Thoughts on Quitting Social Media

4.12.2017


I’ve mentioned it a few times, but just in case you didn’t know, Jordan and I both decided to give up social media for Lent. We don’t normally give up something for Lent, but back in February, my sister shared a short video (ironically, on Facebook) that her pastor put together on the topic of giving something up for Lent, and it got me inspired. (I won’t go into it in this post, but if you are interested, check out the 2-minute video here.)

At first I thought I would give up blogging, but Jordan and I talked about it and decided to give up social media together. I suppose writing and reading blogs might be considered social media to some, but we stuck to the traditional outlets of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The approach of Easter means we are nearing the end of our fast, and I wanted to share a few reflections after not being on social media for the last month and a half. This post is more jumbled and stream-of-consciousness than I normally like to do, but I think it would take too long to try and make clear connections and transitions between paragraphs, so random paragraphs it is.

If you ask Jordan, the thing that has bothered him the most about not being on social media (Facebook specifically) is that he never knows when people’s birthdays are. Back in the day, I had all my friends’ home phone numbers memorized, and now I can barely remember my own sister’s birthday. That was an exaggeration, of course. I DO know my sister's birthday. She turned 20 just a few days ago. Happy birthday, Sarah! But you get my point.

In general, we agreed that without social media, it’s harder to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of our friends. Some are fun things, like pregnancy announcements and new houses; and some are hard, like when our friend posted asking for prayer about his brother who was in a terrible car accident. The only reason we found out is because another friend happened to mention it. It’s just hard to text or call everyone who might want to know about something individually, and social media is a good way to get the word out.

Of course, I text and call my closest friends on a fairly regular basis, so I know what’s going on with them without needing to see a picture on Instagram. And I might argue that if I don’t text or call you regularly, are we really friends? But still, social media can connect us to people near and far in a really awesome way, and we’ve missed that. I know that for me, I’ve texted and emailed and called my close friends more than normal this past month because I want to stay updated.

There are also some extremely positive things about being off social media, and I think the main one is that I’m straight up not seeing anything that will trigger me into either feeling sad, feeling jealous, or feeling enraged. I know for a fact that I should not be letting the things I see on social media affect my feelings and attitude so much, but the fact of the matter is that it does affect me (I don’t know if I believe you if you say it doesn’t affect you too at least sometimes), and not seeing any of that has been so freeing. I told Jordan the other day that I realized we haven’t gotten into discussions about politics or current events simply because I’m not seeing articles shared on Facebook that make me want to rant anymore! However, I will say that I am severely out of the loop on current events, which is kind of nice but also, I do want to be an informed citizen, you know?

This one is obvious, but I’m spending way less time on my phone and on my computer in general throughout the day and in the evenings. If I don’t have a text or a voicemail or any new emails, there is nothing else to look at! I spend less time on my computer because I open it up only to do the thing I got on to do, and then I close it again. No wasted time mindlessly scrolling my newsfeed.

I find myself sometimes being in a moment and thinking, this would be something I would take a picture of and post to Instagram. A walk with R or a new book or a beautiful sunrise. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing any of that, but sometimes it feels like people are obsessed with posting updates all day long of what they are eating and doing and wearing, and I honestly wonder why. 

Do we feel like if we don’t post a picture of it, it never happened? 

This sounds a bit sad, but this month I’ve been able to sit in the moment—all of the moments—and enjoy it for what it is and take a picture or not take a picture, and it has nothing to do with whether I’m going to find the perfect filter later to get lots of likes and comments. We went on vacation to Missouri a few weeks ago, and I took tons of pictures and none of them are anywhere on social media, and it was nice to feel "off the grid."

I think I get addicted to that notification. Someone liked what I posted, and that makes me feel valued. Worthy. Special. 

It’s been so nice to not have that this month and a half.

This whole thing has honestly made me question going back on social media at all. Blogging, I would miss 100%. Social media? Cutting it off completely is so much easier for me than trying to self-regulate. I’ve said things like, “I won’t go on social media after 7:00” or “I won’t go on social media on the weekends,” and it’s been a total fail every time. But tell me I can’t go on it period, at all, for a month and a half, and I don’t even think about it. So I ask you: if I can cut something out of my life and barely miss it, should it even be there in the first place?

I do think that social media is valuable in helping us be connected. I realized after not being on it for (almost) 40 days that I miss some of the interactions. I miss sharing funny thoughts and seeing pictures of my friends. I think most of us post things on social media because we want to share our lives with others, we want to find people who understand us and can encourage us and make us smile. Not being on social media at all, while freeing in many ways, has been also a little isolating.

I don’t have a conclusion. I don’t want to delete Facebook and just never go on it again (although I did quit Twitter back in December, as you may remember), and I don’t think social media is evil (despite what my 92-year-old grandpa might tell you). But is it something I want to spend a lot of time on? No. 

The question now is: How can I find a good balance between being part of social media and not becoming consumed with it? How can I stay updated without letting what I see affect my emotions? How can I post something without feeling like my worth is in how many likes it got (or didn’t get)? I don't know, but I guess after this weekend, we will see!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any or all of this! Some questions to get you thinking are below.

Have you ever taken a total break from social media? What did you learn? 
Do you feel like you spend too much time on social media?
Why do you post and share what you do? 
Do you feel like your worth is found in how many followers and likes you get? 
How do you find a balance between being on social media but not being consumed by it?

24 comments:

  1. Nodding my head in agreement to all of this. As you know, I wrote about this recently and feel similarly. I haven't missed twitter at all since deleting it in January. I find myself deleting my Instagram app over and over. The days it's not on my phone, I rarely think about it or care. I find myself hunting for the app more out of muscle memory than truly wanting to scroll through it. I'm still trying to find the balance of occasionally sharing things when I want to and ignoring it the rest of the time. All I know is that I feel so much better when it doesn't consume my time, though I feel out of the loop as well. Most of the time that doesn't bother me, but I also don't like missing major announcements. Which leads me down the rabbit trail of longing for the days when we would call to tell each other things instead of assuming our friends will see it on Facebook. I have no conclusions either, but I feel the same way.

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  2. I am more of a lurker on social media than a sharer. I just think a lot of people over-share and do I really want everyone to know everything about me?? NO. I also have no idea how many followers I have and I don't keep track of likes. I see the notifications for them but I don't think, "Oh this only got three likes. What a loser." That's not what it's about for me.

    For me, I think it's more memory keeping. I like to have some things on social media to reference back when I scrapbook. and I also love the Timehop app because it brings up your postings from past years and it's fun to see and reminisce.

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  3. I'm an Instagram addict, so getting rid of that part of social media would be hard - but I gave up Facebook back in January, and I haven't been back on since. I deleted the app, and honestly haven't given it a second thought. I love that you did this and gained some insight into it -- plus the being able to not be jealous or upset over something you did see on social media. I think Twitter may be the next thing to delete.

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  4. I do think there are a lot of things to be learned from cutting out social media. It can definitely be good for the mind but like you said it can make you feel extremely isolated. I think as with anything it is good in moderation. You don't have to share every little thought you are having or like everything that others are posting. I think it is about being mindful. I know quite a few people that gave it up for lent, I'll be curious to see their thoughts as well.

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  5. Its crazy this is a topic of conversation - but it needs to be. Social media can take over so many things - times as well as self worth. But you're right, its what keeps people connected. It can be positive. But when it sits on my worth by how many 'likes' I get, that's troubling. I am currently praying about where I need to be in the social media world myself. I'm about ready to give up Twitter. People are just mean on there...

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  6. I stopped checking Facebook after the election. I was so tired of seeing political posts all the time, regardless of which viewpoint was represented, and seeing all that all the time made me sad all the time. So now I only use the Groups app, so I can keep in touch with specific groups of friends, but I only see what they post in the group, and not general newsfeed stuff. And after five-ish months, I can definitively say that I do not miss the newsfeed AT ALL. I quit Twitter around the same time, and I kind of wish I didn't still have to use it for work, because while I see fewer political things than before, it's still not few enough!

    But I'm still on Instagram and Goodreads, and those feel like a good compromise to me. I still get to see the pretty things and keep up with what's important to me (friends and books!), but without having to deal with the stuff that made me unhappy.

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    1. There's a Groups app?! What?! I've been saying for a long time that I'm only still on Facebook because of groups! You might have just changed my life!

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  7. First of all, way to go for making the entire Lenten season without social media! I think that'd be tough.
    I deleted/suspended my Facebook for a few weeks in November (after the election) and I felt so, so good to be rid of it. I can't actually remember why I reactivated it... I love that being off social media forced you to call/text/email with friends and family to keep up on current events. Social media allows us to be "social" without actually being social... and that's probably really changing (hurting?) our culture...

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  8. My husband and I deleted our SM accounts in November after listening to the podcast THE BOREDOM EXPERIMENT and have basically never looked back! We opened a PO box and gave people some time and let them know we were vacating SM and would love to stay in touch via email, text and calls and snail mail. Now we have pen pals! And get soooo many letters and packages in the mail.

    It's been soooo nice to be free from all the pressures (esp. during election season!) and even if you have friends that feel the same way you do about things (very bubble like) I don't find it helpful for me to read everyone's emotions in a 10 min period! It's so emotional and in real life you'd rarely jump from person to person and hear that strong of opinions.


    My husband also writes on a site, and here's a post of his http://lanceschaubert.org/2016/11/03/tara-quit-social-media/

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    1. I also have a couple of dear friends from college And noticed that we'd never started a group text with the three of us. Just mostly mutual comments on insta like "adorable" "good for you!" "Miss you all" and "they're getting so big". We all three have been diagnosed with life changing chronic illnesses (the two of them since college) and I found it sad that we loosely felt connected within SM comments and didn't pursue each other's hearts anymore. That was really convicting to me.

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  9. I haven't had Facebook for 6 years and don't miss it at all. My friends know I am not on it so they will just text me if I need to know something. I have Instagram but only have like 10 people (siblings and a few close friends)on it and that's good with me!! I get way too involved emotionally and just time wise with too much of that stuff.

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  10. SO MANY FEELINGS. And I agree with many of your sentiments! For me, I decided never to go back to Facebook and it was great. I have all my friend's birthdays, anniversaries, etc. in my phone calendar and it helps me stay on top of them. I have also found it difficult to find the balance between staying informed and being overly addicted to things like Twitter, for example. Our world is so fast-moving now that it's nearly impossible to stay on top of it all! Anyways, wonderfully written post that articulates many of the things I have felt/feel about social media!

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  11. You might remember that breaking myself of my social media addiction was one of my big resolutions this year. And while I stuck to my strict schedule for about the first month and a half or so, I've found that even now that I don't stick to the schedule anymore, I'm still not on it nearly as much as I used to be, and the few moments I do get on are usually to check my notifications, perhaps check the first 10 items in my feed (where the biggest announcements and such usually are), and call it good. Because I'm out of the habit of scrolling endlessly, I'm often never confronting the kind of stuff that would upset me so much in the first place.

    It also helps on facebook to only "favorite" the people whose posts will almost always uplift you, rather than those who post content that might upset you. One of my best friends posts a ton of political stuff on Facebook that I don't love (and that often upsets me) but she posts lovely pictures and updates of herself and her family on IG, so I just tend to follow her more there.

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  12. I am with you. I think life is all about balance. Social media can be used for SO many good things, and it's sad to see so many people abuse it. After reading "Make It Happen" by Lara Casey, I changed a lot of my social media habits. I don't mindlessly "scroll" through for hours and hours like I used to. I turned off ALL my apps notifications, so once I post a photo to instagram, I don't see how often/if the likes start rolling in...because like you said, it doesn't matter. Our value/worth is found in JESUS, not a silly app. I hope by the end of Lent you have a better understanding of what you should do. I won't give it up completely (mainly because I'm able to run our photography business through free social media marketing), but I'm definitely more mindful of how I spend my time on it! :) Great post, girl. Thanks!

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  13. Thanks for sharing! And yes, the "If I didn't post a picture of this, did it really happen?" is a pretty common theme in life. Not just posting pictures, but often taking pictures becomes more important than actually being where you are and experiencing what is happening around you. I had that overwhelming urge to take a photo of *everything* when I went to Europe a couple of years ago, but I had to rein myself back and remember to enjoy the moment, enjoy the friends I was with, and maybe get a few pictures to help me remember some of the cool things we saw.

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  14. I've given up Facebook for Lent before and barely missed it at all. Makes me wonder why I don't drop it altogether, although I don't feel like I'm on it an excessive amount.

    I think you made such great points and I'm in total agreement - there are pros to social media...but their are cons too. How do we balance it?

    I recommend TheSkimm for keeping up with current events without FB if you are looking for an option. It comes to your email each weekday morning. The writing sometimes bugs me - I can't put my finger on what about it exactly...maybe it just tries to be too hip or it gets repetitive or something? But it is a great overview of the big stuff happening around the world, news-wise.

    Anyway, I enjoy your Insta posts, so hope you keep that, but enjoy the blog more, so yay that you'll continue blogging. :)

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    1. Second the Skimm. That's where I get the bulk of my news these days, though sometimes it bugs me too. For me, I think it's the authors' flippancy on what are some very serious issues. Not always, but sometimes feels like they don't take what they're doing that seriously, even though they do provide good coverage of goings-on.

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    2. Yes, I get the Skimm emails! And I agree... sometimes too I think the headlines they create, though clever, are obnoxious and I skip them. I appreciate that they seem to be mostly unbiased about some of the more controversial issues.

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  15. I totally think of blogging as social media, it's interesting to me that you don't really. I'd love to read more about why!

    I really like your questions. I can personally provide answers to all of them except 'why do I share and post what I do.' I have no idea! I struggle with this question so much and have a ton of thoughts about it, but my contribution to social media still baffles me, which is probably a major reason why I contribute to social media so sporadically.

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    1. I think blogging is a form of social media for sure, but to me it's not in the sense of scrolling through a newsfeed or quickly posting pictures to your wall or something like that. Blogging is a hobby. Facebook is not ;)

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  16. Great post. I don't think of blogging as social media because I still remember the days when blogging and social media were not joined at the hip. The days before blogging became what it is today. Blogging in it's truest form (in my opinion) has nothing at all to do with social media. I too am kind of over social media for many of the same reasons you are, but like you haven't totally figured out how to strike a balance between quitting it altogether and being totally unaffected by it.

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  17. 100% yes! I have become addicted to social media and I hate that I feel so dependent on it. I waste hours of my life scrolling through feeds, and most of it for NO purpose. I also try to tell myself I will limit it, but I never really can. I do think I would miss being in the loop with everyone, and that's my big reason for staying with it. I'd love to do an experiment where I stay off for a length of time though, like this. Right now, it's been hard for me whenever I see pregnancy/baby announcements, so I keep wondering and thinking now might be the time to take a break but I just can't cut the cord. Sigh. Thanks for the inspiration and insight!!

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  18. i love reading what other people think about social media and all that jazz. i think you are right, you need to find that balance, but it is different for everyone. i also agree that people who say they aren't affected by what other people post are lying. haha.

    honestly though, i used to compare, feel jealous, angry, whatever, ALL THE TIME, especially on instagram. always comparing, which would make me jealous and angry, which is silly and unfair. i ended up unfollowing all the people who i felt 'made' me feel that way (it was all me, not them) because they weren't actually friends anyway. because if a friend posts something that i want as well, my first thought now is to be happy for them. but when it was friends and people i didn't really know, i went straight to comparing and getting cranky. it's hard to get cranky and jealous over something when i am genuinely happy for the other person, you know?

    i post less on instagram in the last few months just because i felt so fake posting pictures of whatever when my mum was in hospital, like who cares? it was nice to just read a book or enjoy a cup of tea without feeling like it needed to be documented, but now on the other side i'm like what do i even share anymore? haha.

    i quit twitter as well. don't miss it even a little. i would quit facebook except for the staying in touch with family overseas. i did remove 90% of people though, including random school 'friends' that i don't know or care about, or people who tend to post things i don't agree with or care about.

    i think i might have mentioned this before, but in an effort to lower our bills, we went to the lowest data plan available for like 2 years. which means i had cellular data turned off all the time, and only used wi-fi at home and work. that sounds like a lot still, but it really stopped me from checking or posting when i was out, which spilled over to checking less at home/work (eventually).

    sorry for the obnoxiously long comment.

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  19. What if you did like a 'tithe / firstruits' with social media? And by that I mean the first week of each month give up social media and spend more time in The Word and prayer? You would get a chance to refocus each month. I should try that and see how it goes. Social media can be really good but so dramatic. I deleted so many people and it's been much better since then.

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