Why I'm Stepping Away From Social Media

When I first heard about the concept of social media, my reaction was, “That’s the dumbest thing in the world and I’ll never use it.” I resisted (before embracing or at least accepting) MySpace, then Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram. It all seemed so unnatural, before it so easily became second nature. My goal is not to disappear completely. I’d like to be reachable. I still enjoy sharing my thoughts with the general public, if anyone is interested enough to hear them that they find this minuscule corner of the Internet. I just want to return to a more natural state of social interaction.

The social media experience, in my opinion, has only detracted from true experiences. Experiencing personal relationships has been reduced to swapping mass news updates, and I want to go back to talking with one friend at a time instead of talking at all my friends at once. Of course, this will require more effort and deliberation, but real friends used to be worth that and still should be. I also want to be able to enjoy traveling, activities and events without spending time checking in and uploading pictures, and then checking back to see whether those pictures have likes.

What I’ve realized is that the entire realm of social media has far more negative effects than benefits. For me, the main problem has been attributing too much meaning to the mental games of Facebook. I used to think that the anxiety that a lot of people claimed Facebook caused didn’t apply to me, but that’s just not true. I still measured the value of a family picture by how many likes and comments it had. I still felt pressure to get a good pic for Facebook on every holiday and trip. I was still concerned about Facebook’s algorithms not showing my posts in friends’ feeds, because if it didn’t show, it didn’t get likes, and if it didn’t get likes, it lost value.

So much drama and anxiety is built into the environment -- the bragging, the embellishments, the full-on fictions to try to make it seem like your life is better than others (or better than it really is), the weighted implications that every friending and unfriending carries with it, and on and on. It’s all a game, and I’m finished participating. Sure, I might be innocent of many of the common offenses (I promise I’ve never lied or intended to harm or belittle anyone), but I’ve been playing along just the same by being an active Facebooker. I can’t say I haven’t looked with concern at how many likes a new profile picture gets, or how many people say “Happy birthday,” or who sees what and how it makes me look. I’ve been irrationally disturbed on more than one occasion worrying about not living up to what I see on other people’s profiles. Social media is a place that encourages comparisons and judgements, or at least makes them very hard to avoid. There’s just too much about social media that is unhealthy and unrealistic.

The games seem to continue with getting off of Facebook. There are the status updates on Facebook about hating Facebook. The judgemental scrubbing of the friends list to then post about how, “If you’re reading this, you’re lucky to have made the cut.” I refuse to play those games as well. I like my friends; I don’t want to offend or abandon them, and I don’t want anyone to think that they’re part of the reason I’m removing myself.

Stripped of all the games, my unadulterated reasons for using Facebook were 1) to have photo albums to reference now and in the future, and 2) to get news. I’ve decided to go down more appropriate avenues for accomplishing these goals. I’ve organized all of my important pictures into private albums on Google Photos, because it affords me the ability to share with whomever asks, much better organizational options, and higher-quality photos. I’ve added all my news sources to Google Play Newsstand, where I can read articles in a more streamlined fashion and won’t lose or miss information in the cluttered, arbitrary feed of Facebook. (I’m not advertising for Google here; I’m sure there are many other options just as good).

Another goal in getting off of social media is that I truly miss the pleasure of catching up with friends. Even if I don’t see someone I love more than once every few years, I’d like to be able to hear about what they’ve been doing without my response being, “Oh yeah, I saw.” And vice versa.

I can’t say I’m quitting social media entirely. Instead of deactivating my Facebook account, I purged my profile, deleting all photos and posts (which I did long ago with my Twitter and Instagram), changed my settings so that no one is able to post on my timeline, and added this sole post:

“To my loyal profile viewers: I have not blocked you. What you see is what's here. If you want to talk to me, feel free to call, text, email, PM, find me on the street, or show up at my door if you're willing to wait outside while I put pants on. If you want to see pictures of me or mine, just ask and, if I can't show you in the flesh over coffee/alcohol/ice water, I'll text you all your heart desires. Jennifer out.”

I plan to still log in to see local news and friends’ pages. I still would like my profile to serve as an access point for people to contact me. I’m just hoping that this plan is successful in liberating me from the stress that came with posting and trying to get too much information from my feed, and I’m hoping it will give me more motivation for having private conversations with people and sharing personal information in more intimate settings.