In November of 2018, I logged out of Facebook and Instagram for the last time, deleted my Snapchat account, and removed the Twitter app from my phone. A few months later, I also shuttered my Twitter account. After debating it for many years, and attempting (and failing) multiple times, I was finally done with social media.
It’s been almost a year since that time, and so I decided to do a quick retrospective to answer the following question, something I wish I would have had to read before making my choice: what’s it like to be 30, in the tech sector, and not on any traditional social media platforms? In short, it’s both amazing, and also sometimes slightly annoying.
Before I go into the pros and cons of not being on any of the major social media platforms, allow me to give a little bit of background on my decision, and the steps I took before and after deleting my accounts. I had considered deleting my social media accounts for a long time, for a few different reasons. First off, I knew that I was spending too much time scrolling through my various news feeds. Also, I was not particularly comfortable with any of the companies that ran the platforms knowing as much about me as they did. Facebook in particular had a much more detailed profile on me than I cared for them to have, and I had already begun to only use their website from inside a container on Firefox so that they could not track me around the web.
I made my final decision to begin removing myself from social media in early November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I deleted Instagram and Snapchat almost immediately. I had never used Snapchat heavily, and so removing it was a simple choice. When it came to Instagram, most of those I followed were also on Facebook, and while I enjoyed seeing the pictures that friends and family posted, I knew that I still had other means of communicating with everyone.
Then came Stage 2: Facebook. I had been on Facebook for many years (since high school), and it was how I kept in touch with most family, friends, high school and college classmates, and various people from other stages of my life. In fact, I had convinced myself on numerous occasions that I could not leave Facebook because of the sheer number of people I would no longer have an easy connection to. However, I decided that I was spending too much time on the platform, and so I began sending messages to a handful of people, requesting contact information to use once I closed my account. I also alerted family and close friends, but to make my decision easier and not feel pressure to stay, I did not broadcast to many people that I was leaving. A week before Thanksgiving, I closed and deleted my Facebook account.
That left Twitter. I kept Twitter initially because I was not spending as much time using the app/website, and I was occasionally using it for professional reasons (to follow Precision Planting dealers, other Ag companies, etc). However, in early Spring 2019 I decided that the few uses I had for it were not worth keeping a presence on the platform. And so, like Facebook and Instagram before it, I went into my Twitter account options, and shut it down.
And now, I’m a pariah, right? I’m still (somewhat) young, living life in 2019, and not existing on any of the traditional social media platforms. In some ways… yes, I am. There are both pros and cons to my decision. And I would do the same thing again if I had to choose, although I would probably go about it in a slightly different fashion.
No Social Media: The Pros
I have distinctly more time on my hands. I was spending easily an hour or more a day idly scrolling through my various feeds, liking posts, keeping up with what my family and friends were up to, and keeping myself distracted from the real world. That’s not to say that social media isn’t real, but it’s often an idealized reality.
I also no longer try to create the perfect post for social media, in an attempt to see how many likes I can get, and to get that extra bit of validation from others. Don’t get me wrong: I still have those desires at times. But by limiting my ability to get easy social validation, I am forcing myself to learn to look to God, not those around me, for my self-worth.
I’ve also found that I am less distracted when I am spending time with people I care about. There are fewer things on my phone to send me notifications, and at this point most are work-related. The lack of constant interruptions makes it easier for me to spend time completely focused on who I’m with and what I’m doing.
No Social Media: The Cons
There are often events that I don’t get invited to, because I’m not on social media. This is less of an issue now than it used to be, as people have slowly internalized that they need to contact me directly to invite me to things, but it still happens. And I’ve had to learn to be okay with it, which is hard for someone who deals with the fear of missing out (FOMO) frequently. It does mean, however, that the events I’m invited to are generally because the host is actually interested in me being there, and not because they invited a large portion of their friend list.
I also miss out on social gossip (which is probably both a positive and a negative). I have missed many people’s birthdays, because I forgot to find out when they were ahead of time, and I no longer get a notification. I also am not the first to know when relationship statuses change (single -> dating, dating -> engaged, dating -> single, etc). And I don’t always hear about major life changes either (pregnancy, moving to a new job, new state, etc). These are often small prices to pay, but they do affect me nonetheless.
What would I have done differently?
1. Plan my exit slightly better. There are a few people I wish I would have requested contact info from, which I no longer have the opportunity to do.
2. Write down birthdays and anniversaries. I would have added these as reminders to my calendar. It’s something small, but I enjoy receiving birthday wishes from others, and I would like the opportunity to do the same.
As stated earlier, if I could make the choice again, I would still get rid of social media. I have still continued to maintain my LinkedIn profile, for professional reasons, although I am becoming less and less convinced that it is necessary. Also, since getting rid of Twitter, I have created a Mastodon account (on the Fosstodon instance), which I occasionally use for keeping up with the FOSS community. It has proven to be much less distracting than traditional social media, and it’s also operated by a small community, not a large company, so I trust that they are not attempting to sell my data.