Lessons from Leaving Social Media

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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”:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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9 responses to “Lessons from Leaving Social Media

  1. I really enjoyed reading this and am so happy for your fresh perspective on social media. Even though this (blogging and reading other blogs) is a form of social media, I find that it is easier to get behind because you can really speak about the deeper things that lie at the core of yourself.. at least I find that I can. I struggled with what I would call a total facebook addiction for the better part of a decade.

    March of last year, since they would no longer allow you to deactivate your account without it automatically coming back, I deleted my account, probably for the third time, and haven’t been back. I found that it added so much unnecessary anxiety to my life. Not only that, temptations that I didn’t need. So I quit! I wish I could say that once choice made all the difference and my life is so much better now, but life doesn’t really work that way. People weren’t happy all the time before social media so why would I be happy just on the basis of its absence? However, I do find that I am more mindful now.

    I still have an instagram account and I have noticed that lately I am starting to check it obsessively just like I did the FB account. SO, I will probably delete the app from my phone again. I don’t understand why I am like this, an addict mindset with everything. It’s either totally obsessed or utterly disinterested. I can’t merely limit myself, I have to go cold turkey.

    Best wishes on this time off. I hope you continue to find the kind of epiphanies you have already found and written about in this article. May you be present minded enough to notice the good things about not being on it and if the decision is right for you, make it a permanent one. If not, if you have the ability to control yourself that I know for a fact I do not, then may you find a balance that you can live with. 🙂
    I hope you will keep writing! I enjoy your perspectives and your writing style.

    • Hi! I can totally relate to the obsessive checking of social media. I’m glad I can encourage you that it IS possible to take a break even after being SUPER addicted to it. 🙂

      I look forward to reading your blogs as well. It’s great we can relate on so many things. I saw in your bio that you’re INFP. I’m really into learning about personalities too. I’m ISFJ.

      If you haven’t checked it out already, you may like 16personalities.com. It gives a title to every personality type. Below is what it said about yours. It sounds like you have a very creative and thoughtful personality. 🙂

      “Few personality types are as poetic and kind-hearted as Mediators. Their altruism and vivid imagination allow Mediators to overcome many challenging obstacles, more often than not brightening the lives of those around them. Mediators’ creativity is invaluable in many areas, including their own personal growth.”

  2. I’ve been waiting for this, an article, book, something. I’m so happy for you, but mostly for me. I can’t wait to read more from this tower of chocolate wisdom.
    Seriously excited!

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