If you have any social media account (hello, Instagram, TikTok, or even the OG, Facebook), you’ve probably wondered if you’ve spent too much time pouring over your timelines. Maybe you’ve considered getting rid of them or taken steps to try to limit the time you spend on each app. Eventually, my discomfort with how much time I wasted on social media, not to mention the sometimes depressing content I would consume, led me to do some research on what life would be without it. Why was I so obsessed with scrolling random people on Instagram? Was searching Pinterest the only way I could be creative? What did I do before I had a smartphone? And, finally, is this really the best use of what little time I have to myself?
Trying to tackle these questions and gain some of my previous “me” time back, I turned to the same place I always do when I’m thinking about something new–my library. I checked out a few books on the subject, starting with “How To Break Up With Your Phone” by Catherine Price, a quick read that provided practical tips for staying off your phone in general, including a weekend-long “cleanse.” I graduated to the slightly techier, “Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier. Lanier worked in tech and gives you a little history lesson on how online communication came to be and how our current usage negatively impacts your brain. Next came the Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma” which highlighted tech experts who have become wary of their own creations. Whew. I went deep.
What I found was a lot of evidence that points to what I already felt in my gut—spending this much time on social media isn’t healthy, and it isn’t even a choice. These apps were designed to be addictive and isolating. They aren’t creating the connection and bonding we crave—they are alienating us, giving us comparison issues, and wasting our precious time. So much for being creative tools and social connectors, huh?
So, now what? At the time, I was working at the library as the adult programming coordinator, and using Instagram and Facebook was literally in my job description. I couldn’t just quit…or, could I? I tried to delete the Facebook account I’d had since college and start a new one using my work email so I could still access our event pages. It worked for a day or so, and then Facebook decided that this was fraud or some other crazy term, and I was banned from using that account. However, I was still receiving emails to reactivate my old account. “Come backkkkk,” they whispered. But only on their terms. Instagram wasn’t as much of a problem as I could just login directly to the library’s account and post that way. Eventually, I decided that my best option was deleting apps from my phone and only using my desktop computer to share while at work. I did that for several months until I decided to leave my position at the library. Once I had left, I had no other reason to continue with social media. I permanently deleted my Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts. I’m 33, don’t get me started on TikTok. Let me tell you; it’s more difficult than you’d think. Not because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but because they literally make it very difficult for you to delete their apps. Take a break? Sure. They know you will be back. But really, give it up forever? You gotta jump through some hoops.
Now, let’s get to what you really want to know. Was it worth it? DEFINITELY. Want my advice? DO IT. DO IT NOW. Someday, I hope someone much smarter than I creates a platform that truly allows us to engage and share and create with each other, and they don’t sell our information or bombard us with targeted ads or create algorithms that encourage binging. Until then, I’m done! I’ve gained time (I’ve read over 20 books in 2021 and I have 3 kids!), reclaimed MY creativity, not someone else’s I copied from Pinterest, and felt more content and less stressed. Also, I have no idea what my husband’s high school girlfriend is up to these days. Win.