My mom always hated social media. My bother and I always made fun of her because she was always late to all the news. Her main reason against social media was “why would I want everyone to know what I’m doing? And why should I care what they are doing?”. I didn’t understand at the time, but now I do.
I remember when I was 13 years old social media started ramping up. I created a MySpace account to go with the flow. I won’t lie, I liked MySpace a lot: creating a website that “defined me”, sharing my music, posting funny pictures and checking my friends’ profiles. It all seemed pretty cool and innovative.
Then it came to Facebook, where you couldn’t create your own site or share music players like in MySpace, but you had a wall and your friends could leave messages on your wall! How cool was that? You could share pictures, thoughts, opinions, and your friends didn’t have to go to your profile to check it out: Facebook had a feed with all your friends’ posts, so there was no need to visit their profile just to see what they were doing. It sounded very cool at the moment!
After that, Twitter. Microblogging, 140 chars max (now its 280 chars, double of what it was before), interactions with people all around the internet, you didn’t need be friends with someone to send them a tweet or a private message. Discussions, threads, memes…
Instagram. Sharing pictures, stories, following my friends to see their travels, following superstars to see their perfect lifes, ads, paid content.
Now that I know all of this, why would I want to be part of something that could make me feel anxiety, depression and have self-esteem issues? That was the question I made to myself around 6 months ago. I consider myself an exaggerated person, so I went full in. The goal was to stop using all social media for 1 month and see the results. So here are my thoughts about the experiment
I feel more relaxed
I don’t have the need to open my phone when I’m at a bus stop or just doing nothing. I don’t care what my friends are posting, I don’t care if an influencer bought ‘x’ thing or traveled to ‘y’ place. Before leaving social media, those things had little impact on me and my daily life, so why should I care?
I have more free time, or time to do more productive stuff
The first week I realized how much time I was wasting using social media, I was wasting between 3 to 4 hours a day in social media, but now I have that time for myself. Now I have built a server for my apartment, I have improved my programming, updated my website, updated and improved my working PC and many other things.
I can appreciate things a lot more
This decision came at the same time as I had to migrate from Venezuela to Uruguay. So, being in a new country I wanted to visit a lot of new places. I went to museums, parks, beaches (in winter, a bit dumb), monuments and many other touristic attractions. It is funny how I was one of the few that enjoyed the moment instead of being neck-deep in my phone. I was free to enjoy the new city I live in.
My “reach to my pocket for my phone” tick stopped
I wasn’t checking my phone as much as before. I could meet and talk to people without my phone being on the table, and I also realized how rude it is to be ignored because everyone at the table is checking Instagram on their phones.
But all of this wasn’t always pretty
I had to make a lot of changes because I depended on social media for many other things:
- I installed a Feed aggregator on my PC and added sources for all news I want to watch (and also memes lol). I try to keep it with as few sources as possible, when I see news repeating, I delete the least interesting source. The main difference is that feed aggregators have endings. I check it once a day and never spend more than 10 mins on it.
- My girlfriend now has to find all the “Instagram business”. Being foreigners on a strange land we sometimes need supplies from home. We have found a few by word of mouth, but we had to resource back to Instagram and check with groups of local Venezuelans.
- I have missed some family pictures, but that is easily fixable. My new cousin was born a month ago, and since I don’t use any type of social media, I asked my uncle to send me some pictures and I now have a bunch of pictures of the baby, my other cousins, and more family members. Now they even send me pictures without me asking! The conversations have become more intimate than before, where I would just swipe on a feed and “double-tap” to like.
My mom was right, as always. The information overload was fun at first, but then it became overwhelming. Social media has entered our society as a spy and made us dependent on it, and that’s bad. We need to get rid of it.
This experiment started in November 2019 and I can happily say that I left social media for 1 month and never went back. I want to close my Facebook / Instagram accounts (I need to backup my content first) and leave Twitter / LinkedIn because I sometimes use it for work.
I now recommend everyone I know to shut down everything for a while and see how it feels. They might find out that there is a big world out there if they just move their head up and away from their phones.