This post is the sixth of a six-part series titled, ‘Why I Quit…’ in which I’ll be discussing my reasons for cutting out fish, caffeine, alcohol, honey, meat and social media.
Note: I wrote this post at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic forced us to stay home. I found myself feeling isolated and lonely without the easy connection of social media, so I began using Instagram again. I still don’t have Facebook, Twitter or any other platforms and I’m making an effort to set healthy boundaries with Instagram, but I wanted to be honest and let you know that while I still agree with this post, I haven’t managed to completely detox from the digital world in the long-term.
I’ve always been wary of people who don’t use social media.
I would eye them with suspicion, convinced that they had some ulterior motive for shunning such an essential aspect of our modern world. What did they have to hide?
However, I recently came to a realisation that took the warm fuzzy glow out of my favourite online platforms.
Aside from a few people, no one cares what I’m doing. No one is waiting anxiously for my next update, no one is hanging onto my every word, no one really cares what I have to say about Brexit.
I’m just a little drop in a huge ocean of voices, and instead of feeling sad about it I actually feel… free.
Once I realised this, my eyes were opened. I had spent years convincing myself that those little apps contained vital information that could improve my life. I clung to them for far too long, wondering, ‘Who else will inspire me if I delete my accounts? How will I ever feel motivated to achieve my goals?‘
So in a moment of curiosity, I conducted a test. I scrolled through my Instagram feed tapping on each story in a quest to see what I was really looking at, as opposed to mindlessly consuming each image.
And you know what? All I saw were photographs of beautiful strangers showcasing their seemingly perfect lives. Do I really need to know what that blogger picked up at the store today, or where that YouTuber bought her latest cute outfit?
This information isn’t enhancing my life. If anything, it’s chipping away at my happiness.
So at the start of this year, I logged off social media for good. No more Facebook, no more Twitter and certainly no more Instagram. I’m too old for Snapchat and TikTok, so at least I didn’t have those to contend with.
I’m not going to pretend that it was easy. But the right decision isn’t always the easiest one to make.
It’s only been a few weeks since I retreated from the world of social media, but I wanted to document my thought process and the reasons for my departure. If I can inspire one person to rethink their relationship with these online networks, I’ll be happy!
It made me feel bad about myself
For the longest time, I was convinced that social media was improving my life. I made a point to follow people that made me feel inspired to work hard, in an attempt to create my own version of the beautiful lives that I scrolled through on a daily basis.
So when my life wasn’t matching up to what I saw online, it felt like I was doing something wrong.
I wasn’t following the Kardashians or other beautiful, unattainable celebrities – I followed women who I thought were like me, along with friends and acquaintances that I’d gathered throughout the years. But it turns out that watching other people buy their dream homes, take constant luxurious vacations and pop out adorable babies is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel like you’re falling behind.
The thing is, I’m not stupid. I know that most people only share their highlights online, and that no single person on this planet has a perfect life. And yet, I was still falling for it!
Stepping away from Instagram has opened my eyes to how wonderful my life actually is. I feel more grateful for what I have, and even prouder of my accomplishments.
If comparison is the thief of joy, then a life away from social media must surely be the secret to happiness.
It stopped me from being productive
Towards the end of my social media life, I felt as though I just didn’t have enough time in the day.
I had so many tasks to accomplish, but they weren’t getting done. It felt as though time was getting sucked into a vortex and disappearing without a trace. Where did it go?
Well, now I know. I spent hours every day scrolling through the black hole that is social media.
I like to think of myself as a fairly productive person, but Instagram and Facebook were killing my efficiency. Instead of working on self-improvement, I found myself passively watching other people living their lives. If I ever felt bored, even for a second, I would automatically reach for my phone and begin scrolling.
I’m ashamed to say that I repeated this action five, ten, even twenty times a day!
Now, I’m amazed at how much I can get done. Since quitting social media two weeks ago I’ve managed to design an entire new website for our business, something that I had been putting off for months. I’ve also been practicing daily meditation, writing in my journal and going for long walks. Plus, our apartment has never been more organised!
It constantly tried to sell me something
It may be free to sign up for a social media account, but these apps still come with a cost.
Sites like Instagram and Facebook don’t provide their services out of the goodness of their hearts – they need to make money somehow, and unfortunately this often involves mining and selling your personal data or allowing other companies to advertise directly to you.
I no longer feel comfortable with allowing other companies to monetise my data. Why should I give it away for free, while they make an obscene amount of money from it?
I’m also really tired of constantly being advertised to. Plus, it was starting to get a little creepy. I’d be chatting with Elliott about how we really should get a new sofa, and then open Facebook to see an ad for (you guessed it!) a local sofa company.
Now, I’m not accusing these social media companies of spying on me through my phone’s camera or microphone. But it was beginning to seem like too much of a coincidence.
In our modern world, I can’t escape advertisements. But I can limit them as much as possible, and quitting social media has allowed me to live a relatively ad-free daily life. That means less temptation to purchase items that I don’t really need, and more money in my bank account. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!
It cluttered up my brain
Before social media existed, we had absolutely no idea about the minutiae of other people’s lives. We weren’t privy to their breakfast choices, their morning commute or the view from their office window. We simply didn’t care!
And if I’m honest, I still don’t care. At some point during the past few years my brain became cluttered with useless information about people that I barely know, but for some reason I kept on scrolling.
As a result, I sometimes feel as though my mind is full to bursting!
The noise of other people’s opinions can quickly become overwhelming, so it’s been a relief to step away from the constant flow of information and find some peace in our digital world.
It made me lazy with relationships
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m not the most sociable person. As a proud introvert, I’m perfectly content with my own company!
As a result I find it difficult to feel motivated when it comes to keeping up with friends and family, but social media tricked me into thinking that I was doing a pretty good job. After all, I always liked their posts and scrolled through their latest photos!
But simply tapping an Instagram post isn’t a replacement for a phone call. Commenting a heart on someone’s Facebook status doesn’t give you the same feeling of connection as a lengthy chat over lunch.
Sure, the latter involves much more effort, but the benefits are incomparable.
I hope that my retreat from the online world will spark a determination to communicate with the people that matter most to me. I’ll discover who I genuinely want to keep in touch with, and the others will simply fade away – just as they would have done before the birth of social media!
It’s designed to be addictive
Social media apps have exploded in popularity over the last decade or so, and these days it’s almost impossible to imagine a life without them.
As this is a relatively new technology, there simply haven’t been enough studies to show the long-term effects on our brains. I’ve recently read a number of interesting articles suggesting that social media apps are deliberately engineered to be addictive.
I’m careful to avoid alcohol, caffeine and any type of drugs as I’m concerned about the effect they could have on my mind and body. So why was I being so blasé about the effect that social media was having on me?
The thing is, I could feel myself getting dumber. It became harder to concentrate for long periods of time, I couldn’t go more than an hour without checking my phone and I found it absolutely impossible to quit – no matter how much I wanted to.
I was completely dependent on these digital drugs, and for that reason I knew they had to go.
My head now feels a little clearer, and my days feel a little longer. But most of all, I feel a sense of freedom. I hadn’t realised how much pressure I was putting on myself to document my life, to present it in a way that other people would admire.
So as I step into a life without social media, I’ve made a few promises to myself.
I’m going to start living my best life for me, without feeling the need to showcase it. I’m going to focus on creating content, not merely consuming it. And I’m going to start inspiring myself, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me.
‘What’s on your mind?’ asks Facebook. ‘What’s happening?’ demands Twitter.
For once, they are met with nothing but silence.