To be honest, I never really got into social media. I had accounts on most platforms, I had friends, followers, and all that stuff. I even posted quite regularly. But it never became a part of my personality, I wasn’t living the “insta-life” or regularly engaged in Twitter discussions. But I still spent a lot of time there, around one hour and a half daily. That might not seem much compared to more heavily addicted people, but for me, it was already too much. The worst part was that I wasn’t actively participating in any discussions that could have had any value, I was just passively consuming mostly shitty content. By shitty, I mean not bringing any value to my life. This was destroying slowly my ability to focus, spend time without the need to pick up my phone and most importantly of all be present wherever I went.
If this story seems familiar, if you struggle with having not enough time in the day to do all the stuff you need and want to be generally less anxious, distracted and more present, the answer is simple: Delete all social media. I know, this seems very drastic. But please, let me convince you to this idea by telling you the story of my change.
I started noticing my social media problem around November last year when I was in the midst of optimizing the way I work and rethinking most of my work-related habits. First, I decided to simply trackeverything I did — be it school, personal, errands, food, even sleeping. I wanted to know where do all those twenty-four hours disappear. Later, I changed many of my work habits by implementing a wide range of tools and techniques, but that’s a story for another time. Still, I spent around 1h 30m to 2h daily on my smartphone — mostly on social media.
At first, I went the softer way — deleted all the apps from my phone. True, I spent a lot less time, but it still was around 45 minutes, and all of that happened on my laptop, mostly during times when I was supposed to work. Previously, even though I spent more time, it was mostly on the bus, where I can’t work productively, so I felt less guilty about it.
I still was addicted, but just limited my supply of what was addictive. That made me even more frustrated as it seemed a missed goal. Then, I stumbled upon Digital Minimalism— a book by professor Cal Newport about deleting social media. At first, I wasn’t convinced as I hold the belief that social was a great way to connect with my friends and the people I care about. In the book, Newport describes the idea of the 30-day social media detox, something that is becoming more and more popular. It’s simple: you get rid of social for 30 days, and then you decide to come back or not. Because I had really no other idea on how to solve my problem, I decided to do it.
Here’s what I did with every platform I had an account on and checked at least once per week:
- Facebook — I deactivated my account — not completely deleting, but simply turning it off. It made my profile disappear from most places on Facebook — and of course, turned off all the notifications.
- Instagram — My account serves the purpose of my portfolio — I’m an artist. I simply unfollowed everyone.
- Twitter — Same thing as with Instagram, but I also deleted all my tweets that are not photos.
- Reddit — unsubscribed from all subreddits.
I also changed passwords to every account, printed them on a single piece of paper and hid them somewhere in my cupboard.
The first few days were very weird — my subconsciousness expected that dose of excitement accompanying checking my phone. But after a week I just forgot about it, and that was very liberating. And yes, I had more time. Even though my days still were composed of twenty-four hours, I managed to read a book for 25 minutes, exercise for another 25 and meditate for the last 25. I have not looked back at social media ever since.
I like comparing social media to a shadow — it has the overall shape of human interactions, but it’s two-dimensional, texture-less and empty. Social media feels a little bit like real life — you can say things out loud, meet new people, participate in groups, comment on others. But it is not exactly like real life — what you see is selected by a machine, how you react is just limited to six emotions or less (at least on facebook), and those emotions are conveyed by simple icons. If you struggle with social media, ask yourself this question: Do I really want to live in a world that is an imperfect copy of the real one? I believe that all sane people will answer no.
If you want your life to be sane, delete social media.