Oh! The horror! Most people who use social media cannot imagine what life is like without it.
My name is Kendrick Sharpe. I am in my early 20’s and I have gone almost a month now without Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Reddit, or TikTok. The only “social media” I have at this time is LinkedIn, but that’s entirely because I am applying to jobs and trying to get the word out about this website. The point is, LinkedIn at this time is exclusively beneficial for my goals, but the others were not.
Finding out that I don’t have any social media comes as a huge shock to people I meet and interact with. Instead of talking about all of the reasons that social media is bad, why not take a look at why I was using social media:
Why Was I Using Reddit/Snap/FB/Insta/TikTok?
- To keep in touch with friends and family
- To see what people are up to
- To stay informed
- To learn about things (Reddit notably was a huge problem for me because I like to learn)
- Entertainment/to laugh
- To be popular (getting a few hundred likes and 10-20 comments feels GREAT)
These were my reasons for using those applications/websites. What are your reasons? I recommend you take a second here and maybe write a text to yourself or open a document and write out simple reasons why you use social media. You don’t have to, but I think it’s a good idea to do things intentionally.
Benefits are pretty good
It’s true. I was able to see posts from the 850+ people I followed and stories from over 400 on Snapchat. Long lost friends from middle school, high school, random summer camps or parties, etc. Almost everyone I had an interaction with I was connected with on social media. Some of the posts were absolutely hilarious, causing roaring laughter at times but, more often than not, just a sharp exhale of approval.
However, no good thing is free. It was time to look at the costs:
The Costs of Social Media
|Why Was I using Social Media||What Was I Actually Getting Out of it|
|• To keep in touch with friends and family||I hadn’t called, texted, or hung out with almost 90% of the people I followed in years. Except for the one-off comment, DM, or otherwise I had no idea what had actually happened since the last time I saw them. The same was true for them with me! They had maybe been seeing my posts but of the things I actually cared about.|
|• To see what people are up to||Same as above. Social media is not who we really are, or what we really care about. Besides the one-off vacation or delicious meal, I had no idea what anyone was actually up to except those I call, text, or see in-person regularly.|
|• To stay informed||Social media is a great place to learn about what is happening in the world, or so I thought. Being “informed” on social media means being aware of what the computer software wants you to know, not actually informed about anything happening in your city or country.|
|• To learn about things||To be honest, I watch YouTube videos for bike repair. They are extremely helpful. But before I cut out social media usage, I was constantly online trying to learn useful life hacks or other general information. The issue I found is, as soon as I looked away at different content I forgot what I had just learned.|
|• Entertainment/to laugh||Ok I still laugh at things in my camera roll or things my friends/family text me directly. Phones can display funny content! But the issue I had is I can only laugh so many times in my empty bedroom or otherwise on my own before I realized how weird it is.|
|• To be popular||This one is tough. Nowhere else in the world can you push a few buttons and have hundreds or maybe millions laugh and “like” your content. It turns out, those people who liked my content 1) didn’t know me and 2) didn’t really care about what I had to say.|
This one was the toughest to understand but put simply being popular online just means one of two things: The algorithm liked the content you posted or you said something people agree with.
|• Because I was bored||Social media offered me a distraction from my boredom.|
Free-falling: Life Without Social Media
I ultimately deleted everything because it wasn’t worth the time I was spending. I was up to over 20 hours a week (3 hours a day is 21 hours/week) on my devices trying to learn and feel connected. I can read a few books PER WEEK at that rate. It’s a whole part time job. Others are much higher.
But, going from a large time commitment to nothing is a huge shock. I wound up getting pretty anxious. Time was moving so slowly and I hadn’t taken any time to cultivate real relationships. Time spent scrolling would have to be replaced, but with what? I really did have what I thought was a great social life but it was all digital. This deserves a whole article, but I just hope you know that it is HARD to cut out social media. I once saw some great advice about problems people have like this in general:
[Social Media] isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom.– Unknown
It’s a symptom of an unfulfilling and dissatisfying real life. This changed my perspective so much: those who post the most are generally the least satisfied in real life.
It’s not just us, however
Social media can be addicting. Internet addiction is a real, diagnosable disorder. Some readers may need actual therapeutic intervention to reduce screen time.
These services and devices are designed to get us to use as much as possible, as often as possible. So don’t beat yourself up or feel ashamed towards internet usage. You are not alone! As a result, I hope you feel confident and certain that you can safely talk about screen-time with those around you. Leave a comment below discussing how much time you spent on your device/social media and watch as a surprising amount of people can also relate.
Left with a cratering hole where social media used to fill, I begun to pursue things that I had been interested but was either too afraid or too unmotivated to go after. I’ve worked on my relationships with family and friends, making time to see them in-person whenever possible. When not, I lead with a call or a text to check in. To meet my goal of learning more and being informed, I purchased a print subscription to the NYTimes and have been steadily building a library. Books are SO inexpensive. Free at the library, as low as $10 for 4 on eBay.
Let’s take a look again at why I was using social media and how I am now better able to meet my goals:
|Why Was I using Social Media||How I Now Meet That Goal|
|• To keep in touch with friends and family||Phone calls, in-person visits. I now regularly call those I care about and make time to see them in-person either by traveling or waiting for a good occasion.|
|• To see what people are up to||I now bike around and go for walks. I can actually see what people are up to. Like above, I now text people when I want to learn about how they are doing which is a lot better I think for both of us. Plus, when people aren’t actually interested in talking to me then the relationship naturally dies out. How many people was I following that wouldn’t want to get a coffee… makes me feel bad now.|
|• To stay informed||I’ve read almost 10 books since quitting. I read print newspapers: NYTimes for countrywide issues and The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley Student Newsroom) on campus. No longer getting constantly spammed by terrible things all day long that aren’t actually relevant to me.|
|• To learn about things||It turns out that reading a book or experimenting in real life contributes to lifelong learning. I remember so much more now that I don’t constantly “learn new things” online. Plus, I discover so much by wandering around and actually talking to people with an open mind.|
|• Entertainment/to laugh||Laughter naturally occurs in groups, so having a conversation with people will make you laugh! Organic, natural laughter. It’s meant to be shared. A conversation out and about will cause more genuine laughter than anything I saw online will. It makes me feel weird now when I laugh at something on my screen because laughing is a social activity.|
|• To be popular||Being popular or having a high social standing in real life is much different than online. You can be well-known for your caring attitude, ability to sing, or intelligence, among hundreds of other traits/characteristics. Real-life traits that are built and developed over time with actual benefits (goodwill, etc) instead of convincing people to push a button.|
|• Boredom||I used social media because I was bored. Frankly, it didn’t make anything more exciting. Biking into oncoming traffic was much more exciting, so I like to bike instead. I also have been going to the gym, and almost getting crushed by heavy weights definitely alleviates some of the boredom|
There’s nobody who can tell you if you are using something too much. People can try to give their opinion but that’s all it is: opinion. Sure, some opinions may be valued more highly (medical opinion from a team of doctors for example) but the only one who can initiate change comes within you. The old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
I hope this highlights how your life can change when you re-assess your social media usage. I recommend trying to figure out why you use social media, and what you can do instead.
Finally, life will not be PERFECT without social media. I still get bored out of my mind. Nothing seems satisfying and I can’t stop hating everything and everyone. Ugh! It all seems so pointless!
But, that’s a normal part of life. It comes and goes, just like everything else. Learning to be OK with those emotions and doing some self care (cleaning up a bit, maybe going to bed early after a hot chocolate) really helps alleviate the symptoms of human existence. Life is hard, boring, exciting, depressing… life is life. Social media, however, was a bad way for me to solve problems and achieve my goals.