Recently I totally quit social media and it’s been such a relief. In this post I thought I’d share my reasons and why I think more people should get off these platforms.
My Life With Social Media
In the beginning, social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, didn’t seem like a big problem. In fact, they seemed like great ideas. I’d had Facebook since 2006 (I deleted my account in 2019) and for the most part it was great. I wasn’t too addicted to it, in my estimation, and it was a good way to keep up with friends and family. Life proceeded nicely.
In 2019 I started to feel differently. I found I was actually getting more addicted to scrolling and thus was losing time to it, and I was rarely posting status updates, or posting much of anything. At some point, we know that Facebook re-engineered it’s model to include Likes and Tagging and more addictive features, and that probably had something to do with the turn towards endless scrolling.
I also started to get a bit more worried about handing over my data and having my life so out in the open. This might sound contradictory to blogging, where I’m also sharing personal thoughts and feelings, but with social platforms that data can then get turned around and used against you to keep you scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, whereas with a blog that doesn’t happen (I think?). Also blogging allows for more thoughtful posts and conversations than other platforms.
So anyways, by 2019 I found I wasn’t getting much out of Facebook, and everything I did need from it could be accomplished via Messenger, so I deleted my account. I just didn’t want to lose time scrolling endlessly anymore or Facebook stalking others, when I myself did not wish to be Facebook stalked.
I know I made the right decision because I don’t miss Facebook at all and I don’t even notice its absence. This proves that I wasn’t getting anything out of it.
I held on to Twitter a bit longer. I only signed up for Twitter in 2017 or 2018 I think and only recently deleted it a couple of months ago. So I only had it for two, maybe three years. For a while, I wasn’t really active on it, but then when I got an iPhone and downloaded the app I definitely became more addicted to it. Also, I thought that since I’m working towards being an author that I had to have it in order to build up my “brand” and “following”. :/
Then, as we know, the past couple of years became very intense politically. My Twitter feed was rife with political discontent, division, and cancel culture, and it became really stressful to scroll through it, which I was doing a lot and losing 20 minutes here, half an hour there, getting lost in the scrolling.
My first solution to this was to unfollow all news outlets and publications and totally rejig my feed and people/accounts I followed. Afterwards, my feed was mostly motivational or philosophical, which was really good. But I found I was still anxious using it and even anxious about the thought of using it. I would still lose time scrolling. Or feel compelled to Tweet something just to Tweet something and so I could keep trying to “build that following”.
Granted, some people do this really well, and they use Twitter as a tool. But, I think, for myself, and others like me, it’s probably best to stay off social media entirely. I think the fact that even thinking about Twitter generates an anxious response in me tells me all I need to know.
Cal Newport, Focus & Deep Work
Right as I was thinking about deleting Twitter, I came across Cal Newport, who has written about this very topic of quitting social media and being a digital minimalist. In this video, Newport talks about the myths surrounding social media and why many people think they need it, and then goes on to debunk those myths. I also watched this episode of Lewis Howes’ podcast, School of Greatness, where Newport discusses the same topic.
Newport wrote the book Deep Work, and he himself has never had any social media and advocates people getting off social media in order to reclaim their attention and practice the art of focus. So coming across him so serendipitously (probably due to a YouTube algorithm!) was really the final push I needed, because I realized I wasn’t alone or crazy for thinking that I don’t need social media. Not personally, and not to “build my brand.”
So I deleted Twitter. And I don’t miss it at all.
To summarize, I deleted social media for the following reasons:
- I was losing time scrolling. And in losing time scrolling, I was preventing myself from doing other activities that I actually would have preferred to engage in, such as reading or drawing.
- I was becoming anxious. Not only was my Twitter feed a public forum of people yelling at each other and getting cancelled, but also this anxiety was bleeding over into my real life. The fact that I get stressed just thinking about Twitter is a good indicator I shouldn’t be on it. I don’t consider myself an anxious person, but thinking about social media does bring on feelings of anxiety.
- I was succumbing to more hubris than I think is healthy. Social media tricks us into thinking that what we have to say is important. There’s a fine line between wanting to share your thoughts and have interesting conversations (blogs are great for that) and simply yelling into the void and adding to the noise. I would have a thought and then immediately think that I had to share it on Twitter. And when you have that thought, the answer is No, you do not need to share it and nobody cares.
- I wanted to reclaim my focus and attention. Similar to my first point, I found I was becoming addicted to scrolling and that my attention was becoming more fragmented. And I really hate that feeling. I love the feeling of being able to focus on one thing for a long time. No multitasking. No scrolling. Just focus. I agree with Newport’s thesis that deep work is what is actually valuable in a world where our attention is becoming ever shorter.
So that’s it. I hope this inspires others to get off social media. If you’re reading this thinking that you absolutely need social media to build your brand/company/whatever else, check out the first video I linked, Newport’s Ted Talk, where he talks about just that objection. If you focus on deep work and building valuable skills, then you’ll have no problem thriving without social media.
A Final Thought
One last note is that Newport himself doesn’t hate technology (he’s a professor of computer science), and of course neither do I. But to paraphrase him, there is no good or bad tech, but intentions make it so. Unfortunately, the way these platforms have been engineered is precisely to take advantage of human vulnerabilities to make us addicted to them. For that reason, I peaced out.