Why You Should Quit Social Media (Trust Me, I’ve Done It)
Giving up social media was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and it could be for you as well.
Bleary eyes strain against the brightness of your phone screen, your thumb on auto-pilot as you wade through an endless stream of memes, photographs of avocado on toast, and posts from people trying to convince the world that their life is perfect. You reach the bottom of the News Feed and habitually swipe down to refresh, desperate to see something new that one of your many “friends” has posted in the past fifteen seconds. Sound familiar?
If you’re reading this and nodding in agreement, you’re not alone. I’ve been there. Lots of us have. Social media can be an incredible tool for connecting people. But it can also be extremely addictive. It pulls you in with its notifications, likes, retweets and shares, the promise of instant gratification. Once it has you in its grasp, it can be difficult to escape. But not impossible. Just like any addiction, you need to begin by recognising the problem.
My ‘Eureka’ Moment
Six months ago I had my two children staying with me for the weekend. They were sat on the sofa, stuffing themselves silly with Pringles (or Pingles as my son would say) whilst watching television. I don’t see them every day, so the time that I do get to spend with them is priceless and I want to make the most of it. I was scrolling through Facebook while they were occupied, when my daughter asked me to play with her. I told her I would when I’d finished what I was doing on my phone. She walked away to play on her own, a look of sadness spreading across her face because her Daddy wouldn’t play with her. Thinking back to that moment makes me feel sad and ashamed.
I was so concerned with what was going on in the lives of others that I was willing to miss out on spending precious time with my children.
I know I’m not the only parent guilty of palming their kids off because our faces are glued to our phones. I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last. But that is not the kind of parent I ever want to be again. I don’t want my children’s memories of childhood to be darkened by moments where Daddy was too busy to play, or to do to some colouring, or to read a story.
I’d become addicted to social media. The first thing I would do in the morning and the last thing I would do before going to sleep was checking my phone. I’d end up checking it so many times daily that I was constantly reading the same posts over and over again. I knew I had to quit.
My brain had become so hardwired and conditioned to check Facebook that subconsciously I would try to open the app by tapping where the icon used to be on the screen, weeks after I had deleted it.
Going Cold Turkey
It’s surprisingly easy to quit a habit once you establish it’s become an unhealthy part of your life. Social media is no different. For me, knowing I’d let my daughter down was all it took. After that, all I needed was a bit of willpower. Sure, I had a few hesitant thoughts at first regarding missed events, birthdays and the like, but then I had another ‘light-bulb’ moment:
- People who you only interact with via social media are not your friends. They are acquaintances.
- If you don’t receive an invitation to an event because you are not on social media, you weren’t worth the effort of a text message, phone call or email. That person is not your friend.
- If you rely upon a Facebook notification in order to remember somebody’s birthday, that person is not your friend.
Once you’re past those mental hurdles, it’s a simple process to either deactivate or delete your account. Facebook as an example, throws all it can at you to keep you in its grip, asking first your reason for leaving, then offering potential solutions to resolve your issue whilst keeping your account active. No thank you Mr Zuckerberg, I’m out.
Life without Facebook — Less of a Myth, More of a Unicorn
We live in an age where it is the societal norm to be on social media. As of 31 March 2019, there were 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook worldwide. In the United Kingdom, there are 32.7 million Facebook users, almost half the country’s population! Declaring that you’re not on Facebook will likely elicit a similar response to admitting that you’re partial to a spot of cannibalism on the weekends. A slight exaggeration perhaps, but you will be met with shock, incredulity and likely to encounter some variation of the following questions:
- “How do you stay in touch with people?” I have a phone. I can text people, or call them.
- “How do you know what’s going on?” I engage people in conversation. I speak to them directly.
- “How can you live without Facebook?” Easily, and you can too.
It took a while for me to become accustomed to my new social media-free life (I deleted Instagram and Twitter from my phone at the same time), but it wasn’t until several weeks after I had deleted Facebook from my phone that I realised just how serious my problem had been.
The above image is a screenshot of my mobile phone’s home screen (FYI Hypersonic Missiles by Sam Fender is an absolute tune that I highly recommend). That gap in the bottom right corner, next to the Chrome icon? That’s where Facebook used to be. I left it empty purposefully, a reminder to myself of what used to be there, what took up so much of my attention and time. What I noticed after I had deleted Facebook, was that my brain had become so hardwired and conditioned to check Facebook that subconsciously I would try to open the app by tapping where the icon used to be on the screen, weeks after I had deleted it.
I Deleted It, What Now?
Well thankfully, I no longer find my thumb tapping away trying to get into the non existent Facebook app. But that’s not the only benefit to not being on social media. I used to think that there was never enough time to get things done. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A report by GWI suggests that the average internet user spends 142 minutes per day on social media and messaging platforms. Two hours and twenty-two minutes per day. Think about what we could all achieve with an extra two and a half hours a day. I’ll tell you what I did with my extra time:
- I started reading again. I love books, but I’d not picked one up in months. I also spent more time reading articles on Medium.
- I had more time to spend with the people I care about, and I try to make the most of the time as I’m no longer glued to my phone.
- I started writing again. It’s been a long time coming, but now I have the time to concentrate on something I’m truly passionate about.
- I started sleeping better. No more bright screens stopping me from falling asleep at night. I also started getting up earlier, because I was finally getting quality sleep.
- I use News apps to fill the void left by Facebook and have become more aware of current events as a result.
The list of things you could do with the time you no longer dedicate to social media is endless. Learn a new skill, train for a marathon, challenge yourself to do something you’ve never done before. Personally speaking, I’ve challenged myself to make time for writing or reading everyday. So far it’s going pretty well.
Things I Do Less Without Social Media
- Time wasting — It’s our most valuable resource. You have 86,400 seconds given to you every day. Don’t fritter them away. You can’t get them back.
- Waiting for ‘Likes’ — When you don’t post on social media, you don’t spend time worrying about how many ‘Likes’ your post got, or how many people commented, retweeted or shared. Craving for the satisfaction of a ‘Like’ or a retweet is destructive, and will make you feel worse when the notifications stop.
- Comparing my life — it’s easy to look at what people post online and feel bad, because maybe your friend has just bought a new house, or a new car, or just gotten married. Whatever it is, ignore it. To borrow a quote from The One Thing:
“Have you ever wondered why the characters in your favorite television show never use the restroom?”
The answer is that ordinary interactions and activities serve no purpose in the show’s narrative. The same is true for life. The power of social media is that we can create any narrative we want. We are the storytellers, we get to decide the parts of our lives we share with the world through social media, and the parts we keep to ourselves. People (myself included) are very quick to show the good, very few post the bad that comes along with it.
So, What Do I Think You Should Do?
If you made it this far, thank you. Chances are you’re someone who has struggled with the addiction of social media like I have. I hope my words have helped you see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not for one moment suggesting that everyone should immediately delete their Facebook. I have now reached a point where I felt I was able to reactivate my Facebook, which I now use purely to share my writing.
I’m sure many people have a completely healthy, non-addictive relationship with social media. I’m happy for you. But for those of you who know you spend too much time on your phones and not enough time talking to people in the real world, this is for you. If you constantly count the likes, struggle to sleep at night and check your phone before you say ‘Good Morning’ to your partner lying next to you in bed. This is for you.
Deactivate your Facebook. Log out of Twitter and Instagram. Try it for one week. A week is nothing. Make the most of the extra time you have and I guarantee you will not go back to it. You won’t miss it. How do I know? Because when you look back at your life, you won’t have fond memories of that one Facebook post you were so proud of that got 100 likes. You won’t remember the ‘Bad Luck Brian’ memes. You’ll look back at the things you always wanted to achieve but could never find the time. Challenges that you never set yourself, and the time you didn’t spend playing with your children, because you were too busy checking Facebook.
Jon Peters is a 28-year-old writer from the UK, who is unashamedly a fan of a certain band called One Direction. If you read this far, thank you! If you’d like to read more of my work, you can get to my profile super-quickly by clicking here.