I challenged myself to go a full year without social media in March 2021.
At the time, I was recovering from the brutality of the first full pandemic year with all the polarization and fear it brought from doomscrolling through newsfeeds. I found myself constantly consuming content I wasn’t seeking; scrolling endlessly throughout many moments of my day for something to spike my dopamine levels enough to evoke an emotion.
Then I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It’s an enlightening documentary about how social media is designed to hook and manipulate us. This made me contemplate all the effects it had on me. That’s when I knew I needed to take action.
Risks, benefits of going cold turkey
However, as someone who has been active on social media since the days of Myspace and who needs to stay updated on platforms for my career’s sake, I kept finding excuses to avoid limiting my social media use.
Finally, I decided — I’d go cold turkey. For a year.
I was expecting FOMO — Fear of Missing Out. I readied myself for anxiety from being away from constantly updating feeds. But I knew in the long run, it would be good for me.
And it was.
Stopping my social media consumption gave me back so much time for myself. It made me feel liberated. And, I can’t believe how much better it made me for my family’s sake.
During the first week, I noticed how my fingers would automatically click on the folder where my apps once were on my phone, only to not find any. Similarly, I found myself typing in facebook.com on my browser throughout many times of the day. I soon realized I didn’t know how to properly be bored anymore. Any chance I got, I was spending it on consuming content.
Sleep, independence, clear-headedness
Over time, I began to do more of the little things I enjoyed. I started doodling a lot more, reading in-depth articles on things I truly enjoyed and reading more books because I would scroll less in the mornings. My sleep is better probably due to the lack of blue light from my phone. I was enjoying and controlling more of my own time.
Another benefit for me was my sense of independence. Maybe it was the lack of unsolicited news content or an echo chamber of like-minded thinking, or even an urgency to send out virtue signaling, but I have never felt like such an independent thinker. I no longer feel aligned with any party or thought process. The decisions I made for myself and my family were truly mine. I felt free to have my own opinion, and since I can’t post, I don’t have to worry about sharing it with people that I otherwise wouldn’t be talking to on a day-to-day basis.
The adage that “ignorance is bliss” did play true here and, honestly, I really like this bubble I’ve created. It’s free of external judgment and I no longer seek virtual validation of my opinions.
With all these changes, my mind was also clearer. I was more intentional, and with that, a better person for my family. No longer did I ignore a beautiful moment when my daughter is dancing in front of me because I was busy reading an article or editing a picture. I took incredible in-the-moment pictures because I wasn’t worrying about how it would look when I posted them. My conversations with my wife were so much more creative, aspirational and exciting as we moved away from discussing current events and topical news. I felt much more present.
Stay without social media or return to the apps?
Even though I originally felt I wasn’t THAT MUCH engrained in social media, removing myself from it showed me just how much it was seeping its way through my life.
So what are my next steps? As much as I have enjoyed this journey, I don’t know if it’s sustainable for me.
One key thing that was missing was the sense of connection I felt with some people. Although much of the “social” part of social media has been lost, some people I connected with on social media were not people I could just call or text with. As much as I could say I didn’t need surface-level connections with people in that way, it wasn’t the case. I found myself wanting to know what was going on in their lives, their families and their adventures. I missed out on celebrating major life moments for others. Ironically, the motivation for self-improvement I received from some really inspiring people was also now missing in my life.
So now the hard part has come:
- How can I go back to social media without losing all the benefits I gained without it?
- How can I use it for the true social aspect without consuming it like I did before? Is that even possible?
- I loved how I have felt this past year, so have I really weighed the pros and cons of returning?
- In my field of work, it could be dangerous to not understand the social environments I can market in and how they evolve if I am not a consumer of them. But is that enough of a compelling reason to return?
It’s difficult. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Because of that, I’m figuring out just how I will return and to what extent. One thing I do know, though. I need to find the tools and put the parameters in place now to allow me to use these platforms differently than I had before.
Or maybe I’ll just stick to this blissful bubble. I kind of can’t wait until I run into someone I haven’t seen in years and really mean it when I say, “Let’s catch up.