In the months leading up to my son’s second birthday (and two days later, on my 32nd birthday), I started to think about time. It seems like a pretty obvious and uninspired thing to contemplate as I got closer to counting my child’s age in years, rather than months. But in addition to thinking about how fast time has passed, I also thought about how much time had been wasted on social media.
On the eve of my son’s 23-month-milestone, I audited my previous week and thought about all of the things I had hoped to accomplish that just didn’t happen. And I thought about the probable HOURS I spent, as my friend would say, “Stuck in a scroll,” on social media.
I then thought about the time after the scroll on Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat that I let what I read or saw weigh on me. I should have prefaced this by saying that I’m not anti-social-media. In fact, I think social media has incredible value in connecting people and sharing ideas. (It’s also incredibly good for businesses.) Writing for BVTMB is a contribution to that world – so it’s not as if I don’t see anything meaningful in the medium.
But more often than not, I clicked out of my social media apps feeling less-than, annoyed, or even furious. So, back to the point.
I deleted them. All of them. (Full disclosure: I did not delete my Facebook account, just the app, because I actually need to access it for work.)
Like any addiction, my immediate response was of slight panic, followed by withdrawal. Could I do this? Is this how bad my social media addiction had gotten?
Being that I’m 32, I matured in the age of social media. I spent my college years and my 20s navigating the rapidly evolving – and increasingly powerful – social media onslaught. I often learned about break ups through relationship status updates; I posted pictures of crazy nights out with friends without even considering that those pictures could potentially cost me job offers years later. Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat replaced AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace, and we suddenly had new places to post Dave Matthews lyrics or vague quotes to passively aggressively make a statement or stir a pot.
Suddenly, our parents were online with us. And our GRANDPARENTS. Then came politics, businesses, and the bullying that once festered in the hallways at school.
So, what happened when I chose to unsubscribe from it all? Well, after my initial panic dissipated, I felt jubilant. Pure joy. It only took a couple days to feel the benefits of my social media break. I spent my evenings before bed reading actual books, or meditating, or just talking to my husband.
I got out bed in the morning without wasting 15 minutes scrolling through feeds. I saved money! I shopped less impulsively (again, social media is super great for businesses).
I felt free from the drama, free from the urge to post something politically charged into an echo chamber that really didn’t move the needle for anyone, including me. I stopped liking pictures and stopped caring who liked mine.
After a couple weeks went by, I also realized that I no longer felt attached to my phone. I didn’t need to capture things with an intention of posting or streaming my daily activities. I didn’t feel like I needed to post my activities in order to validate my actions. I laughed at my son’s silliness without trying to get him to repeat it for a camera.
I felt ALIVE. The high vibrations from my unsubscribe movement were more addictive than any news feed could be. And I decided to embrace the momentum by unsubscribing to emails. Newsletters that I never read; brand promos that lured me into another pair of jeans that I don’t need; I stopped getting them all. In my audit, I discovered things that I wish I had seen had my inbox not been inundated with visual noise. At the very minute I write this, I have six emails in my inbox – six things that I WANT to read, and that I now have the time to look at.
While my joy in this re-discovered freedom and invested presence in my own life was life-changing, unsubscribing has also had its downfalls.
I missed things. Like, not just emotionally missed them, I physically missed them – events I was supposed to go to – I just totally blew them off. That’s the power of social media – it’s not just a platform any more; it’s where many of our social calendars live.
It’s also where my book club communicates, and I missed the banter; I found myself on the outside of inside jokes. I forgot about actual book club events. I also missed the support from my fellow moms.
The conclusion I’ve drawn after this experience of unsubscribing from social media? It should come as no surprise, but the answer for me is balance.
I don’t want to completely remove social media from my life – it actually plays a huge role in my social experiences (go figure). I won’t go completely without it, but its omission has removed the power and control social media had over my life. And that’s something I’ll never miss.