The other day we had an online meeting at work where one of my colleagues, a man in his 50s, said proudly that he has around 150 followers on Instagram. He also mentioned that he doesn’t upload as much lately because the last several pictures he shared didn’t get many likes.
Social media is an emotional roller coaster. This man was excited to take and upload pictures, thrilled that he gained followers, disappointed that he doesn’t get enough engagement, and then sad with the decision not to upload anymore.
I don’t know how many times that man rode this roller coaster, and it doesn’t really matter. I have been on social media since I was 15 years old, and it made me feel nauseous.
Active vs Passive Social Media Usage
Social media refers to websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. That includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.
I like to divide social media usage into two sub-groups that vary between users: active and passive. Uploading pictures, videos, tweets, comments is active, but consuming content and giving likes is an activity I define as passive.
Let’s look at an example: For a YouTube content creator, YouTube’s platform is way more addictive than for a viewer like me. That is because they probably want to know how their videos are doing, how many followers their channel has, what people wrote in their comments, etc. I just use it as an on-demand TV and I’m less invested.
4 Reasons Social media is addictive, just like a casino
1. Dopamine rush:
According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes, when you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical messenger called dopamine along a reward pathway, which makes you feel good.
Every encounter on social media gets measured. Every picture and every comment can be quantified in likes. Being liked feels great, but only if you are liked enough, and what is enough? With each success, yours or your friends’, the threshold gets higher. This goal can never be satisfying. I realized that if I upload less often— I will encounter that emotional turbulence less often. That realization got me to the second resemblance:
2. “Money” invested:
I’ve been on social media for years and have been using it daily. I had thousands of friends and photos and pretty much shared everything that crossed my mind.
Jaron Lanier, in his book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, said that using social media is participating in a competition no one can win, and I fully agree. I don’t want to participate in this contest anymore.
So I stopped uploading and started just observing. This was great for me because I didn’t have this obsession every time I upload something. It is impossible to upload a photo or write a witty tweet, and not check its success.
Because I engaged less, I got notified less. Because I got notified less, The app would get boring faster. Problem is — I would still log in and still waste my time! I would refresh the news feed page pretty often. So why did I keep logging in?! That is resemblance number 3.
3. ‘Pull to refresh’ feature:
Just like the slot machine, you pull the handle for the chance to win this time. Win 3 sevens or 3 cherries or an interesting post. And as in the slot machines, we are driven by the “just one more time”… that becomes 20. Those twenty refreshings bring us to the last resemblance:
4. Time consumption:
Casinos are built in a way that you won’t feel the time pass by, and so is social media.
I feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day, which I know is a pretty common feeling. But how can I say that 24 hours aren’t enough when I spend hours on meaningless scrolling? It just doesn’t make sense. I want to spend my free time more wisely, and I truly believe anything else will give better value and would be a better option.
3 Reasons I miss social media
Yes, I quit social media, but there is a reason many people decide not to. We can’t ignore the drawbacks of that path.
1. Missing out:
The first and most obvious one: You are going to miss out on information. whether it’s a worldwide event or someone from your high school had a baby — you’ll get the news in delay. I will also admit that I miss reading other people’s opinions on things.
2. Reaching people:
I have met some people online, some of whom I’ve been in touch more often than my “real friends”. The ability to connect through mutual interests and not being limited to geographic distance or past experiences is a huge advantage.
There is something nice about adding people you barely know as Facebook friends, cause then you have a pool of potential new friends. I am aware that people can’t reach me now, cause they don’t have my phone number or feel we are not close enough to send a message, and that is my loss.
So this is a good place to say, as I always write in my blog-posts outros — never hesitate to send a message! I’d love to talk to you. You can reach out through any of the blog’s socials or my LinkedIn profile.
In addition to reconnecting with old friends, social media is a great opportunity to meet new people. Besides having a friend who met her husband on Facebook, I know that online presence is a common thing to check in the pursue of a partner, and lacking social media can seem fishy.
The thing I miss most at the moment is Facebook groups. The online community for female software developers or Israelis in Ireland made me feel inspired and enriched my life.
Another honorable mention for communities is helping and getting help. Sometimes I could really use a platform where I can get personal honest recommendations.
6 Reasons I don’t miss social media
It has been 4 months since I’m social media-less, and I’ve noticed the change in some areas.
1. Enjoying things to the fullest:
No more watching a movie with my phone in my hand. No more scrolling during a conversation with a friend. Being present and talking to friends instead of following them.
2. Gaining back my lost time:
I used to lose hours of free time and sleep, and not even realizing it. Now I gained control over my time and I make a clearer decision about what I want to do with it. Obviously, my productivity increased as well.
3. Connecting people:
Social media gives you the facade that you have many friends. Truth it, most of us still feel lonely, even with hundreds of Facebook friends. Catching up with friends through your newsfeed may feel like keeping in touch, but that doesn’t really satisfy the basic need for relationships and friendships. Converting this hourly facebook scrolling with an actual phone call to a friend would be so much better.
4. Time to think!
Having social media within reach means that the second I get bored I dive deep into it. Being in a constant state of receiving information, I forgot how fun it is to create thoughts as well. Digest, think, remember, realize.
5. Taking pictures for me:
We all know that scenario: you look at something (sometimes yourself), thinking it appears cute, taking a picture that doesn’t capture that beauty, so you take 50 more. Doesn’t sound like a happy experience, does it? Something about capturing the moment, knowing it won’t be exposed, or even judged, by other people is liberating. I love that.
6. Owning my experiences:
This one splits into two: First, posting online prevents me from being able to recount stories myself. People are storytellers and this is a shallow lame duplicate that doesn’t really satisfy our social need.
I also own my experience by experiencing it for myself. Mostly because I build my own appreciation for myself, without external approval. It just feels different. It feels right.
Here I am, in a blog-post, preaching about the flaws of social media and ditching the need to share and get affirmation. This is problematic both because in my blog I share and get affirmation, and because my blog has 5(!) social media platforms.
So let me explain:
Remember that division we did before, to active and passive usage of social media? So I decided the best solution for me is to keep the passive ones. I kept the social media accounts that give me benefits and I’m not hooked on. That means the ones I can keep being a member of and not have on my phone. This is what works for me.
If Deleting Seems Too Extreme
First of all — if you are worried about losing your memories, you can download them prior to deleting them, and I have tutorials in a previous blog post if you need help. I also recommend reading it if you need another push towards stopping sharing your life online.
Second, if deleting is too intimidating, you can start with deactivating. Don’t worry about doing such a drastic step — no one will notice. 1500 friends on Facebook and even my best friends took a while to realize I wasn’t there anymore.
If you still want to keep track of your beloved groups and pages, you can also start a new profile. One that will have zero friends and zero information, and will only serve as a window for you to the social media world.
And if that is too drastic for you, another option is deleting the apps from your phone. Logging in only on your private (not work!) laptop, will already make a huge difference.
I want to end this blog-post with a quote by Bo Burnham:
“Social media is just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform, so the market said, here — perform. Perform everything to each other, all the time, for no reason. It’s prison — it’s horrific. It’s performer and audience melded together. I know very little about anything. But what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.”
There are other very important reasons to quit social media and here I shared my story and my reasoning. With all due respect to other, more important, and global arguments, I am not trying to make you a better person, I am just offering a change that might make you happier.
I highly recommend reading Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and watching The Social Dilemma. These resources will give you more great reasons, including the effect of our tendency to follow online, follow only those people with similar opinions to us, and our attention and data being a product social media sold to third party companies.
And if you enjoy your social media, think you are not addicted or don’t care if you are addicted? Cool, then you can follow my blog on social media 😉
Agree with me? Disagree with me? I would love to hear your opinion!