Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but I think social media is one of the main things that is shaping our culture right now – for better or for worse.
What other generation has had presidents, celebrities, and world leaders able to communicate on such a casual, unfiltered platform?
What other generation has had completely self-made celebrities, like those who are Youtube professionals or “Insta-famous?”
In what other generation have children seen their entire lives documented publicly – in videos and photos – from birth to going off to college?
In what other generation have we been able to communicate, free of charge, between different counties?
What I’ve found is that while the vast world of social media has many advantages, it also tells us some serious lies.
While technology has the potential to serve us and enrich our lives greatly, if we aren’t constantly evaluating our usage, it’s easy to get swept up in the current and lose sight of what’s right in front of us.
It’s easy to be motivated by extrinsic rather than intrinsic sources.
It’s easy to waste a lot of valuable time and energy consuming rather than creating. Being impressed upon rather than making a lasting impression in the world.
Here are some of the lies I’ve noticed in the world of social media.
Social media promises: Connection
Truth is: It leaves us disconnected to those around us
Social media promises: Affirmation
Truth is: It leaves us feeling that we aren’t enough
Social media promises: Excitement
Truth is: It results in wasted time, even addiction
Social media promises: To soothe us
Truth is: It stresses us out
Social media promises: To help us keep in touch
Truth is: It isolates us
Social media promises: To archive our memories
Truth is: We’re not fully present when we’re caught up in documenting everything
Social media promises: Popularity
Truth is: We feel like we’re missing out
Social media promises: Fulfillment
Truth is: It only frustrates
Social media promises: A platform
Truth is: Actions speak louder than social media posts
Social media promises: You’re in control
Truth is: You can’t stop checking it
Sites like Facebook are designed to be highly addicting – even more than they are designed to be useful.
The bottom line is that they want to sell ads. And the more time users spend on the site, the more the site can charge advertisers.
Every site has an app too, so there’s no need to ever even log out on your phone. Again, this is so you’ll check it frequently.
I no longer use the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest apps. One simple thing I’ve been trying to do is at least log out of my accounts so I have to make a conscious decision to log in and check them. It’s slightly more mindful, and keeps me from checking all day long, every day.
Am I completely against all social media accounts? No. I think they can be useful. Maybe it’s true that some of us would really benefit from a drastic deletion of our accounts.
But maybe the rest of us simply need to be more mindful about it.
To ask ourselves often: Is this still serving me? Or am I serving it?
I don’t think you can ever ask that question too much!
Maybe some of us can keep our accounts, but not be owned by them. Here are some practical tips I’ve learned. Let me know if you have useful tips too!
Don’t Use Facebook as Your Main Photo Album
You can use Google Photos or Google Drive to document and share photo albums instead of Facebook or Instagram. It keeps them a little more private, and takes away the pressure to get a lot of likes and comments.
I believe it’s also a more reliable backup, as Facebook sometimes makes it really hard to search past posts, and Instagram doesn’t let you download high-quality photos – so they both make a terrible backup option.
Delete Half of Your Accounts
You can simply delete or deactivate the accounts that are no longer serving you. Maybe you still use Twitter but you can get rid of Facebook. Maybe you love Youtube but can delete Pinterest. You get the idea.
By getting these apps and accounts off your screen, the temptation to waste time on them will be eliminated. Even if you’re spending time on your phone, it will at least be on the sites that you enjoy the most. Trim the excess.
Don’t Use the Entire Site
You can pick and choose the parts of a site that are useful. I’ve been “partially” using Facebook for a while now and it’s really working well for me.
I use the Messenger app because I like that it’s quick, free texting and easy group messages (both things that my affordable phone plan isn’t too great at.)
I also like Messenger because sometimes I want to get a hold of someone whose number I don’t have.
But I don’t watch the little Snapchat vids at the top. I don’t scroll the Newsfeed either.
I check my groups and events almost daily though. These are the parts of Facebook that I still feel serve me and connect me to people in real life.
If you don’t want to do a long fast, try just going camping for a couple of days – somewhere where there isn’t phone service. Or just turn your phone off and leave it in the car while camping. If you use your phone as your watch, forget about what time it is. Time doesn’t matter when you’re camping! And if you use it as your camera, maybe just don’t take photos. Soak in the present moment, without pressure to document and share it.
I love camping partly because I’m switched off. It’s so relaxing, and helps center me in the real world around me.
Be Drastic if Need Be
If you’re really fed up with social media and need to break free entirely, I would encourage you to do it!
There’s no rule that says you must be present on social media in order to get by in life. Many people have already done it, or are already thinking about it, and will respect your decision. If you have a lot of out-of-town friends you like to keep in touch with, maybe consider starting an email newsletter or even just writing actual letters to them!
Employers won’t think less of you if you don’t have social media. They might even love it – because no profile is better than an embarrassing, unprofessional profile.
Maybe someday I’ll take the plunge and completely shut it all off. But until then, I’m going to keep striving for mindful social media usage, and constant evaluation of whether or not the platform is serving me or I’m serving it.
What are your thoughts? How does social media serve you and how do you need to break free from its enslavement? Have you ever done a social media fast? If so, what did you take away from the experience?
Photography by Becca Tapert