7 Lessons I Learned From Quitting Social Media
I began quitting various social media platforms over five years ago. I started with Facebook and worked my way through Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Today, I have a severely neglected LinkedIn account that I don’t have the heart to fully kill and only login once every few months to blanket accept all of the random people who add me on there before logging out again. But otherwise, I am completely social media free.
Not only am I completely disengaged from social media, I still have a robust group of friends that I communicate regularly and I run a successful online freelance writing business that pays the bills. These are all things that my doubters and naysayers said could not be done. But they were wrong.
These are the most important things I learned from quitting social media.
1. It is hard at first but gets easier
Like quitting any addiction or ingrained habit, getting off social media is hard. These platforms are intentionally designed to be addictive and that makes quitting them that much harder. Like any addiction, making the commitment to quit and sticking to it through the first few weeks is the hardest part. You will have severe FOMO, you are going to wonder if some people think that you blocked them instead of simply quitting, and you are going to have weird moments where you take out your phone to check your apps only to realize that there is nothing to check. This is all normal.
It does get easier. Once you break the habit of doomscrolling and stop wondering what that one friend from high school is doing with their life, you will stop missing social media altogether. You tend to forget all of the negativity and drawbacks to using social media when you are on it 24/7 but once you quit, you start to realize that these media companies are not all roses.
After the initial few days of feeling that urge to jump back on, the desire to partake in social media begins to fade. The cravings begin to dampen.
As someone who quit smoking and social media, I promise it gets easier. And you can do it too if you want.
2. You don’t have as many friends as you think
One of the most appealing aspects of social media is that it tricks people into thinking they have tons of friends. Dozens of friends. Hundreds of friends. But when you quit using things like Facebook you quickly realize that you don’t have as many friends as they want you to believe.
When I quit social media, I lost touch with dozens of people. Most of them were from high school and some were even childhood friends. It was hard. I made sure the important people had ways to communicate with me outside of social media. Most of them didn’t. And that’s okay.
Friends who don’t make the effort to keep in touch when it is hard or won’t make the effort to send a text probably weren’t really friends at all.
3. There are ways to communicate other than social media
The most persistent question I got, and still get, from people who learn that I hopped off social media is: but how will you keep in touch with people? Many people continue to dwell on social media using the excuse that they are only there to keep in touch with distant relatives when we all know that is not the case. Yes, it is nice to get a reminder when it is your aunt’s birthday but if you didn’t remember on your own does the trite Happy Birthday post mean anything anyways?
The good news is, there are indeed other methods of communication that are not reliant on social media to function.
There is texting. You can give someone your personal phone number and have them type you a message when they feel like talking.
You can use that same number and dial it to talk to someone over the phone. Using your voice.
You can use third party texting applications such as Telegram and WhatsApp to text without using a phone number if you don’t want to.
You can also write emails. Or even write regular mail. Perhaps you can even send a package to someone with a message attached to a gift.
Before you quit social media, disseminate your phone number to your close friends, send it out to your family in a mass family group text and rest knowing that the people you want to communicate with have a method to get in touch with you. And be content knowing that some people will never reach out to you outside of social media.
4. There is a difference between deactivation and deletion
This is a tricky distinction that most, if not all, of the social media companies use to keep you hooked. When you first go to shut down your account you are always presented with the option to deactivate your account. This simply puts your profile to sleep but does not delete any of your photos, important information or past posts. Then they slyly email you to ask when you’re coming back and remind you that your account will reactivate after you login. This makes it hard for people to quit because it only takes one moment of weakness to login again for the account to reactivate and then you have to start the process all over again.
But you can fully delete your account as well. They just don’t want you to.
The option to delete your social media account is often hidden and buried under multiple screens, options and warnings before you actually get to the button that allows you to fully and permanently delete your account. I had to Google it to find the specific page for multiple platforms.
Don’t let them own all of your past social media activity. Take back control and make sure its fully deleted.
5. Social media controls your internet intake
When you are constantly on social media, you completely turn over control of your media intake to other people and not all of them have the best intentions. You don’t get to control whether or not you read a ridiculous Facebook post or see an Instagram picture of an exotic location that makes you feel jealous. Other people control that and the social media platforms steer you to the content they think you want to see. All of this robs you of your ability to control your internet intake. No one wakes up wanting to get enraged by a stupid Facebook post but that is exactly how thousands, if not millions, of people wake up every day.
Without social media, if I want to see a picture of Bali I will search for one. If I want to read the latest conspiracy theories, I will look for them on my own. Without social media if I want a daily dose of stupid I will watch Dumb and Dumber on HBO Max. I control, for the most part, what I see online and that makes a world of difference.
6. You can still be successful online without social media
The other big lie I was told is that without social media I could never be successful in modern business. That was also not true. They said without Twitter and Facebook I would never be able to grow a following but I did. I have multiple freelance clients and a presence on Medium and Bookshlf. It is enough to pay the bills and my footprint continues to grow without the use of Twitter bot followers.
The main way I found success might surprise you. I used email. I browsed job boards. I wrote people with consistently good content and no one once asked me whether or not I had a Facebook.
No one really cares about your social media presence if you are providing a product or service that people want or need.
7. The increase to my mental health was undeniable
It is becoming more and more apparent that social media is bad for peoples’ mental health. It increases feelings of loneliness, anger, depression, jealousy and even suicide. Almost everything on social media is fake, from filters to full out fake vacations. This subtle fakery that pervades every facet of social media makes it hard for people to accurately judge themselves and set realistic expectations for life which then feeds into the negative feelings that social media produces.
Without social media my mental health took a huge turn for the better. I used to be an avid keyboard warrior, a devout political adherent and a low key lurker and all of those things only ended up making me feel like shit in the long run.
I don’t think about people from my past. I don’t get into heated arguments with strangers. I don’t see pictures of vacations I can never hope to partake in. I don’t feel lonely because I’m surrounded by thousands of fake people pretending to be something they are not.
Now, I only think about people who actively participate in my life. I have healthy face to face conversations with flesh and blood people. I look up details for vacations I actually intend on going on. I feel connected to the people in my actual community who are a real part of my life.
It has changed me for the better.
Quitting social media is hard. They actively make it as difficult as possible. There are entire sections of our society now dedicated to these platforms that will tell you that quitting will only make your life harder. I’m not here to tell everyone to quit social media, I only wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned after being free for five plus years.
And you really do feel free.