This post has been months in the making and at long last, I finally feel like I can write it. I never thought I would quit social media, until one day I just did.
Way back in February I wrote this post about my relationship with social media. It was something I had been reflecting on for awhile, and while it felt cathartic to put those thoughts into words, deep down I knew that words would never be enough. I needed to take action.
One morning in early March, I made the intentional decision not to check my social media immediately upon waking up. This seemed like a good first step. As the morning progressed, I continued to resist perusing the feeds and decided to have a little browse on YouTube instead. I was searching for answers.
After watching a few different videos about social media and how to manage it, I stumbled upon this video by Matt D’Avella, in which he describes his experience with quitting social media for 30 days. My initial thoughts when watching this video was “man I really don’t want to do that, there’s got to be something else I can try. Anything but that.” That gut-instinct reaction was the primary reason I decided to undertake this social media detox. I figured such a strong emotional response was a pretty big indicator of my addiction and immediate action was required on my end. I had to go cold turkey.
The benefits of the detox were immediate, and in the days that followed I felt more clear headed than I had in a long time. Not to say that the adjustment wasn’t challenging, because it definitely was. I felt myself gravitating towards my phone constantly, unlocking it before my mind even had a chance to catch up with what my body was doing.
I had to teach myself how to just be. Just be in a moment without reading something or browsing through my Instagram stories. Be in a waiting room or wait in a long queue at the supermarket. People watch at the park, taking in the interactions of the people around me. Pick up on social queues. You know, be completely authentically human, instead of a mindless zombie. Moments of quiet play at home with Evie were particularly confronting, realising that I was so often not present with her in the past was profoundly disappointing and as a fairly new parent, I really felt the impact of that.
As I started to adjust to this new, simplified way of life, that’s when the fear started to sink in. I assumed my return to social media was inevitable and I was genuinely concerned about going back. I didn’t have enough faith in myself that I would be able to change my habits when it came to both how I was using social media and the length of time I was spending on it. Like a diet or “lifestyle” change, after a few solid weeks of healthy eating and exercise, I was worried I would slip back into my old habits.
As the end of my detox was fast approaching, I made the decision to extend it. By how long, I still wasn’t sure. Even after 30 days without social media, my fingers were still gravitating towards the empty buttons of the app icons on my phone. I needed more time. I wanted the benefits of the detox to be noticeable and long lasting and I was doubtful I’d be able to control myself if I went back too soon. In addition to all of these things, mentally I just didn’t feel ready to go back. I was enjoying the break my brain was having from processing so much useless information, it felt like a holiday for my mind and I wanted to stay on the island a little longer.
As March turned into April I became even more accustomed to life without social media. That’s when I started thinking about how I could control it, because I was obviously going to go back. I wasn’t going to quit social media for good, that just wasn’t in the realm of possibilities.
I experimented with a few different ideas for managing it. Not having the apps on my phone and only using social media on my desktop computer was one. Another idea I had was only using social media at certain times of the day. During Evie’s nap and/or after she’d gone to bed for the night. Or just limiting myself to a set amount of time a day, such as one hour. All of these ideas seemed tangible but something kept eating away at me. It was that niggling little thought that I wouldn’t be able to control myself.
Much like how I am with an open packet of Doritos, try as I might to only have a handful or two, I inevitably end up eating the whole bag. The best solution for me is to not open the bag at all. As extreme as this behaviour can be at times, unfortunately it’s just how I’m wired. It’s easier for me to be all or nothing than have balance. Learning how to achieve balance is something I’m still working on…
As I neared the 7 week mark of my social media detox, I came to the stark realisation that I wasn’t going to go back. It started as a fantasy, something that seemed far too idealistic to become a reality. How could I possibly exist in the world without sharing my life on the internet in real time? How could I retain relationships with people? Would they forget about my existence? How would I know what was going on in everybody’s lives? There were so many unknowns.
The day that Jordan left for his 2 month course in Victoria was the day that I decided to cut the cord completely and delete my social media accounts. I knew the adrenaline rush of clicking delete would be short lived and it definitely was. I still remember the feeling though, it was a very liberating moment.
If you’re wondering how to delete your social media accounts, it’s actually very hard. There are so many hidden menus you have to navigate and you are constantly bombarded with “are you sure you want to do this” prompts. It honestly almost felt like I was playing a video game. And the creators of said video game reeeeally didn’t want me to stop playing. It put things into perspective for me even more so and reaffirmed my understanding that social media is designed to be addictive, wired much like a slot machine and something I no longer wanted to contribute to.
WHY I QUIT SOCIAL MEDIA
So apart from not being able to control my use of it, why exactly did I quit social media? Well friend, for a multitude of reasons. The first being that I wanted to gain some perspective on my relationships, without the aid of story views, Instagram likes and happy birthday’s written on my Facebook timeline.
I had a really good conversation with a friend during my social media detox who explained to me that relationships don’t progress through interactions on social media, not truly. The best way to be in relationship with someone is to to talk to them. Like really talk to them. It made me think a lot about the parasocial relationships I have developed with people, particularly bloggers and influencers I have discovered on the ‘gram. I feel like I really know so many of these women, yet I have never met them or even spoken to them. Why am I so invested in people I don’t even know? And wouldn’t it make more sense to instead channel the energy I use consuming their content to actually put in the work with my real friends?
When it comes to relationships, there’s only so many close ones we can maintain at a time. I think most people can attest to feeling like they have a lot of friends and acquaintances but only a handful of close ones and I think that’s a pretty realistic representation of what human relationships are like. It’s hard to maintain a lot of close friendships at once, particularly if you have a family of your own to care for as well. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have a small circle, as long as you are truly investing in those people. Leaving social media prompted me to be a better friend. It also made it clear which friendships of mine are perhaps only surface level observational ones, nurtured solely by love hearts and double taps. Real relationship growth comes from real communication, which mostly takes place outside of the algorithm.
When I contemplated leaving social media for good, missing out on seeing what everyone was doing was one of the things I struggled with the most. From influencers I took an interest in, to casual acquaintances and then of course, my actual friends. It took a few weeks away from social media to understand that my real friends will always share the important things that are going on in their lives with me. In the time that I have been off social media, I haven’t missed anything important that hasn’t been relayed to me by my friends and family.
The only things I’ve missed are things that aren’t absolutely necessary for me to know. Things that often make me start to compare my life with others and make me feel like I’m not doing enough. As a stay-at-home mum, I’m already very aware of how vastly different my life has become since having Evie. I don’t need real-time reminders of the evenings out I can no longer have or the uninterrupted brunches with friends that have become a lot more scarce these days. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely content with my life. I am still human and sinful though and my use of social media encouraged a lot of toxic thoughts to enter my mind. Allowing those thoughts to live rent-free in my head ultimately had an impact on how I was interacting with those around me. Particularly Jordan, as he was on the constant receiving end of many rants and tangents I would go on as a result of spending so much time living in my phone.
You may be wondering what would trigger these rants? A multitude of things really, but the big ticket items were seeing people spread their misinformed political opinions on Instagram and Facebook, demonstrations of what I consider to be bad parenting and the huge quantity of self-obsessed content, a side affect of the recent influx of “influencing” which has seemingly taken over the entire internet. As much as scrolling social media made me feel bad about myself and angry at the world, I couldn’t stop consuming it. I was addicted to hating it. In fact, I would actively seek out content to hate at times. How messed up is that?
As far as self-obsessed content goes, I am the first to admit that when I was actively using social media, the majority of the content I shared was self-involved. When I found myself stressing about how much content I was sharing and if my life looked interesting enough to share, that’s when I realised I had a serious problem. I’ve never been one to shy away from sharing things about my life online – you may have noticed this blog has quite a few years worth of content on it now – but when I was using social media, particularly Instagram, I felt this enormous pressure to produce content all the time. To stay relevant. And I guess, without actively using Instagram and Facebook to advertise my life, I felt like no one would ever read my blog.
Why I started my blog in the first place is something I touched on in this post but at the heart of it, I simply wanted a place to document things that inspired me. As my blog expanded, so too did my desire to document parts of my life. The key word being parts. And honestly, this blog has always primarily been a creative outlet for me, I’ve never wanted it to be a business and I’ve never been able to conform to the structure that successful monetized blogs adhere to. That would take the fun out of it for me.
I love that so much of my life has been recorded here, it’s like an online diary and I adore flicking through its pages, reminiscing on the times in my life that have passed. Maybe blogs are a little out-dated and maybe nobody reads them anymore, but this is my very own online nesting place. It feels so good to get back to basics and just have one place where I put things, without any pressure to update daily. It’s not the end of the world if only my mum reads it.
HOW I QUIT SOCIA MEDIA
I respect that not everyone’s experience with social media is the same as mine and a lot of people are able to have healthy relationships with it. If you are wondering how to quit social media though, or even if you just want to try a detox, here is how I did it.
The first to go was Facebook, which gives you the option to deactivate your account for a set amount of time, or when you next decide to log in. If you want to permanently delete your account, Facebook gives you 30 days to change your mind before deletion officially takes place. Facebook also gives you an option to download all your data from your account, which is great if you are a sucker for nostalgia like me.
The only downside with permanently deleting your Facebook account is that you can’t use messenger. As messenger is something I use quite frequently, I opted to delete my old account and create a new one with nothing on it. This new account is deactivated (so I don’t get tempted to scroll my newsfeed constantly) but thankfully you can still use messenger with a deactivated account. Click here for a detailed guide, because I’m telling you, they do not make it easy…
I deleted Instagram next and it works pretty much the same way Facebook does. You also have the option to download your data, which I really appreciate. Click here for more information on deleting your Instagram. After Insta came Twitter which yet again follows the same format as the previous two, except you have to submit a request to download your data from them. Click here for more information on deleting your Twitter.
I didn’t delete my SnapChat account straight away because I don’t really use it all that often. In saying that though, I figured I might as well get rid of it, keeping in the spirit of things. Click here for more information on deleting your SnapChat.
The only social media accounts I use now are Pinterest and YouTube, neither of which I really use to socialise on. If my use of either of them was to ever become a problem though, they too would be getting the boot.
I’ve been off social media for nearly 4 months now and as more time passes, the easier it’s become. Not to say I don’t still struggle with not having it, because I definitely have my days. Especially when I’m feeling sad, like a bucket of ice cream, sometimes I think social media can give me the comfort I’m looking for. I’ve been off it long enough now though, to know however, that is not the case.
Making the decision to quit social media is not an easy one and in my case it took a lot of soul searching and months of contemplation. For a lot of people social media is a means in which to stay in touch with loved ones who live far away. This is particularly important during these unprecedented times we are living in and I in no way wish to discount that.
Others use social media for their businesses and to promote their work. To stay updated on current events and read commentary from real people about what they think of the state of the world. To network and find out information about things in their local area, to buy and sell, to find events. Oh my goodness there are so many good things about social media! It is such a powerful tool!
But with every powerful tool comes a pendulum swing, and if it swings too far the wrong way the results can be disastrous. So while I’m not going to end this post by saying you should quit social media, I will say that if anything resonates with you in this post, I sincerely hope you consider it. And while you’re at it, start a blog! They really are a much better alternative to selling your personal information to a website that will funnel it directly into advertising. Just a thought.
I’d love to know what your thoughts are and if you would ever quit social media. Let me know in the comments below!
Images via Ingrid Goes West