Why I quit following your every move
In December of 2015, I decided to go 1-month without Facebook or Instagram.
I initially started my 31-day break for two reasons:
- I was on Facebook and Instagram all the time. I would stay up in bed scrolling and scrolling, without retaining anything.
- I didn’t care about the things I was reading. People’s politics, “funny” quips, year end resolutions – God was I bored. The mundane and often unimpressive details of my “friend’s” lives were making me hate them. I wasn’t happy for anyone; I felt judgmental and dismissive, or envious and unhappy.
All of the above is bad, and after taking a good look at what social media was doing to me, I took a break.
I kept a list of a few things I wanted to post, and some observations I made, during the first few days of my hiatus.
- “Can you believe its December 1st?”
- “I just typed “Gmails” into Google and clicked Send to get to my email. #tuesday”
- A picture of the NYC skyline from my office that I didn’t end up taking
- A picture of the wasabi ginger potato chips that came with my lunch
- I forgot my best friend’s birthday. Without the Facebook notification, I completely overlooked it.
- While driving the 2 hours home from work, I picked up my phone to look at Facebook. I just realized how dangerous that is, and how often I must do it.
- “I just watched my 3rd Netflix documentary today.”
All of the above is bad.
Jotting down and looking at the posts I would have made brought their idiocy to the forefront of my mind. Usually, I post and forget. But really looking at the posts I would have created made me hate them, and myself too kind of.
I didn’t want my life represented on the internet like this. After 4 days, I stopped having urges to login.
Disclaimer: You are probably judging me right now, because you carefully craft interesting and poignant posts before hitting submit. You only upload breathtaking and life changing photos. You have already dismissed me completely as part of the problem. Be warned, ye who find themselves pompously posting. You’re probably posting dumb shit too.
Staying friends anyway
My friends had to text me and call me more. I had to personally update them on my life because I could no longer just post toward them. We shared news with each other, not our profiles.
I felt like I was caught up and close with my friends by reading their daily updates. But I wasn’t actually interacting with them, and there’s a difference.
I felt more connected to my friends by the end of December than I had in quite some time. That’s for real.
Removing validation and comparison
December is a really great time to quit social media, because there’s a lot of socializing going on, and you will want to send pictures of yourself having fun to all 300 of your acquaintances.
Not posting pictures or writing about the parties and friends I visited made me realize I didn’t need my life to be validated.
Removing the burden of prying eyes on my day-to-day changed my perspective. I want to pursue a life I’m proud of for me, and not because of how it’ll make me look.
Let me repeat that: Instead of wanting my life to look a certain way, I want my life to actually be a certain way. Those are 2 very different things.
I thought I was chasing life for myself, but removing constant public opinion from my everyday helped me to hone in on what I really wanted. Not doing a single thing based on how others will respond made life begin to feel more genuine.
Even though I hadn’t noticed it, I had been altering parts of myself, or at least how I portrayed parts of my life, for your public approval.
At 1am or so on New Year’s Day, I signed back onto Facebook. The next day, I signed back onto Instagram.
By January 3rd, both were deactivated again.
It was like a rush of self-involved nonsense. The things people were writing infuriated me. Several photos of the outfit you’re wearing tonight? Complaining about the guy who cut you off? Really long, introspective paragraphs about all you’ve learned this last year? STOP.
Why do we feel the need for so much attention? Why are you telling me the guy at Starbucks can’t make a latte? Why are you telling me you think your girlfriend is the most beautiful girl in the world? Does that make you love her more? Because you threw it into cyberspace instead of just telling her yourself?
Maybe I will go back eventually. I mean, this isn’t a personal challenge or a promise or a social-network diet. I know there are good parts to social media. I really miss some parts of it. It’s easier to create an event online than to send invitations to people. It’s nice to see your second cousin’s new baby. But the majority of the time, we use it to tell everyone what we had for dinner, and how bad Star Wars was, and why everything is great for us, or why everything sucks today. And that’s okay. If you want to use this phenomenal tool to spout nonsense toward people you’d avoid in person, go right ahead. I won’t judge you, but only because I won’t be there to see it.