In many ways, I am an individual of extremes. For better or worse, I tend to be all in or all out when it comes to many of life’s facets. Just ask the guy I briefly saw before finding out he supported Trump. But to my great satisfaction, social media somewhat unintentionally wound up on the chopping block during this new, clearer and arguably better phase of my life.
I will preface this little tale by acknowledging that I am fully aware this subject can come across as extremely self-righteous and preachy. I’m not trying to have that effect here; I’m just aiming to share my experience and also make sense of it all in my own head. I read a lot of these types of reflections when I started contemplating my digital deletion. But if you’re that offended by what I have to say … well, you can post your thoughts on my Facebook wall or tweet to me about it. ;)
I grew up with social media; I can’t say I didn’t. Before it was Facebook it was Tagged and MyYearbook (now known as MeetMe), which my friends and I mainly used as a portal to talk to strangers outside of our sheltered 13-year-old lives, mess around with cute themes and backgrounds, peruse the earliest forms of memes, and just engage in general internet shenanigans.
By the time I hit high school, though, Facebook was beginning to emerge as the all-encompassing digital world it is today. I was slow to the game in certain ways – I didn’t hop on the smartphone bandwagon until halfway through college. But I certainly did latch onto social media as a way of life, if you will — posting, liking and scrolling my days away.
At several points in my young adult life, I’ve tried consciously to quit social media — or at least severely cut down time spent on it. Even before I got that smartphone, it was borderline impossible for me; addiction had taken its nasty hold. By the time I got that new phone, I was done for. I had finally begun to understand (or so I thought) the enigma that is Twitter. I kept getting Snapchat and Instagram confused but by golly, I felt that earth-crushing importance of using them or else face the dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out, of course). By the time I reached my final year of college, my real-life friends actually called me “Hollywood” because I was on my goddamn phone that much. I won’t lie, folks — that thought really makes me cringe.
Much to my dismay, there are actually events in my life I can look back on and see more than anything else the sheer amount of time I spent glued to my phone or computer feeding that compulsive urge — whether it was to scroll, capture, stay connected or whatever else.
Life is simply too short to feel like a slave to something like that.
When I quit my second job working in the media (this time heavily on social media) to become a flight attendant, I obviously knew this was going to be a completely different way of life in nearly every aspect. Airplane mode is good for you. And even without thinking about it that much, I began pulling away from my online life … “looking up” so to say. It started with less of an urge to log into or keep up with anything, transitioned to the removal of apps from my phone (if you’re trying to cut down time spent on social media, this will do most of the job for you), and then finally ended in the detachment that allowed me to actually delete all of my accounts right before the start of 2018.
To give you a sense of what a process it’s been, I started writing this post seven months ago. At that point, I had experimented with deactivating my accounts but hadn’t actually gotten to the deletion stage quite yet. Now I’ve spent months wiped from all forms of social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — and I can’t honestly say I miss any part of it.
Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic to you — after all, it is just social media, right? But I’d argue that it’s way, way more than that. It’s a constant time suck, for one. Nothing you devote that much of your waking hours to, whether you’re actually posting or just snooping, is really that benign. I quit social media to get my time back.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’ve done amazing things with that time. I haven’t learned a new language, perfected a flight attendant side hustle or vastly improved my culinary skills. But I have read more books than in the past few years combined, felt more present than ever in my daily life, enjoyed added privacy, accepted my slightly introverted ways, and have at least attempted to get better at directly staying in touch with the people I care about. I’m also, if I do say so myself, more comfortable in quiet contemplation than ever before. I’m detached from my phone to the point that, much to my boyfriend’s dismay, I sometimes forget it when I leave the house.
And what I haven’t done? Rolled out of bed to immediately and repeatedly check notifications before even scrubbing the death-like taste of sleep from my mouth, read my news in the form of clickbait, fed the endless scroll of a digital junkie, compared myself to anyone else based on a job announcement post, gotten 50 photos in on that one chick from that one group project’s best friend’s ex’s neighbor’s wedding album, or carried a popularity contest in my pocket.
Now. Ready for the part that sounds real dramatic?
If there is one single action I have taken in my life that’s made me a better version of myself, I truly, wholeheartedly believe it has been obliterating my social media presence.
In one fell swoop, I was free.
I’m sure there are people hiding out there who are perfectly reasonable social media users and only check it sporadically, are unaffected by FOMO or jealousy, don’t torture themselves by lurking where they shouldn’t, don’t feel a pang of hurt when there are no likes to be had, and don’t ride the dopamine high after really killing it with a funny or meaningful post. I just haven’t met them yet.
But me? I have an addictive tendency to begin with. Just ask Mountain Dew or my dead Tinder account. For me, a life without the pressure to have an online highlight reel of my human experience feels a hell of a lot lighter.
And plus, vanishing is kind of my thing. I left my hometown. I left my home state. I left Gillette and my newspaper job. I left Iowa and the job that takes a lot of credit for my overall disdain for social media. To stay constantly connected kind of defeats of the purpose and beauty of a fresh start, doesn’t it?
Maybe I’m starting to sound like a monster. Do I mind staying in touch? Of course not! I probably should include more people in my circle of phone calls and occasional text messages. But moving on is healthy, and on the off chance I do run into someone from my past — well, my disappearance from social media will mean we’ll actually have some catching up to do … not just a string of, “Oh yeah, I saw that on Facebook!”
I suppose overall I’ve just reached a level of giving fewer fucks, reserving my fucks to go where they rightly deserve.
I’m not interested in keeping tabs on people in such a passive way. As far as my own life goes, I’d rather be an active participant than get caught up in the perfect Instagram live or whatever the kids are doing now. If someone’s curious enough about what I’m up to, odds are we’re close enough that they have my number. If not, I’m sure I’m still easy enough to find.
Wanna know another fun factoid about quitting social media? No one notices. Well, perhaps a few people, but you almost certainly will not get hit with a flood of concern for your well-being. In case you’re wondering, an old co-worker noticed first and inquired if I had been taken (you know, like the movie — it’s nice to know I have people in my corner who are willing to go Liam Neeson), my mom noticed a few months later and one of my closest friends a few months after that. I went home recently and got a few questions about my reasoning, but that’s all, folks. Social media doesn’t miss me and I don’t miss it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do miss out on some things. I had to hear about the yodeling Walmart kid through word of mouth, but I think I can get through that. You go, little man! I know, I know. Social media has plenty of upsides. I just can’t think of any. Just kidding, I can — they’re just not worth the trade-off for me.
Will anyone read this without a Facebook post, tweet or Instagram pimping? We’ll see, but what would actually be sad is if I only wrote for the posts, clicks and shares. That’s not why I write and it never will be. I write for me, but hey — I do put it on the internet like this, so people might just find it! Maybe they’ll like it and maybe not. But if they don’t, I’m pretty sure they can figure out how to leave. Unless their computer gets frozen on this page, which would be pretty funny.
I don’t hate you if you’re on social media, you’re not evil and you’re probably pretty neat. If you’re on the fence about quitting it, though, I do hope this helped in some way. If not, I hope it at least entertained you for a wee bit.
Until next time —
Peace, love & fairy dust,