The above image is a picture I found of my brother in 2018. Sorry to throw you under the bus Matt, but I also know that most of us are guilty of this at some point. Knowing my brother, he was probably just getting ready to take a picture, but in so many similar scenarios many of us have found ourselves right there on our instagram page when we don’t really need to be.
What I’m about to write isn’t exactly to convince anyone why they should quit social media. Let’s face it, some of us like and enjoy social media! There’s no reason to wean yourself off of it if you don’t actually want to get rid of it and are comfortable with the way your social media outlets fit into your life. But this wasn’t me. I was noticing that my facebook and instagram were adding small stressors to my life that weren’t even necessary in the first place.
If you feel that you’d like to use your social media accounts less, or have recognized that a change might be necessary even though you haven’t made a change yet, it’s worth paying attention to those thoughts and taking some action. I’m thinking that it might be worth it to share some of the ways I eliminated them from my daily routine because I know I’m not the only person out there who’s felt a need to do this.
First things first, you have to want to quit. I’ve heard so many times that in today’s world the relationship with social media resembles an addiction more than anything else. Even after realizing I was spending an unhealthy amount of time scrolling my facebook newsfeed, I’d still keep doing it. That set off some alarm bells. I never thought I was one of those people that was addicted to social media because I didn’t post very much, but here I was still doing something even though I knew I didn’t want to be doing it, and I found it difficult to simply stop doing it. Hmm.
This is something that has been in practice for me for many years now, and I know it’s the first step if you haven’t done it yet. Get rid of anything that’s going to come up on your phone screen and notify you in any way. No pings or push notifications. You can turn these off in the settings of each app. The only way to see that someone commented on your post or tagged you in something is to see it when you’ve chosen to look at your account on your own time. This can be tough at first. If you’re used to getting all kinds of notifications and suddenly get rid of them, you might find yourself constantly tapping on your instagram app, for example, just wanting to see if you have a notification. Give yourself enough time, and eventually you’ll notice that you’re no longer missing those notifications. The only push notifications I receive on my phone are if someone texts or calls me. Just like old times. Anything else doesn’t need my immediate attention and I can check notifications on my own time, such as my e-mail.
Get rid of your easy one-click access to that rabbit hole! I deleted my facebook app and forced myself to go to the internet on my phone and log on every single time. This can be a great method at first, because the extra step can make you stop and realize that you don’t need to be logging on at that moment and were just about to do something mindless. My one downfall with this has been that as it became habit, I could log on mindlessly and quickly. Still though, it’s enough to make you take that extra second to stop and think about what you’re doing.
I noticed that the times I felt most eager to see my notifications were if I had recently posted something. That was also part of the alarm bell that made me realize I just didn’t need that in my life. I didn’t feel like it was healthy to get a constant rush from wondering what other people’s reactions would be to something that I said or did. Worse, I didn’t need the added stress if someone reacted negatively to something I posted. Some people are better than others at not overthinking other people’s reactions if they’ve put themselves out there. If you realize that putting yourself out there is not serving you in a positive way, you don’t need to be doing it. Pay attention to how much time you spend taking other’s reactions to your posts or comments to heart and whether or not negative emotions are resulting from it.
Some people are the cold turkey types when it comes to quitting something, and if you know that’s you, then go for it all at once. I personally find that it’s easier to take steps. The three social media accounts that I had were snapchat, instagram, and facebook. I started with getting rid of snapchat, quite a while ago. Still having the other two, it wasn’t actually that hard to lose one and I barely spent any time wondering what I might have missed on snapchat because I was still connected on my facebook and instagram. A similar scenario followed when I deactivated my facebook. I finally realized though that I needed to turn of all social media to get the full benefit I wanted. Getting rid of that last outlet definitely feels the most drastic, but not as drastic as if you eliminated all of your accounts at the same time.
Very unsettling was my discovery that I had a strong habit of needing to look at my phone, as was apparent after all of my social media was gone. I no longer had anything to open up and scroll or check notifications, and I found that picking something new but less addictive in nature to look at helped me satisfy this need to glance at my phone at first. During a streak of facebook deletion in the past, I made it my habit to head to thisdayinmusic.com. It’s a website that shows what events in music history happened on the current date in the past. After a while, my need to glance at my phone faded. Pick a topic that’s interesting to you, but doesn’t feed that notification addiction. It’s also a bonus when you realize you’re spending that time learning something.
Having a replacement means of connecting with others or getting your feelings out can certainly help make the social media elimination process smoother. Call your friends. Yep, literally call them to see how they’re doing. If you’re used to posting a lot, try journaling as an outlet to share your feelings. You won’t get feedback on what you share, but it’s a good way to get things out. A firsthand example for me is this blog! I really enjoy writing and sharing certain things, but I have a completely different relationship with it than what social media does for me. I have a way of using an outlet I enjoy (writing) to share things with others that are well thought through as topics that hopefully serve myself and others, rather than a random impulse to post something I was doing that maybe didn’t need to be posted.
This is where my personal experience stops. I’ve found my perfect balance with social media by deactivating my accounts. I like to have them there to know that in the future, if I need to log back on for something, I can. For example, the other week a friend let me know that it looked like my dad’s facebook had been hacked, and I was able to activate my account to see what was going on and help him fix his. When I was finished, I deactivated it again. If your relationship with social media isn’t yet peaceful after you’ve deactivated your accounts because you find yourself wanting to sneak on or the temptation is too much, you might want to go for the full deletion. I know many people who have done this with no regrets. Personally, I like knowing that I still have the ability to get back on should I want to, but it’s not enough to tempt me because I’ve broken the addiction and lately I live a social media free life the majority of the time.
The key takeaway here is to tap into your own feelings and reactions and recognize when something is or isn’t serving you positively. It’s possible that social media is a very positive source for you, or it might be directly tied to your job, or you’re going through something big and it’s the way you keep your friends and family informed all at once. If that’s the case, no reason to delete it. I think that social media can serve some great purposes. But really tap into how you feel when you log on. Do you experience any feelings of stress, or actually find yourself feeling heated over a discussion with a stranger? Are you rather obsessively looking at everything you can find on your significant others’ ex, or your own ex, or realizing you’re feeling down about yourself because you’re comparing your life to what others have posted about theirs? Pay attention to that. There are many stressors in life that we cannot simply choose to eliminate, so my thinking is, eliminate the ones in your life that you DO have the ability to turn off.
Sometimes I do miss social media. Ironically, my blog posts would reach a lot more people if I shared them that way. There will probably be a time in the future where I bring my facebook or instagram back for a little while. But right now, my life feels best in balance by not having any connection to it and I don’t feel any pull to log on again. If you’re searching for that balance, I hope that some of my experiences I’ve shared can help you through the process.