll have things to talk about over the phone or text. You won’t automatically know what they’ve been up to via Twitter.
3. Social Media Doesn’t Negatively Impact Me
I can almost guarantee you that social media is impacting your life in ways that you don’t even realize. Prior to my quitting, I didn’t realize just how much of my daily anxieties were coming from my use of social media. After just a couple of weeks, I noticed so much more peace. I had no clue what it was doing to me!
Like I said, just quit temporarily, and if you decide that you really need social media back, go for it. After about two months I actually rejoined Facebook, and four days later I deleted it because I noticed that all of that anxiety and frustration that I had before was back.
If you’re still not convinced, there’s a video below that I think might change your mind with more reasons for leaving. I think quitting will change your life like it changed mine. At least give it a shot.