Thoughts About Quitting Social Media
I quit Instagram and Facebook a few years ago. I can’t remember why, exactly, but it had to do with the realization that I was spending an hour a day on something that made me feel like crap. I’d put my son to bed and sit with my husband on the couch with the TV on, neither one of us talking, both scrolling Instagram. I hardly posted so I was consuming other people’s highlight reels day in and day out feeling bad about myself. Look at those people on that beautiful hike in the sunset! Here I am watching Dateline reruns and eating cereal when I should be in bed. But the badness was tricky, it wasn’t always super explicit. It manifested as mild discontent. And the addiction was tricky, too. I noticed myself needing a break at school and hopping on Instagram. Or going to the bathroom and scrolling. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
What I am trying to say is that I felt bad consuming and not creating. Comparing what people did in their lives with what I wasn’t doing in mine. Thinking of funny things to post and then not posting them for fear of judgment. Hating social media but still using social media. Feeling uncomfortable with the platform but still participating in the platform. There was a disconnect, a jagged edge, between what I wanted to do in my waking hours and what I was doing. What I wanted to do was something creative. What I was doing instead was consuming what other people created. And then judging myself and them for it.
If you’re reading this, you are also finding yourself uneasy with your social media use. Maybe it’s the time spent, or you don’t feel good during or after use, or you’re buying stuff because of the targeted ads. Whatever it is you feel like something needs to change and you aren’t sure what. Here’s what I'll tell you from the other side of social media - the world keeps turning when you quit. No one cares that I don’t have Instagram. People that I’ve lost touch with because I quit Instagram, I would've lost touch with anyways. Gravity still works, I have friends, and I’ve found other uses for my time. Does this make me superior? YES. Just kidding, it does not. It has become part of my identity, though. I am not a social media user. I am social media sober. Whatever. I can’t imagine going back because it’s been so integrated into my identity. And that, right there, I think, maybe, is the stuff of behavior change. Social media has lost its power because I am no longer a person that uses it.
A couple of caveats: I don’t have to use social media for my job; my family and friends live nearby so I don’t use social media to stay in touch with them; I’m not a member of a group that is looking for community online; I don’t have an hour commute on a subway to look at my phone. Etc etc. I have the privilege of leaving social media behind. Did quitting solve all my problems? No, it did not. But it did give me more space to figure out what those problems are instead of avoiding them.