The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that my social media channels have been quiet this past week. No, I didn’t break my phone (again). I consciously chose to ignore social media for a week.
Perhaps I should explain why.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of articles popping up online about how Facebook is losing popularity. And how it and other social media platforms use tricks to get us addicted to them. For example, I was reading an article on The Guardian this week that stated the following quote from billionaire and philanthropist, George Soros.
“In addition to skewing democracy, social media companies “deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes” and “deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide”. The latter, he said, “can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents”.”
It wasn’t the first article I’d read on the topic. So I decided see what life is like in the modern world without social media, and just how ‘addicted’ I am to it.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t very much.
Here’s what I learnt.
You should probably tell people you’re doing it
So the first thing that happened on the day I gave up social media (I gave it up around 3pm on Tuesday the 23rd of January), was that someone from work commented on one of my statuses.
Of course, I immediately assumed it would be a very important message, and that if I didn’t respond right away they would think I was a giant arsehole. I even considered asking Pete to check it for me via his account, but that felt like cheating.
And then I realised if it was REALLY important, then they’d probably come up to me and say something. And they didn’t. So that was that.
Secondly, my mum sent me a sloth meme via Messenger (my ban didn’t extend to this). Now I love a meme as much as the next guy, but I couldn’t see the text so I clicked it and seconds later there I was on Facebook, pressing the back key in a panic. So first lesson. TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU’RE DOING.
It can be awkward… at first
The first thing I did on the eve of giving up social media is go to Nandos with my fiance. A lovely night, let me assure you. But there’s always that awkward moment in Nandos when someone goes to order the food, and you’re left sitting there not really knowing where to look.
I tried to play Disney Emoji on my phone, but I didn’t have enough internet signal to do so. So I put my phone away and looked around – specifically at the two men eating chicken burgers in front of me. Then that got weird so I did the only other thing I could think to do – I stared at a fake plant until my fiance returned.
It was a weird moment. But then we ate out on Sunday. And this time when I was left alone at the table I didn’t feel so awkward not having my phone as an anti-social safeguard.
Granted, there were less people in my eyeline. But I was quite happy looking around.
Push notifications are the devil
I kept accidentally opening the apps at first – and this was due to push notifications. It was during that time that I realised how bloody annoying they are. They tell me a random celebrity has posted on Twitter, they tell me it’s a guy’s birthday from high school that I haven’t spoken to for 11 years, they tell me to look back at my memories and all I see is myself having more fun than I am in the present moment. They tell me someone’s live streaming, too. They tell me A LOT. And I could not give less of a shit.
So since getting access back, I have blocked push notifications across all apps. Peace and quiet.
I’m not addicted to social media
I think one of the key things I drew from this experiment is that I’m not addicted to social media. I read an article that said these platforms keep us coming back for more by causing our bodies to release dopamine when we get ‘likes’ and ‘comments’.
But I found I didn’t miss the ‘likes’, and that the times I reached for my phone were for lack of better things to do. I didn’t actually go on them to avoid doing other things. It might be an issue for some people, but its not for me. I use social media to fill in the gaps in life. Which, granted, might come with its own problems. But tbh, I’m OK with it.
‘Perfect’ social media influencers have GOT to go
I missed going on Instagram to edit photos, and I missed going on Pinterest to pin things I like. But beyond that, I didn’t miss anything else. And least of all, I did not miss social media influencers. In fact, gaining a little distance actually highlighted how annoying all their perfect, staged shots are actually and that they do nothing to enrich my life. So I decided to unfollow accounts that made me feel like that.
I’m feeling better already.
Certain platforms help me mentally
We all need a little mental support sometimes whether we like to admit it or not. And when I’m down or stressed or need a pick-me-up – I head over to Pinterest.
That, for me, was the biggest hole in my life from this experiment. OF ALL THINGS. Pinterest!
I didn’t expect it. I didn’t even know it meant so much. But I love pinning quotes that pick me up when I feel down or anxious or stressed, and I love seeing fan art of my favourite characters and also pictures of cute animals.
I am mighty glad to have it back – and I won’t be taking it for granted again!
However… going back to certain social media platforms didn’t improve my mood
The first thing I did when I got social media back was check my Facebook comment from the colleague I mentioned earlier. It was fine and a nice comment, so I liked it.
Secondly, I loaded up Instagram. The first thing I saw was news of first born babies, pictures of happy families and people buying houses.
Now I hadn’t had the best of days. And seeing everyone else happy and succeeding only proceeded to make me feel shitter.
So I unfollowed those kinds of accounts too, and I’ve decided to find different types to follow – especially on Instagram – where I can see amazing scenery/art/quotes and the like.
I want to fill my day with positivity!
Social media isn’t evil. It just isn’t.
For me, it enriches perhaps more than it harms – and whether Facebook and co. were being malicious when they tried to get us all addicted is another point. Perhaps they were just aiming for success and didn’t spare a thought for what it might be doing to their users.
A world without social media right now might feel scary or alien, and I get that. But why not try it for a bit and see how you get on?
Like me, you might be able to identify which parts of it enhance your life – and which parts don’t. Only then can you adjust it to work the way you want it to and ensure that it adds something to your day rather than sucking out your soul.