Look at social media use the way you would a full closet

I stopped using Facebook the day after the U.S. presidential election in early November. I just couldn’t stand to read anyone’s comments. (This while I obsessively read traditional news and analysis.)

Later, a friend told me how to deactivate my Facebook status, which effectively made me disappear from view while leaving open the possibility for me to return at any time. That same friend suggested I offer the nicely activist “fake news” as my reason for deactivating.

The more distance I have from social media, the more queasy I feel about it. There’s the conduit social media provides for the spread of fake news. The ease with which we further streamline our information sources to reinforce our existing beliefs (because of who we friend and follow, cookies and algorithms). The fact that we grant FacebookTwitter, and Instagram royalty-free, worldwide license to content we post unless it is already protected under intellectual property laws. Selfies. Cyberbullying. FOMO and other kinds of anxiety. Distraction from real life. Clutter.

If you are simplifying in order to live in closer alignment with your values, it’s good practice to look at your social media use the way you would closets full of stuff. Ask yourself: Am I using social media intentionally or out of habit? What benefits does it bring me, what are the trade-offs, and do I need to change anything? If I cut back on social media, how else do I want to use that time?

I’ve tagged this post “Five-minute simplifying” because disconnecting is that easy. For instructions on deactivating or temporarily disabling your accounts, just Google the service name and “deactivate.” Don’t forget to remove apps from your phone and bookmarks from your web browser.

March 24, 2017: Here’s a great article from the New York Times about logging off of social media.

3 thoughts on “Look at social media use the way you would a full closet

  1. I think about this constantly. I took Facebook off of my phone yesterday. But, I struggle with disconnecting or deactivating. Although your analogy to my closet is a pretty good one. I struggled with getting rid of clothing for a while too. What if I needed it? What if I had some special occasion? Most of the time, that what if never happened, but social media deactivation gives me the same anxiety. I realize it isn’t healthy, but it is real.

    • Hi moreatforty!

      This was my experience, in case it’s useful to you.

      I’d describe myself as a dabbler and a lurker — definitely never a heavy user of social media. But I still found myself getting twitchy, especially if I’d posted something on FB (did anyone like it or comment? who?!). I was increasingly disgusted watching people constantly checking their phones, necks bent over at a painful angle, disconnected from what was going on around them (not only in an immediate sense).

      So over the course of a couple of years I started weaning myself. I aggressively culled my “Friends” list. I tried, sometimes with more success than others, to check FB only once a day instead of whenever I had downtime. I didn’t quit completely because, I told myself, I was seeing interesting and useful information: restaurant recommendations; thoughtful articles; insightful comments; and interesting information about people I didn’t want to lose touch with completely.

      And then FB began to feel less relevant, and more like an invasion.

      Now, when I want to stay in touch with people, I text them directly or write them an email (…eventually), and we see each other in person. Am I missing out on interesting news and editorials/essays that I would have seen other people post? Yep. Just like I’m missing out on all those books still on my to-read list.

      The benefit to deactivating or disabling your social media accounts is that you can always go back, so there’s no harm in testing what it’s like to live without them.

      As a fellow 40-something, you have the benefit of knowing that it’s possible to live a rich life without social media, right? ; )

      • Yes…so much, yes! I am definitely suffering information FOMO when I’m not online, but I also can follow smart blogs that write more in depth than a 140 character tweet or FB post that often ends up being misleading anyways. I think the weaning thing is really a good idea. I got rid of Twitter from my phone right after the election. I got rid of Facebook this week. I have Instagram still and I don’t use that quite as often, so I will probably leave that on there. But, checking it on my laptop (or not doing so) will be my next big step. Thanks for responding.

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