The Decision to Cut Back on Social Media
The decision to drastically cut back my time on social media is one that has been building in the back of my mind for quite some time now. We’ve all seen the posts where people write, “if you can see this, you’ve survived the friend purging,” and rolled our eyes. I don’t mean to lump everyone who makes those posts into one category. The decisions and circumstances that led to those posts will never be identical. And while we may roll our eyes at the posts, there’s actually something to them. Especially if the intention, like mine, is to bring a positive change to our lives genuinely. The first question I’ll answer is the simplest, but not quite so simple answer; why?
What Caused the Distancing From Social Media
The idea of backing away from social media was planted back in 2014 when 99 Days of Freedom emerged. While the 99 days website is no longer active, the idea behind it is still valuable. The challenge was simple; change your profile photo to the 99 days logo, share a link explaining why you’re taking a break from Facebook, and log off for the length of the challenge. There were no prizes for doing so; it was purely a personal challenge for self-growth.
The challenge was to raise awareness of the amount of time we spend on Facebook and its impacts on our lives. I did the challenge, and it at least made me aware of how addictive social media is. How often do we find ourselves scrolling through our feed on break at work, while waiting in line, watching tv, or even waiting for sleep to come? Think about the time you spend doing that and what could be done instead. Even if it’s using that time to write someone you haven’t seen in a while to say you love them or chip away at some goals.
What ultimately caused me to cut down on social media is when I wondered what it was causing mentally. Over the course of days, weeks, and years of scrolling, it’s undeniable that social media will influence you. Click here for an article that weighs the pros and cons of social media. Between ads, constantly seeing what influencers are working on, and comparing yourself to what your friends are doing, the pros of social media can easily be overcome by the negatives.
I Decided to Take Control of the Influence
As I became more aware of the negatives, I realized how many of them were actually impacting my life. The pros of social media were no longer enough not to make a change. Constantly seeing influences with Adonis bodies and million-dollar homes in LA can make you feel insecure. I started to question what I was doing with my life and feeling left in the dust. If you’re experiencing the same thoughts, please know you’re not alone. I’m sure that behind the filters, even the influencers have their own insecurities.
No matter what our bodies look like or how many rooms our homes have, we’re all human. If you are doing your best and trying to be a better person than you were yesterday, that’s all anyone can ask of you. Once realizing how I was feeling, I changed my habits slowly over about a week. I didn’t have the energy to do it all in the same day mentally. And if you’re in the same boat, don’t worry. This will be a personal journey unique to everyone.
Because I use social media for marketing, I couldn’t simply go off the grid socially completely. I needed to keep my accounts but make a conscious effort to control what I see and how often I use social media. If you are in the same boat but feel like it’s an impossible middle ground to reach, don’t worry; it’s possible to do it.
The First Step Was Decluttering My Feed
One of the most crucial steps I took was to sweep my feed as clean as possible. I went through who I was following, pages I’ve liked, and groups that I was apart of. I asked myself two questions when deciding whether to unfollow or not; the first question being, “does this person or page inspire me?” The second question was, “do I feel like I can relate to them on some level.” Suppose I answered no to either question I unfollowed. Please know that this wasn’t done all at once.
What I started to do is instead of scrolling through my news feed, I replaced that time with actively deleting those groups and influencers. This allowed me not to spend any more time on social media than I already was. I was using my time more effective long term, and it was actively reminding myself why I was purging social media. When I signed in to social media and did scroll through my news feed, I noticed that it started to be a more positive experience.
The stories and posts I wished to see were people I care about, influencers doing things I love, and those who I felt were human and relatable. It’s great to see what influencers are doing and create goals after them, but if they aren’t making you feel like you can do it, what’s the point? I didn’t want to feel like a hamster in an exercise wheel constantly running but never moving forward. Removing those external negative influencers removed the hamster wheel for me mentally.
I Limited My Social Media Footprint
One of the factors I hate most about social media is that it is constantly growing, not only in terms of accounts but also on platforms. Myspace used to be the front runner for social media when I grew up. That slowly grew to include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, the list goes on. It creates this need to join the latest trend without shedding the old accounts. All it does is create more clutter on our phones and glue our eyes to the screen longer. I had enough and decided to tighten my presence online.
Having multiple platforms can be a smart move, especially for marketing. However, if the app isn’t improving your life, why sign up? I took an evening after work, sat down, and created a plan for what apps I would use and why. Facebook went through the most changes. I decided to remove most of my friends, only keeping family, lifelong friends, and those I regularly collaborate with. I made a post explaining why I was condensing my friends’ list and offered Instagram and my number to keep in touch socially.
Instagram is becoming more of a place where I post updates socially and see friends and family’s updates. I’m seeing less of politics and find myself reading comments on posts less. Facebook became a place I go to manage pages and have a more productive mindset. Twitter will be posting updates and links since Instagram is less link friendly. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Your List of Friends Can Create Unhealthy Insecurities
You don’t realize how many people you accumulate on your friends’ list and how few of them you actually talk to until you weed your friends list out. It’s as if our friends’ list becomes a scrapbook of people you’ve met, from high school and college to old co-workers, even friends, and family of exes. Even though they may not actively be in your life anymore, you still see their life updates. Those updates can lead to feelings of missing out and comparing where you are in your own life. As crazy as it sounds, I had feelings of guilt about clicking unfriend.
Would people take it personally? Would limiting social media make it harder to keep in touch or plan events? That’s when I realized the benefits of social media had me hostage. Looking back now, not one person was upset, and I still keep in touch with the same people. As far as events, yes, it can be easier to create an event page. But parties were hosted for thousands of years without social media; it can be done. If you are experiencing those guilts or worries, don’t feel bad for doing what’s best for your own mental health. You can still reach out to friends, and those close to you will understand.
The Final Step Is to Be Aware of Social Media's Effect
The key for me has been to remember why I started this journey to begin with. I can condense my friend list all day and click unsubscribe, but it’s a conscious decision I make every day. Like any other addiction, you need to make small daily changes to rewire your brain and ultimately lead to a happier life. Since beginning this journey, I’ve started focusing more on what makes me happy and comparing myself less to others. When I’m on social media, I use it for marketing or business purposes more. When I do use it socially, I limit my time.
While scrolling, I avoid clickbait. Most of the links are designed to draw you in, but I didn’t realize the extent of how addictive they are until watching the video below by Ann Reardon. It’s a longer video at 20 minutes, but I highly recommend watching at least the first five minutes to learn about how even links are designed to be addictive.
Have You Ever Tried to Leave Social Media?
I am curious to hear your own thoughts about social media. Have you ever thought about cutting back the amount of time you spend on social media, or even completely? If you have cut back on your online time, how has your life changed doing so? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!