There are certainly far more important topics to cover than social media, but I’ve had some thoughts on this topic bottled up inside my brain for about a year now and I felt it was a good time to unburden myself of them. Our collective preoccupation with social media may seem pretty innocuous, if not wholly ridiculous, but I feel strongly that it can have some really negative consequences for both mental health and interpersonal relationships.
I’ve gone through periods of time when I get completely jaded with social media and I’ll temporarily deactivate or delete all of my accounts. Part of it is my frustration with my own addictive personality and how I can get so wrapped up in it, but I know I’m not alone in this.
It can be pretty freeing in some ways to completely ghost from your online life. Last year I deleted all of my social media accounts for six months. All of them. Even LinkedIn, for crying out loud. I was so committed! I was going to be present, dammit! And in a lot of ways, it was the happiest I’d been in a really long time. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but the evidence is pretty compelling that if we’re more present in our everyday lives, it pays dividends in the form of happiness and contentment.
Some of the benefits: Freedom from prying eyes. Less opportunity for judgment. Freedom from bullying cleverly disguised as differences of opinion. Much less exposure to extremist politics or worrying about being politically correct. Fewer interruptions. More focus. Better in-person connections. Freedom from those phone notifications buzzing your thigh every thirty seconds.
For the most part, it was fantastic. But leaving the online life behind wasn’t without its growing pains.
As weird as this feels to write publicly, there were some amazing moments and experiences I really wanted to share with the world. I had recently started dating my fiancé and it would’ve been a convenient way for far-flung friends and family to get to know her, if only in a virtual sense. But what I was least prepared for when I quit social media was how it can feel like some people stop caring about you. Scratch that. How it feels to seemingly cease to exist to people with whom you thought you had a stronger connection.
For instance, just one month off Facebook and the only people who got ahold of me on my birthday were my Mom and my two brothers. No joke. It’s in those moments when you realize who the most important people are in your life, and there’s a pretty good chance they’re not the 200 people who wished you a happy birthday on your Facebook timeline.
But you know what? After the initial shock of being social media-less wore off, I was probably happier than I’d ever been. It was pretty amazing to actually feel like I was living in the moment—in all of the moments—and not constantly worrying about sharing with the world whatever thing I was doing at the time.
Recently I’ve been feeling the pull toward living without social media again. But one of the biggest deterrents to not going completely rogue is that I’ve got this blog now and it’s difficult enough as it is to get the word out. Hell, you can’t even have a Facebook page for your brand without an actual personal Facebook account. So there’s that.
But there’s also the 13 years of status updates and photos and memories that I’d rather not have weighing me down anymore. I’d rather focus on myself now and the man I want to be rather than who I was before today. I don’t care what your algorithm says, Facebook. I neither need nor want that memory popping up in my feed every year ad nauseam.
After some serious thought, my solution has been to compromise. I deleted my Facebook account that I’ve had since 2004. I’ve started clean, scaled back the friends list to a manageable level, and I plan to nurture those online relationships that are the most enduring, meaningful and mutually supportive.