Living Without Social Media and What I’ve Learned

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and I have a love-hate relationship. Over 5 years ago, I quit Facebook. For several years, I kept up a Facebook Fan Page for my local business, but this past summer I deleted it.

I found leaving social media didn’t affect readers, nor those who reached out for local business. Actually, most of my new clients did not find me via social media, but through sites like Yelp or Yahoo Local, and primarily word-of-mouth.

This fall, I experimented living without Instagram and Twitter. What started out as a 30-day experiment went on for over 60 days. I returned two weeks ago, unsure if I wanted back in. I gave it my all for a few days, live ‘gramming my Santa Run, and sharing fun days. I tried to live as an article Chris sent me had suggested: documenting life instead of being concerned about creating.

I didn’t love it.

This week, the result was that I chose to move on: disabling Instagram and deleting my tweets again. Twitter doesn’t allow you to deactivate without deleting your account completely within 14 days of deactivation, so it will sit private and empty for the foreseeable future.

Recently, I read an article on the New York Times about what quitting social media might mean for your career…

A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

Over the years, social media has been touted as the way to get ahead, make contacts, and grow yourself professionally. While that may be the case for some, I found my time spent on social media did nothing to advance my career. The real work I did within my career field, without promoting it through tweets, has advanced my career, opened new doors, and helped me to land on my feet in bad times.

I placed a higher importance on lifelong learning, meeting new people, building relationships that mattered, and providing service unmatchable by many. While I may never be a rockstar in my career as a librarian, no amount of posting online could replace what I have accomplished.

I agree with Newport when he says that social media is a passive approach. It is a widely accepted addiction designed to keep you from truly improving yourself and changing the world. You are distracted from creating, instead focusing on convincing others that you’re more important than the next person in their feed. As a regular user of social media for almost a decade or more, I know I’ve used social media to distract myself from my goals.

Steve Pavlina is also in support of ditching social media, which hasn’t harmed his business and actually improved it.

Social media is an endless treadmill that substitutes for real achievement and progress.

Steve inspires me on a regular basis to keep improving myself. He writes about Personal Development for Smart People after all, which I found via word-of-mouth from my friend Steph many years ago. His message resonates, as he’s found just as Newport found, that social media had rewired their experience.

From once being able to concentrate to fragmented attention, social media is proving to be harmful to one’s health. As an introvert myself, I lost the time I used to spend in quiet solitude or reading books to spending that time interacting with others online. It degraded my experience, and it was hard to stop.

The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you’re serious about creating things that matter.

In the last year, I have wanted to focus more on creating meaningful and useful content. I have ebbed and flowed with the desire to share more often, but it hasn’t been without the desire to be helpful to others in some way. Social media appeared to distract me from my goals, as I found myself often this summer flicking through photos on IG or cultivating an existence that may or may not have been our reality.

Often I’m asked, “How do you do it all?” with two kids, a bustling house, full-time career, long distance running goals, crocheting, other hobbies, a photography business, freelance writing, and the list goes on and on. I do it all by focusing on lifelong learning while limiting time wasters like swiping on social media. That’s why I’ve removed comments on my blog, too. There is no discussion that needs to truly occur here, so why waste that precious time?

Don’t get me wrong, social media has its upsides. Social media proved to get me to take more photographs, in hopes of getting just the right image to share online. It also provided a distraction while out on a run. And it allowed me to stay in contact with relatives near and far. Though, all of those uses are easily replaced with a healthier alternative.

Being outside of the central social media world has brought such freedom. I no longer feel stressed out over a rude comment or seeing a post that frustrates me. I no longer feel like my life is lived as a comparison, always trying to live up to another’s better day.

Life now is just mine to grow, create, and improve. Sure, I’ve met and kept in contact with many people over the years through social media, but in the end, those that I make the effort to see in person matter most.

Tell me, why do you keep going back to check your feed? Is it just a habit you haven’t broken?

Try a 30-day break and see what changes. You might be surprised at how much more time you have available to feed your true passions, to create something meaningful, or to give more time to your family and friends, in person.