I’ve been questioning the value I get from social media for several years. Most days I notice myself staring at my phone for no good reason at all, but I still seemed to be spending more and more time on it. What was the deal? I wanted to reevaluate social media's purpose in my life, so, on July 1st, I gave myself a gift. No social media for 3 months.
This is what I learned:
I definitely felt withdrawals. I suddenly had much more extra time and I wanted to do something with it. I was teaching myself how to trade stocks at the time, so naturally, I transitioned all the free time into looking at my Robinhood app and reading up on stock market news. I ended up deleting Robinhood off my phone as well.
You feel free. You really do. Because maybe people don’t like to admit, but the more we look at social media, the more you compare yourself with others. That’s not really something I enjoy doing. Nor is it doing any good for my health. Is it voluntary blindness so I can trick myself into feeling better about myself? Maybe. But I also know that most of what people post on social media is really just a highlight reel of their lives. Myself included. So no. Not missing out at all.
Life is much simpler than you think. Life without social media is…. Dare I say it? Much better. It’s simpler. I am no longer bombarded by an endless feed with endless scrolling. No longer concerning myself over likes, followers and comments. I just get to live my life. It’s one less thing I have to think about. And I don’t miss it at all.
To take it a step further I also turned my phone black and white. I know, this has nothing to do with social media but then it does. The design of social media apps and the Instagram icon itself is made so you can’t help but to look at it AND stay on it. We react very strongly to bright reds, notice how the Instagram logo has a beautiful gradient of warm sunset tones? Who doesn’t love a good sunset? How’s life with a black and white phone? Not as boring as you think. Because then you have to look up at the world and see how colorful your life has always been from the start.
FOMO - Am I missing out? I probably am. Especially since most events are created and invited via Facebook nowadays. Then again, I’m not too concerned. After all, I have 2,500+ friends on Facebook, but how many people are actually my friends? How many of them will actually throw an event important enough for me to feel terrible for not going? And if it was that important, I’m sure they’d find a way to make sure I got an invitation. Even if that meant sending me a personal text. Omg. Yes. A personal text message. Or lord knows. An email. Oh god. The terror.
Bad business - I do agree that perhaps going off social media is bad business. After all, that’s what social media has turned into, a giant marketing campaign 24/7. Look at me! Buy me! Follow me! Me me me me me! Aka. Spend spend spend spend spend all your money on me! Then again, I think it attests to the power of your business. If you’re able to do business without a social media following. That must mean what you’re offering is damn good. SO damn good, people will find you in the real world. I don’t mind that at all.
Take my number - I used to think giving out my number was weird. Too personal. It’s like, "Ew, no, I’m not trying to date you!" Then again, I feel like it’s a nice personal touch in an age of social media. That’s right, take my number. If you need me, call me. Here’s my direct line. No need to add each other on social media and hope and pray that I see your random comment or your DM among thousands of others who are messaging me.
Overall quality of life is just better. I can’t describe it. I mean, to put it holistically, I’m spending less time hunched over a phone. I’m spending less time staring aimlessly at things I don’t care about. And I get less input from a superficial advertisement driven world. Instead, I stand up taller. I spend more quality time with myself and others. I actually do things that are developmental vs just time suckers. And I am empowered. I chose to get off the social media carousel. It’s a decision I made. This life is the life I chose to live. And that makes me feel good.
I think it made me less depressed. This all goes back to the comparison thing, but I can't help but notice how Instagram almost never fails to make me feel worse after using it. I mean, it's entertaining and all and I love being able to see what my friends are up to, but despite it all, I seem to come away from it always feel a little worse than before.
Struggles: To be quite honest, I do feel like my social life has taken a hit after deactivating my social media accounts. The reality is, keeping in touch with your friends takes place on social media now. Scrolling through your feed. Liking. Commenting. And even though I ignore 90% of the facebook events I get invited to, every once in a while, I do get invited to one that I’d actually want to take part of. So all those moments are out. And I find myself texting my friends more often like it was the early 2000s trying to figure out what they’re up to and to see if they want to hang out. Damn. I thought relationships would get better. But I find it hard to say so. If anything. It’s just different. Unfortunately, less screen time doesn’t translate to more face to face time. It really just translates into more alone time, which, as someone who already spends a lot of time alone and is rather comfortable with being alone, more alone time doesn’t do that much for me. It kinda just makes things worse. You know what I started doing? Going to cafes so I can at least be around people. I know right. Isn’t that sad? Like, maybe I should order something not because I want to eat or drink anything but just because I want some sort of social interaction. Is this a sign of a big epidemic that we are not aware of due to social media? Or is it a sign that if I don’t join the crowd I will be forever alone? I’m sure the real answer is nowhere near as dramatic as I’m making it sound, but it feels that way.
Since spending such a significant amount of time off social media, I’ve been able to be more intentional with how I use it. I am no longer on Facebook and I probably won’t be returning any time soon. I seriously was not getting any value from it and I don’t miss it at all. I’m no longer on Twitter, which wasn’t a big deal for me because I was never that active on Twitter anyways. I am still on Instagram, however, I've muted a lot of people and now my newsfeed shows only the things I truly want to look at. (That’s right, mute, don’t unfollow, people are sensitive about that! lol). Will I go off social media again? I probably will. Despite it being a bit challenging, I like what it does for my health and how it forces me to recalibrate what’s important in my life.
by Jason Lam