A year ago this month I made the erratic decision to quit social media; a decision not made lightly, but inspired by a multitude of factors.
I originally entitled this article, “Five Reasons to Ditch Social Media” but I quickly changed my mind. The point of this article is not to push my radical views onto you but rather to provide you with insight into how being social media free has benefited me. And I only realized the extent to which I’ve benefited when it hit me last week that my seemingly innocuous experiment of being social media free has actually transpired into something more permanent.
I’m also here to combat your fears, the very same ones I faced when I left social media behind. As crazy as it sounds, when push comes to shove, ditching social media is not as easy as it sounds. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but society as a collective whole has grown social media and technology dependent. And please do not sit there and tell me that you’re immune to social media’s magical, entrancing powers when you’re equally as likely to one minute be on Instagram liking a picture of your friend’s night at the bar to somehow watching a video of turtles racing.
So without further adieu, let me answer the most commonly asked questions pertaining to being social media free in the most brutal and honest way I can.
Q: In a nutshell, why did you get rid of social media?
A: You know when you’re lying in bed, falling asleep and all of a sudden you hear the buzz of a fly whizzing around your bedroom swooping close to your ear every few seconds? That feeling of annoyance accurately captures the emotions social media conjured for me weeks prior to my decision to go social media silent. And before you ask the follow-up question of “if you found social media that annoying, why didn’t you just delete the “flies” off social media to make it more enjoyable?” Honestly, looking back that probably would have made the most sense. But in the moment, the process of rationalizing who to keep in my digital network seemed like an exhausting process. My quick fix solution was to shut everything down altogether as to eliminate all those pesky flies from my life in one, fell fly-swatter swoop.
Q: Did you get rid of social media all at once or little by little?
A: I ditched social media all at once, cold turkey style. I’m not suggesting all or nothing is the best route for everyone, but that’s the route I chose because that’s just the type of person I am. I decided that if I’m going to disengage from social media I was all in. But saying that, if little by little is more your style then all the power to you. My only caution to you is that social media is like sugar – the only way to completely get over sugar dependence and cravings is to rid yourself of it altogether. However, I’m not going to leave out the fact that it was only in December 2016, that I actually permanently deleted all my accounts – up until then I had simply chosen to disable them. Disabling my accounts felt less daunting, and less permanent, which added a level of reassurance to my decision.
Q: Didn’t you get bombarded with a ton of questions about why you got rid of social media?
A: Yes, yes I did. I will admit I still seem to get a few shocked reactions when I tell others that I don’t exist on social media. It was interesting however to note who bombarded me with questions about why I wasn’t on social media anymore. I didn’t let anyone know I was deleting social media before or after I deleted it other than a few close friends, my family, and my boyfriend at the time. But let me tell you if you want to figure out who your true friends are, take a cue from my experience. Days and weeks following my social media deletion, I had friends text me, reach out to me in person, and even email me to see where I’d went. I even had a few friends, who I didn’t correspond with via text, get a hold of my cell phone number to ask why I’d dropped off the social media sphere. This was truly a test of friendship.
When making the decision to delete my social media I had the support from those closest to me which really made the world of a difference. I know I may sound overdramatic as its “just social media”, but it was a huge decision – I mean could I even call myself a millennial without instagraming or tweeting about my every experience? When you spend a majority of your life on social media to the point where your identity becomes defined by and intertwined with social media, ridding yourself of these social media platforms does initially feel like a hit to your personal and individualistic identity and expression.
Q: But how do you stay in touch with your friends?
A: I love this question because first, let’s define the term “friend” and state that it’s thrown around way too lightly. For me, I was at the point where my social networks had grown to such an overwhelming number that between dog videos (which I love) to friends’ party pictures it was hard to distinguish between what stimuli deserved my attention. Here at Simple Money Solutions, we are advocates for minimalism, and as harsh as this may sound, I truly believe that this concept applies to your friend networks. Deleting social media was a simple way to quickly and easily streamline my social networks. I could have easily gone through my friend list, one-by-one contemplating whether each individual added value to my social media life. Rationalizing whether to keep each individual person would have been a tedious process. However, by deleting social media it quickly allowed me to identify those whom I made an effort to communicate with them and those who made an effort to communicate with me, eliminating the process of picking and choosing who made the friend list cut.
Q: Do you feel like you’re missing out on anything socially?
A: This question comes back to identifying your true friends. If my friend cares enough about me to extend an invitation to me about a social event I know that the offer is genuine. And if you’re worried that you won’t be having enough fun without the plethora of options to choose from when deciding what you want to do Friday night, know that you’re actually better off when you’re not overwhelmed with options.
Q: How do you possibly meet new people or connect with those that you have met?
A: I know you might not agree with me when I say that I’m a firm believer in the sentiment “everything happens for a reason.” If you live everyday authentically and with intention, you will naturally come into contact with individuals that you connect with and can easily engage with. You will begin to be more open to meeting and connecting with new individuals on a different level. And, if a certain individual is meant to be in your life, and you didn’t happen to catch their name or number your paths will inevitably cross in the future.
Q: Has being social media free been hard?
A: Yes and no. My first few days and weeks of being social media free left me feeling empty. If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of a breakup you will know the feeling I’m talking about. Lack of social media left me with such a noticeable void. But as like any new habit, after a while, you start forming positive new behaviours that lead you away from the repetitive, mindless actions you were engaging in before. Even now, just realizing that it’s been a full year this month without social media makes me realize that it hasn’t actually been that hard. I now fill all my endless scrolling while commuting to school or work with reading e-books or listening to podcasts – constructive and educational.
Q: Don’t you miss social media?
A: Again, yes and no. I’m not going to lie and say there aren’t downsides to not having social media. You may find that you’re not up on the most current meme circulating social media or that you’re not fully informed of that one cat video that everyone’s talking about. That being said, despite missing out on my daily dose of animal videos, I can confirm with you that I don’t miss those frequent feelings of inadequacy or self-consciousness that are more often than not associated with and come along with spending countless hours mindlessly scrolling through social media comparing your worst moments to everyone else’s best.
Q: Have you caved into using social media since getting rid of it?
A: YES. Back when I only disabled my social media accounts, I did re-enable several platforms a few times. One particular time was following the breakup of my most recent relationship. I would sound inhuman if I said I didn’t feel compelled to see what he was posting on his Instagram account (not that I’m supporting social media stalking). However, within minutes I quickly realized that keeping tabs on my ex-boyfriend and the happenings of my social media network only left me filled with negative emotions. The most important takeaway is that getting rid of social media is a process, and no one expects you to be perfect at it so definitely don’t put that pressure on yourself.
Q: Do you recommend ridding yourself of social media to others?
A: 100%. I love how being social media free has made me more resourceful meaning that I now have to scout out my own news from credible online news outlets instead of scrolling through my newsfeed for the latest regurgitated news courtesy of my Facebook friends’ posts. I love how the interactions I have with others via text or face-to-face interaction are authentic and transparent because when I ask a friend how he or she is doing, I am genuinely and curiously asking because I can’t rely on social media to inform me. That being said, deleting all your social media accounts is maybe something that won’t bring you happiness, and that’s okay. I just think it’s important to be mindful of the emotions and thoughts social media conjures within you, how much time you’re devoting to social media and whether or not it’s detracting from your ability to be and stay present.
Q: Are you against all social media?
A: Absolutely not. Simple Money Solutions functions in large part thanks to the numerous social media platforms at our disposal, and Trevor and I pride ourselves on our involvement with these networks. I truly believe that social media, when used positively can be an incredible resource and tool. Simple Money Solution’s social media network has the ability to keep listeners informed on new episode releases, contests and giveaway while creating a space where dialogue can occur between like-minded, personal finance savvy individuals – it is truly an invaluable resource. I myself have even begun using my personal Snapchat account again. I personally derive a ton of value from this platform and highly value its communicative function, which, in my opinion, utilizes pictures as the communication message rather than text messages.
Another tip to utilizing social media in a more positive manner is to re-think the purpose of these platforms. I personally have repurposed Facebook as a news aggregator by creating a private account for the purpose of staying up to date with my two best friends, the news by following local news outlets, and, because I’m really into personal finance and nutrition, all of my favourite nutritionists and personal finance bloggers and podcasters.
Q: But how do you stay relevant with social media trends?
A: As someone who’s career centers around being immersed in social media, advertising, and marketing trends, staying current with social media’s functionalities becomes critical. I counteract my lack of personal social media by reading blogs and websites dedicated to discussing pertinent social media and social media optimization trends. In my opinion, using social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in a different and more critical manner for the purpose of business undertakings really enables the repurposing and alteration of the way these platforms are utilized.