Why I'm No Longer Using Social Media

    reading time: 7 min

I'm officially quitting social media.
(Or more specifically, Instagram.)

The thought of deleting my Instagram account has been on my mind for the past couple of months, and I have now finally decided to permanently uninstall it from my phone. I'm even debating getting rid of my smartphone altogether and switching to a dumbphone or "sillyphone" as I like to call it – but that is a story for another day.

The What

Everyone seems to have their own definition of what the term "social media" includes, and what quitting social media entails.

To cite Wikipedia: "Some of the most popular social media websites, with more than 100 million registered users, include Twitter, Facebook (and its associated Messenger), WeChat, ShareChat, Instagram, QZone, Weibo, VK, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, and LinkedIn. Depending on interpretation, other popular platforms that are sometimes referred to as social media services include YouTube, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, TikTok, Microsoft Teams, and more." (source)

In my case, I'm referring to Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, Twitter and the like when I'm talking about quitting social media. While I don't use (or even know) most of the other platforms listed above, I do currently still use Telegram and Signal for messaging, Pinterest for collecting inspiring pictures (mostly for my personal vision boards), Youtube for watching inspirational and educational videos, and Blogger for sharing my blog posts.

The Why

Honestly, I just grew annoyed and stressed out.

As fun as using Instagram is, it also sucks all of my energy right out of me and leaves me feeling unsatisfied and exhausted, while also making me feel anxious to check up on people's recent posts and more importantly their stories, since they get deleted after 24 hours. Having to scroll through all of the new posts and stories that got posted during my "absence" almost felt like homework! But at the same time, I couldn't stop doing it ...

I recently uninstalled Instagram for a month or so, and I noticed two things: 1) I constantly felt the urge to pick up my phone and check for new posts and messages, kind of like FOMO, the fear of missing out. And 2) After a while I didn't even think or care about any of it! Out of sight, out of mind. Which just proves to me how utterly irrelevant social media really is.

And of course, there's not much social about it all.

For example, I follow a couple of my close friends on Instagram. Watching their stories has
resulted in me not getting in touch with them as often because I felt like I already knew what was going on in their lives – when in reality I only got a superficial glimpse at their (public!) display.
Not to mention that staring at our phones and scrolling through social media while we're on a train or waiting in line prevents us from talking and connecting with the people actually around us.
Combine that with our recent experience of "social distancing", and you've got yourself a social disaster. People having one-way parasocial "relationships" with strangers online or having superficial connections with friends via social media instead of actually talking to them on the phone or in person.

This fast-paced, superficial, consumption-oriented way of living is not something I want to support or engage in.

Lastly, there is the aspect of spending – or rather wasting – my time.

Since social media apps are generally designed to keep you hooked and "engaged", they are highly addictive and literally drug us with sensory overload (source). For me, it was almost impossible to stop consuming the endless content once I was sucked into the rabbit hole.

What most people are not aware of, and what Cal Newport talks about in depth in his book Deep Work, is that it takes our brain about 15-20 minutes to reach a productive flow state, so when you interrupt your work task to quickly check your social media or your e-mail inbox, your brain has to start anew and perhaps never even reaches the productive deep work state during your work session! (source)

So basically, I want to get social media out of sight to get it out of my mind. This will automatically lead my mind to fill with other things, like my own thoughts and emotions that I often don't even notice because I'm so distracted by messages or new posts ...

I want to be more intentional with how I use my time and energy, and to be quite honest, I just don't want to be a slave to my smartphone or my computer.

The How

It's not easy to give up on something that is as entertaining and addictive as social media.

I suggest tracking the time you spend on your phone, your computer, and the different apps you use. For me, it was up to 4 or sometimes even 6 hours of consuming content every day, which equated to more than two whole months every year!! Isn't that insane?

I'm also currently doing The Artist's Way program by Julia Cameron, which encourages you to create your life rather than being a victim to your circumstances, or in this case, a victim to consumerism. Focussing on activities that make me feel happy and satisfied helps me to stay on track with living a fulfilling life instead of giving into the temptation of the distraction trap.

Make a list of things you've been wanting to do, but keep putting off. Remind yourself of how you can spend your time instead of wasting it on social media. Here is a list of 25 electronic-free activities to get your mind started.

For now, I have permanently uninstalled Instagram from my phone and set my account to "private". I have also removed the link from my blog to my Instagram account. However, I am not completely deleting my account just yet in case I want to utilize it in the future for pointing to my blog posts
(in which case I would then probably use a platform like Planoly to manage my Instagram posts) because I'm actually thinking about starting a German blog that would go by the same name as my already existing Instagram account, and I don't want anyone else to snatch that account name in the meantime. The only way I can now access my account is my signing in via my computer browser, but I have to type in my password manually which makes the whole affair significantly more cumbersome than just grabbing my phone.

I use Pinterest pretty much in the same way, exclusively on my computer browser.

As for Youtube, I am still trying to find the best way to handle it. I have turned off my Youtube watch history, which has helped a lot. That way, I don't get any recommendations on my Home page, and the videos on my subscription box don't change colour once I've watched them which reduces my urge to watch every single video (even though they might not all interest me) just to make them all the same grey colour, kind of like ticking off a to-do list. I have also reduced the amount of subscriptions to 13 channels that I value a lot. In the past I have also used the app LeechBlock to limit the time I can access the Youtube page during the day, but I'm not 100% happy with the selected times.

The next step for me is figuring out how I will use my smartphone – preferably not at all, but I'm not sure how this is going to work out for me – and how I use my messaging apps (check them only once a day? once a week? but how do I get used to this?), and perhaps one day even live without home internet altogether ... We'll see.

Do What You Can

If you aren't ready to commit to ditching social media or even your smartphone or your wifi – or perhaps it's not possible right now because of your job situation –, don't stress about it! You don't have to go cold turkey in order to improve your life.

Start by reducing the time you spend on your phone and/or your computer.
Unsubscribe and unfollow as many people and sites as possible. Only keep those that actually bring value to your life!
Turn off notifications. Don't let the devices constantly distract you and keep you from actually living your life. 
Turn off your wifi at night, if possible. Perhaps switch over to a wireless internet connection altogether.