Why I quit social media
It was early December 2021 and I created a new Twitter account. This time it will be different, I told myself. No more spending large amounts of time on the platform. I will discipline myself to refrain from getting sucked in. This is not what happened at all.
Discovering the digital detox
In mid June 2020, around my birthday, I decided to delete my Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit, Instagram and Tumblr accounts. I had an epiphany - too many of my tasks I wanted to complete were not happening and my time spent each day was deep in the world of social media. Why was this happening? I started to question myself and did what any respectable person would do…search social media for answers. It was then, I realised the extent of my addiction and the discovery of digital minimalism. An average of five hours of screen time on my phone was not a good look. I think the YouTube algorithms knew I was into minimalism so why not suggest the term ‘digital minimalism’? With a combined total of 2 hours 12 minutes of viewing time on YouTube, I explored what others called a digital detox and how they identified digital minimalism helped them lead a more meaningful life. There were multiple examples of how modern life was becoming overwhelming and we are dependent on social media and our devices. I’ve seen it with my own eyes as a teacher. I lost count how many times I had seen parents picking up their children and showing little interest in them as they scrolled through their phones while walking out of the school gates. I remember vividly how it would put a lump in the back of my throat on two occasions. One Youtuber, Break the Twitch (aka Anthony Ongaro), documented what he did to curb his digital obsessions and I immediately related to what he was saying. Just like his advice of breaking the twitch, I needed to add resistance to my social media usage. So, I deleted my social media apps from my phone and tablet.
At the time, I thought it was quite radical and impulsive but I was determined to make a change. The first thing I noticed was the amount of storage I freed up. I replaced my cluttered home screen with the bare minimum of five apps on the Android dock and a calendar widget at the top of my screen. Any other unnecessary app and all of my games were gone too. My phone battery lasted more than two days, which was a complete miracle to me. The process felt liberating. After a day of no social media, I could feel my muscle memory guiding my thumb to where my social media apps used to be on the Home Screen. But they weren’t there anymore! A little bit of panic and self-doubt crept in. Was I being too hasty? I managed three days without social media before accessing YouTube and the explore page of Twitter through my web browser. It felt good to have that little dose of dopamine in my system. However, there was an overwhelming sense of guilt with an hour of my life wasted.
No going back
I thought to myself - If I’m going to do this properly, I will have to completely delete my accounts. There was no signing off message or fond farewells. I simply deleted the accounts. It was amazing how much resistance these companies put into retaining you during the process (nothing like cancelling Amazon Prime though). A great sense of FOMO set in immediately and I questioned whether I had done the right thing. I came off my Chromebook and carried on with my daily tasks without another thought of what I had done. However, half a day had gone and I received a message from a close friend to say he couldn’t send me a video clip through Facebook Message because I wasn’t appearing in his contact list. I explained what I had done and he was OK with it, knowing my resentment for certain individuals at Facebook (now Meta). I explained I was still available through traditional messaging outlets but I noticed I was receiving one video a month compared to possibly two a day.
I don’t know how it has come to this but being off social media can be quite isolating at times. I noticed I would be left out of conversations among different groups of people because I did not have the lowdown from posts that had been made. I missed invites on group chats because I simply wasn’t there. Two people were actually offended that I had removed myself from social media because they thought I had blocked them or even fallen out with them. Some services require you to have a social media account to sign in. I lost count of how many times I had to explain what I had done. I felt like having a leaflet to hand out with my intentions and reasoning. Regrettably, I did feel a bit of superiority and privilege to be off them and I would talk to people how, they too, should be off social media for their well-being. I’m sure they got bored of me. I certainly did. Only when you are off social media, you realise how much people reference it in everyday conversations. I felt old when people mentioned something and I had no idea what they were talking about. The itch to get back on grew each day. I probably had three months in total where I really did not miss it at all.
I’m back on social media
There was a moment in June 2020 where I thought my obsession to avoid digital devices and social media was somewhat silly. There was a pandemic going on. More than ever, connecting with others who I couldn’t physically be in contact with was more important at that moment. I had been able to create the habits and discipline to trust myself to be online in a social capacity. I signed up to Facebook for family and friends, created a Twitter account to link with others with similar interests and a Tumblr account to do a little micro journaling. I accessed Facebook through a web browser on my Chromebook with plenty of anti-tracking plugins installed. There is no way I would install the app on my phone or iPad. I didn’t check it every day either. Snapchat and Instagram were a no go because I simply had no interest in using them. My main social outlet now - Twitter where I go by the username @theminimlrblog to tweet about the things I enjoy and Tumblr theguywiththeglasses.blog for my personal micro journal. I don’t plan on deleting them any time soon. Keeping a close eye on my daily usage is key and I plan to have regular well-being check ups to make sure I am using them responsibility. The whole experience of removing myself from the digital world helped me check-in with what I truly valued. My close contacts mean the world to me and I am loyal to them. Those one to one experiences are more meaningful now. I can confidently say I am more social now than ever before.
"Where we want to be cautious...is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with 'likes' on a post." - Cal Newport
Have you quit social media and come back to it?
I would like to hear how you manage your time on social media now. Any success stories about using digital minimalism to help you achieve a healthier relationship with social media is very welcome.