How I Quit Social Media
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
I love social media – especially Instagram. I love checking the app randomly throughout the day and seeing what my friends, family, acquaintances, people from high school/college, and the random celebrity are up to. I love scrolling through my feed or letting my stories play out. I love laughing at the odd, random humor, and witnessing people get engaged, married, have kids (not always in that order).
But to state the obvious, social media has its negatives too. High social media use can easily make people feel lonely, isolated, anxious, and unworthy. Nonstop viewing of other people’s seemingly happy, wealthy, beautiful lives can really mess with your self-esteem.
My personal issue with social media is I began to feel a strange sense of obligation to it. I would feel obligated to check Instagram throughout the day and update myself on what people were doing (taking selfies? Going to bars? Swimming in Tahiti?). I felt the need to check Facebook at least once a day.
And when I was out with the kids for an event/special occasion, I felt like I “had” to get a picture to document the experience in a post. Out to dinner with a friend? Better get some photos for my IG story.
Lastly, I felt the need to be a certain way in this public space. Felt the need to look a certain way in my posts, comment a certain way on other people’s content, and present myself in a certain light. Every time I was preparing to post something on Facebook or Instagram, I would think to myself – what will my friends think of this? Will this be funny to them? Is this a flattering photo?
So one day I woke up, and deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps off my phone. After about a week, I relented and re-downloaded them, scrolled through them for a couple days, then rededicated myself to living life without them. At least temporarily. It’s been almost two months now, and I haven’t looked back.
This is how I did it:
I played a lot of Candy Crush
In the words of famed philosopher Ricky Bobby “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Once I quit social media, while waiting in line for lunch, or sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, I would dig my phone from my purse or pocket out of habit, and then stare at the unlocked screen blankly. I didn’t have time to devour thorough CNN articles or lengthy blog posts, I just needed something to quickly scroll through to kill time. So, I downloaded Candy Crush. And from then on, whenever I caught myself in one of those moments, I would swipe a few pieces of Candy right and left to fill the void.
You’re probably wondering: Why not just put your phone down and observe life around you? It didn’t take long for me to think the same thing. Why must I keep myself occupied with my phone every minute of down time? So, I stopped. And now, when I wait in line at Target I people watch, read covers of magazines in the checkout line, or even talk to strangers. It’s wild! Either way, I thank Candy Crush for helping me detox from the habit of turning to my phone in every situation.
I took "bad" photos
When you take a photo thinking “this is going to make a great post,” it not only affects the kind of photo you take, but you’re then, obviously, tempted to post something. To break myself of that habit, I started taking photos clearly not fit for posting. Selfies with the kids first thing in the morning where I look a MESS. Photos of the kids playing when the background is a complete MESS. Blurry photos, poorly framed photos, photos where eyes are closed and faces are smudged. They would make horrible Instagram posts, but they make amazing memories.
And not only is my Photo Album full of these imperfectly amazing memories, when I glance at them, I know they were taken because I cherished the moment, and not because I was trying to get something for the perfect post. Makes it all the more special.
I lost my phone
If your phone is always within arm’s reach, guess what, you’re going to reach for it. Now when I’m home, the phone is either on the charger, or sitting on a table/counter somewhere out of my direct eyesight. Out of sight, out of mind. For me, this has helped get rid of the urge to check it. It’s similar to being hungry and checking the fridge three times to see if something delicious has miraculously materialized on one of the shelves. I would check my phone every few minutes on a quiet Sunday night to see if there was an interesting new article on BuzzFeed that wasn’t there five minutes before. Now, when I think to reach for my phone while at home, I often don’t even remember where my phone is. Problem solved.
Quick tip: if you try this step, I would recommend turning your ringer on. Surprise, surprise, it’s hard to find your phone when it’s on silent. Also, I am guilty of ruining a lot of text convos with friends because I simply put my phone down and walked away in the middle of a conversation and therefore responded 5 hours too late. (oops!)
Although this isn’t my New Year’s Resolution (I first started in October), I think it’s a great idea for one. Even you do it for just a week or two, I think your mental health will probably thank you for the reprieve.