Google it and you’ll see: social media is one hell of a polarizing topic.
Either it’s an article on how “SOCIAL MEDIA IS DESTROYING OUR GENERATION” or a defensive article saying something like, “Shut up, I like my social media and leave me alone.”
Personally, I prefer my life without social media, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve never looked back or wonder if it’d be worth it to get back on again. I think there are pros and cons to leaving social media, and this is my experience.
Leaving Social Media
In June 2016, I deleted my Twitter. Then a few months later, I deactivated my Facebook. And then seven months ago, despite having not gotten on in months, I finally deactivated my Instagram. I have approximately eight friends on Snapchat, four of whom I stay in regular contact with. Other than that, my social media life is virtually nonexistent.
Short answer: superficial friendships, mental health, and wasted time.
Longer answer: It’s difficult to watch people you used to be so close with drift away from you. I can’t exactly romanticize the way relationships were done in the past (I very much prefer the world of today), but the dynamic of friends, acquaintances, and frenemies on social media is a very tricky minefield to navigate because the reminder (i.e. them) is constantly there, even if you unfollow them or unfriend them.
I’ve always been a social person. I used to want ALL THE FRIENDS. I’m decently extroverted and when I’m with people I love, I feel energized and fulfilled.
I didn’t get the energy or fulfillment I craved from social media. I tried to be proactive and utilize it to get together with friends, only to have them flake. I’d try to have meaningful conversations with friends over Facebook messenger, but more often than not those conversations fell short and we didn’t connect the way we used to.
So after a lot of dissatisfaction, I deactivated my accounts and faded out of view. Here’s how it affected me, the good and the bad.
1. I do whatever I want, worry-free
Hiking a beast of a mountain that you can’t summit? No problem, save yourself the energy and dehydration because nobody will see.
Want to stay in tonight and play a mind-numbing video game? Go for it, literally nobody knows that you aren’t out there living the most adventurous life EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY, nor do you have the constant reminder and pressure to do something with yourself.
Did you not travel very much this year because you’re trying to save some money and have finally invested in that employer-matched 401(k) you’ve heard so many good things about? As far as you know, neither did anyone else because you aren’t there to see it.
Do you have fewer friends because of the big move you made or you had to cut out some toxic people from your life? That’s okay, because on social media everyone seems to have the best friends or the best family or the best significant other and maybe you’re just trying to be happy with what you’ve got.
2. I have fewer friends now
To be honest, I think I have the same amount of friends that I did when I left – it’s just more apparent how few people are actually in my life because getting on social media and liking someone’s post or stalking someone makes you feel connected to them.
A definite downside is that it’s a lot harder to keep in touch with long-distance friends. I have a good friend from the Philippines and she and I are as close as ever, but another friend just moved across the country and it’s been a lot harder to get in contact with her.
I try to make the small amount of friendships and relationships in my life count. I used to get very, very sad when I’d try to be friends with someone and they weren’t reciprocating. Now I’m more accepting of people’s personal preferences, and I’m nurturing the relationships currently in my life.
3. Still a creeper
You know how you change an aspect of your life and hope that BAM – you’re cured? That’s what I hoped leaving social media would do for me.
NOPE. I still stalk people!
I mean, I’m not Rebecca Bunch levels of stalking – not having any social media actually puts a barrier on that, what a relief – but if I’m curious about someone, I’ll look them up.
Sometimes it’s a good thing; the other week I discovered that an old friend had gotten married and I was really happy for her. But other times it’s just caving into the bizarre, addictive feeling of hate-stalking and it only hurts me in the end.
4. I miss out on big events
My sister-in-law got breast cancer, but I only found out because my sister texted me and asked me how I felt about it. My brother’s son had some health issues, but I didn’t know until a few months later when I saw my brother at my parents’ anniversary.
A friend of mine died and my cousin texted me. Another cousin of mine was pregnant with triplets – I had no idea until I had temporarily reactivated my Facebook to find out the funeral details of my friend’s death.
This, quite honestly, is huge and one of the biggest drawbacks of leaving. It’s one thing where EVERYONE lives without social media, but it’s another thing when you are actively choosing to not engage in one of the more commonly used forms of connection. You’re going to miss things, and that kind of sucks.
5. Less outrage
I don’t miss this. I absolutely do not miss this.
I deleted my Facebook a couple weeks before the election of 2016, and even though the two events aren’t correlated, I was relieved I didn’t have to be there to witness the carnage.
I try to be relatively informed and I stay politically active. I talk with my friends about current events and I try to understand their point of view. But social media is rarely an environment conducive to compassion, understanding, and listening.
6. I’m happy with the life I live
I actively work on making my life something I’m proud of. I’m learning how to be happy for other people. I’m happier with myself and the progress I’m making. I focus on my relationships and look outside my own feelings. I’m more inclined to help other people and make their lives better.
It’s not that you can’t be this way if you’re on social media. But given my tendencies to depression and isolation when I’m on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, I get increasingly self-absorbed. I’m a lot more present with people now.
Leaving social media was the best thing I could do for my mental health and relationships. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll return. It’s not for everyone, but being gone has worked out for me pretty well.