I used to wonder how people could leave social media once they’d become frequently involved in it. What if their friends tried to contact them and they missed the message? What if their friends went through a big situation (good or bad) and they didn’t know to address it the next time they saw them? What if they were invited to something and didn’t know it – leaving them to obliviously blow off an important gathering?
After faithfully being on social media (mostly Facebook) for over a decade, I found myself wanting to take a break. I tried several times to take a week off. The first time I was so sick of people posting negative or self-absorbed things that I kept unfollowing people until I finally logged off for awhile. The second time I was feeling down from comparing my life to all the picture-perfect lives everyone else was posting. The third time I found myself getting caught up in how few likes things I’d posted had received, and took things down because not enough people hit “like”. The fourth time, this past time, it was a culmination of all three, and I’ve been off for the past three months. We’re talking cold-turkey-not-one-slip-up off for three months.
Here’s what I’ve learned during my time “away”:
- People didn’t care. I don’t mean that in a depressing way. I mean, no one really noticed – causing no problematic side effects between me and my friends. Probably four people over three months made a comment in passing that they noticed I hadn’t been posting as much or hadn’t responded to a message they’d sent, but none of them made the connection that I’d been COMPLETELY off.
- I still got invited to things. People that wanted me at events used email or text to make sure I knew about it. If they didn’t take the time to make sure I received the invite in some form, they were indifferent about me coming to it (which means I didn’t need to go anyways).
- I only heard the big stuff. Whether it was something huge happening to a close friend or something important happening in the world, I would still find out about it from family and friends or the news. I was free from being alerted about so-and-so’s new purse and Mr. Nobody’s latest political rant, and was only notified about the important things.
- People enjoyed talking to me more. Because I wasn’t online, I’d initially miss the latest meme, viral video or announcement from our friends. People got the joy of being the first one to show or tell me in-person about the most funny or exciting things going on.
- I started reading. Whether it was articles or books, I found myself learning more valuable things than filling my head with fluff from social media land. My views on myself and those around me changed because I was finally reading things that were well-written and researched.
- I got to be in the moment. Before my social media break, I would find myself taking pictures of “important things” (meals, dates, places) and using WAY too much time at the location trying to get just the right angle, filter and caption – causing me to miss out on the moment. Now that I’m on this break, I rarely take pictures of things. When I do, I just text the picture to people I think would appreciate it or keep the picture in my phone for the sake of the memory.
- Other people picked up my social media “slack”. Because social media is an effective way of communication and celebration, there were some things that people handled for me once I went offline. Whether it was my husband posting a picture of us online to celebrate Valentine’s Day or my friends taking over a Facebook group I used to manage, nothing fell through the cracks socially or practically online. Plus, offline, I was still able to tell my husband what a wonderful valentine he is (without announcing it to the world) and I was still able to communicate to the members of my Facebook group by text or face-to-face as needed.
- I found out how I really felt about things. As I began to detox from the routine of evaluating the number of likes on my posts, the context of the comments below them, wondering if people could see weight gain in my pictures and trying to figure out why I wasn’t invited to certain things that people posted about, I started to realize how far I’d fallen from how I really feel about myself and others. Now, if I think something is pretty, what matters is that I think it’s pretty. The opinion of others isn’t even considered because I haven’t posted a picture of it for them to evaluate it. If I think someone is a good friend, I simply think he/she’s a good friend, and don’t need to wonder why he/she didn’t like my post or invite me to a hangout.
In short, the world didn’t end and I chilled out. I’m less stressed, still informed and have a much more accurate view of who I am. How long will this break last? I don’t know. What matters is that it doesn’t matter.