A few months ago I went on a social media diet.
I deleted all social media apps from my phone and used software to block them on my computer.
For the first few days, I found my fingers instinctively retracing the path to open up Instagram on my phone whenever I found myself with a nanosecond of free time. I had to force myself to stop reaching into my pocket to take pictures of every adorable thing my kids did (which was like, every minute).
During one particularly stressful moment, some coworkers were discussing a hilarious Facebook post and I just had to nod grimly, pretending I too had seen it.
But eventually I got over it and the less I missed it, the more I started doing some pretty weird things.
I started reading a physical newspaper and, as it turns out, professional journalists are more informed about current events than the people I went to high school with. I regained the ability to watch an entire football game without wondering what other people thought about the game on Twitter. I stopped caring what anyone’s cat was doing (okay fine, I never cared).
The diet has been going so well in fact, that today I am making it more permanent:
Today I am deleting my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts (I was never cool enough for Snapchat).
What was the final straw?
Was it a certain national event that took place a few weeks ago, flooding my various feeds with vitriol from both sides? Was it the scourge of fake news that has been inundating the medium? Was it the night I found myself palpably angry to the point of not being able to sleep after reading a sports columnists Twitter rant about a team I cared about?
But ultimately my decision to remove social media from my life was more about my own relationship with it than what anyone else was doing with it.
I fully recognize that this is something all addicts say, but, I was never addicted to social media.
I’ve never had Facebook on my phone and logged into it rarely on my computer. I checked twitter quite a bit, at last 5-6 times a day, and much more when a big event was happening, but I would go stretches without thinking about it. Instagram I checked the most. It was pretty much my go to when I had a moment of down time.
But I rarely posted on any app and didn’t feel the tug of social media all the time (I am way worse about checking emails and Slack, but one issue at a time).
No, not addicted, but also not enjoying it.
I would look up from my phone and realize I had been scrolling through posts for 20 minutes. What quickly followed was a sense of “why did I just do that, that was boring?” or, worse “those people look like their life is better than mine”.
Of course, that isn’t true.
I mean, it might be. Their life might be better, but there is absolutely no way to determine this from social media posts. In fact, I would argue most people who were getting more out of life were out there enjoying it, not posting it for me to see.
It took the wisdom of a three year old to really drive this point home for me.
I was playing with my daughter one day when she decided to put on a tutu and her mother’s high heels and dance around the room to a record we were listening to. My instinct was to share this moment with everyone I knew, so that they too could see how incredible and adorable and hilarious she was.
Then I took out my phone to snap a pic . . .
“Put your phone away and let’s just have fun today” she said.
It was a powerful reminder that the moment itself was entirely enough.
So yeah, I’m out.
Will it stick? We shall see. When they invent an app that lets me share holograms like in Star Wars, I’ll probably have to check that out, but until then I’m going to keep my phone in my pocket for awhile.
Look, I know how this might sound. I am not claiming to be better than the literal billions of people that enjoy social media. This is not a call for you to join me.
You can if you want to, but this is just documentation of a personal decision.
If anything I am saying resonates though, I can tell you that the FOMO will subside. The intense desire to troll for likes will too. People are still going to think you are cool or that your kids are cute, only they might have to form those opinions by, you know, spending time with you.
I promise those that you do spend time with will like you even more.