I tell you what happened when I quit social media six months ago, and why I don't want to come back.
I used to be everywhere. Name the social media and, most probably, I had an account. Internet’s always been a big thing for me, and a certain kind of online presence was good for my profession, hobbies and relationships.
The ones I liked most were Twitter, Flickr and LinkedIn. I’ve been a fairly early adopter. Then came Facebook and Instagram, which became the main reasons why I closed most of my accounts. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Facebook since the beginning. The first time I logged in, I hated the interface, the colours, and couldn’t understand its purpose. In fact, I closed my account right away, only to be enticed back some time later by friends because “we’re all on there and it’s fun”.
With Instagram, it’s been a slow burn. My love for photography should have been satysfied by the app, but it was also a moment where filters were heavily used — the other famous picture-taking app at the time was Hipstamatic — and I preferred taking photos with a camera anyway.
As the popularity of Instagram grew, together with the quality of its content, I was hooked. I never deleted my Flickr account, but I barely visited the platform: at some point, it felt like everyone migrated over the squared-pictures app. When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 though, its future became sadly clear. Fast-forward to January 2021: I deactivated what I once considered my precious Instagram account, and closed my WhatsApp. Before that, I closed my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest accounts. Six months later, here’s what happened.
The noise stopped
It was a strange feeling at first: something was missing. I got used to a certain level of noise in my life, to a point where I didn’t notice it anymore. Once it was gone, it became so evident I felt relieved. I have fewer distraction opportunities, so it gradually became easier to focus for longer. As a result, I’m able to start and finish reading books again, and my productivity improved considerably.
The world kept turning
I’m oblivious of memes, backlashes, scandals and anything that goes viral or is trending on social media. Instead of experiencing FOMO, I’ve became indifferent to them. The time I used to spend following what happened online is spent elsewhere, and the best part is that I don’t feel compelled to weigh in. I do have strong opinions — about the things I care most — but I doubt the entire world needs to know them.
In this historic moment, anything can be divisive and social media is the place where most people pick sides. It is also a sad spectacle to watch, as polarised arguments are amplified but never settled.
My mental health improved
A few years ago, I thought having success on Instagram could become my side hustle. It happened to a lot of people, so why not me? I purchased an online course from a famous influencer to understand how to make my account Instagram-worthy, and get my pictures at the top of the algorithm.
From that moment, I’ve been stuck in a loop. I’d go out and enthusiastically take photos, publish them, and check the statistic to see how they fared. I’ve had good moments, met great people, but it was never enough. As a photographer, I was never enough. The statistics became a problem: I was obsessed with them. I’d constantly check them, wondering what I was doing wrong. When it all became too much, I switched to a personal account, hoping to solve my the issue with the tap of a button. It didn’t happen: the numbers weren’t the real problem.
Every time I was in a photography rut and couldn’t take pictures, I’d feel guilty because I had nothing to post. My passion for photography went from being a hobby that never let me down to a cause of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Ever since I deactivated my Instagram account, I take photos whenever I feel like it. I post them on Flickr, or keep them to myself. It doesn’t matter much anymore, as long as I have a creative outlet.
No more immediacy
Everytime I had something to say or show, I’d post it on some social media almost immediately. It was a normal thing to do. Even if it faded in recent years, I see it as a strange behaviour from my part. It could be a reflection brought up by the fact I know myself a bit more now, but it always took me some time to assimilate concepts and form opinions. That’s why I now prefer writing on my blog, and why I recently slowed down posting: I’m elaborating some recent learnings and realisations.
Quitting social media has been a good decision for me. I’m more focused, less anxious and have more free time. These, plus the various lockdowns, allowed me to reflect and concentrate more on what matters. This decision is not for everyone, but it’s important to realise how much influence social media has on our lives, how much they can change our behaviours and ways of thinking. And then make decisions for ourselves.
- You Really Need to Quit Twitter – article on The Atlantic
- Why you should quit social media TED Talk by Cal Newport
- The vicious flower and the news on my website
- Center for Humane Technology
- We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads TED Talk by Zeynep Tufekci
22 November, 2021
Two months ago, I logged in on my Instagram account and felt nothing. I saw a friend’s video, but didn’t feel the need to see the rest of my feed. There was no point in keeping the account inactive, so I set it for deletion. Now it’s gone.
4 July, 2023
I joined Mastodon in March 2022. I did because it is a different type of social media. One that is not owned by a corporate and where there is no algorithm to crack. It still a social network, so people share news and content about subjects I try to avoid, but Mastodon provides tools to curate the feed.
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