I’ve deleted all my social media accounts.
Yup. All of them.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Flickr, Google+, YouTube.
Well, a couple of years ago, I watched the TED Talk “Why You Should Quit Social Media” by Cal Newport
I was intrigued by his message so I also read his book "Deep Work."
His basic message is that social media fractures our attention and makes us distracted so that it becomes impossible to concentrate deeply on anything. But having focussed concentration is necessary to create something that is genuinely worthwhile and meaningful. This is what he calls deep work.
It took me about two years, from the time I read Deep Work, to get to the point where I genuinely wanted to delete all my social media accounts (rather than just thinking it sounded like a wise idea that I’d never actually go through with).
It took me that long, a full two years, to become painfully aware of how much of my time and attention was being sucked into that black hole of social media.
Also I came to realise how distracted I was, how fractured my attention was, to the point where I couldn't even play with my toddler without feeling that addictive impulse to check my phone every few minutes. Of all people in this world, young children have a unique ability to be fully engrossed in whatever they are doing. Fully present in that moment. And they are also very aware when you are NOT fully present; when you're distracted or bored or halfhearted.
One of the biggest reasons for hesitating to delete all these different social media accounts was that I used them to promote my photography business. The marketing experts advise using social media to advertise yourself because it’s free! But the catch is that you need to post interesting and useful content on a regular basis. Which is great. Except I never did it! I posted something once every few months. So it became a chore that was constantly on my "to do" list but that I never ever got around to doing. And it weighed on my mind constantly and became a source of stress.
But something Cal Newport said really struck me. He said, “Don't use social media just because it has SOME benefits.” That single statement made so much sense to me! Social media might be great for marketing myself, but does that benefit outweigh all the drawbacks? For me, the addictive impulse to check my phone, the hours of lost time, and the fractured attention were massive drawbacks that far outweighed any benefits.
So I finally decided to make the leap.
Have you noticed, over the last few years, that most social media platforms have started incorporating more and more advertisements in among organic posts?? I have come to realise how INTENSELY I dislike advertising in social media, and how much I hate the idea that I am one of those businesses advertising on social media! So once I decided get get off the social media hamster wheel, I felt a profound sense of relief. A weight being lifted off my shoulders.
And I can tell you, honestly, I haven't missed them for an instant.
Are there drawbacks? Sure. It’s harder to stay in touch with some people. I can’t contact my football team as easily. I'm possibly missing out on important news from acquaintances, like engagements and weddings and babies. But for those people I truly care about, I only have to talk with them to find out what's going on in their lives. Like my cousin being pregnant, and an uncle getting cancer. These things would normally generate a quick written message of congratulations or condolences. But instead, now I just simply talk to that person, face to face.
I feel that I've become better at living in the moment. More present. More mindful. Learning to enjoy time spent with my husband and toddler without distractions.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally still have fractured attention. I still check my phone compulsively (there’s nothing to check but I haven’t broken that habit yet!). I have to stop myself using other forms of distraction (like watching TED Talks on my phone!). It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m getting there!
The biggest change I’ve noticed is how I perceive myself. The people I spend time with hasn't changed - the family and close friends that I see on a regular basis. But I have become aware of how small that group truly is. Compared to having 500+ Facebook friends, with all their various posts and updates flooding in, it seems small and quiet to have only a handful of people that I truly care about enough to hang out with on a regular basis. It’s a bit of an ego killer, to realise how small my world really is. But once I deflated my ego a bit, I realised how blessed I am to have a bunch of genuinely wonderful people in my life.
The most positive benefit is that I’ve become aware of how much I was measuring my happiness and success by comparing myself to those my-life-is-perfect-and-shiny messages that everyone shares on social media. So now, instead of viewing my life through a lens of “will this impress my friends?” I’m starting to think “What is important to me? What will make me genuinely happy? Which relationships matter?”
And it feels good.