Why I'm Quitting Social Media (For A Bit)

As someone who creates things on the internet, a medium that has as almost as many detriments as benefits, I’ve found it difficult not to measure the worth of my writing based off of how many likes, comments, and shares a particular post receives.

Matters are made worse on platforms like Medium where I can see how many people have viewed a particular article, how many have read it, how many have clapped for it, and how many have highlighted certain sections. I have data about those people’s interests, about whether editors have ‘boosted’ my writing, and all sorts of other useless vanity metrics. 

Despite ‘knowing’ that none of this really matters, I am a human being with a flawed brain and incomplete sense of self. In fact, my sense of self is so fragile that these vanity metrics can throw me off my game. Both on the negative side (no one is reading) and the positive side (thousands are reading). 

Right now, I’m working on a book. Writing this book is turning out to be a tiring, ruthless slog. When it gets hard, which it does every single day, my monkey brain searches for a quick hit of a dopamine and “www.fac…” comes through my fingers as if I’m on autopilot. [Though I must admit, heading there is kind of like playing the neurochemistry version of Russian Roulette. There’s no saying what you’re gonna get when you log in. The world we live in is going bonkers 24/7.]

This is why—for the foreseeable future—I will be stepping away from social media.

I’ve done numerous ‘social media fasts’ in the last couple of years. The first few days are usually difficult. I start to realize where my addiction stems from - a deeper sense of loneliness, FOMO, boredom, disconnection, etc. After the detox period, life seems to improve overall. I’m able to focus for longer periods of time. I tap into a creative flow much easier. My sense of self starts to harden again. My relationships improve. 

It’s important to note that social media has afforded me many wonderful things - most notably the $100K+ that was raised for my family via Facebook three years ago now. It’s helped me return the favor in small ways by donating to the GoFundMe pages that cross my newsfeed, and stay informed about the personal issues that people close to me are facing. 

The truth is, I enjoy writing and connecting with people like you via these platforms, but not so much the trappings - the ping in my side that tells me to go check how something is ‘performing’, the ghost vibration that begs I check my inbox just one more time this evening.

Every fibre in my being wants to live in a world that is more connected—to meaning, to each other. I want to contribute to important conversations, inspire people to think different, and support wonderful people doing inspiring things. While at first I thought social media was the only avenue to doing this, it’s become clearer that social media is the lesser ‘digital’ counterpart of the life I am striving to live. 

When it comes to work, the marginal cost of continuing - diminished attention, lack of focus, incessant chatter of the mind - far outweighs the marginal benefits that have kept me going strong.

While my head tells me that social media is the way of the world, and that stepping away would be selfish, my heart tells me, “nah.” This may make me sound like a unappreciative, entitled, little piece of you-know-what. But the reality is, I’m fighting a deep moral battle here. 

I’ve written on Facebook in some capacity for the last 90+ days. I have received many kind and encouraging messages and emails from readers that have been encouraging, notes that I cherish dearly.

Some people have even told me that they rely on these daily posts to get them going in the mornings. If you are one of these people (thank you), I promise I’m not abandoning you.

I won’t be stopping my daily writing, instead just doing my best to focus on making it better. I will continue scheduling posts for Facebook, but I won’t be monitoring likes, comments, follows, or any other such metrics.

In other words: “It’s not you, it’s me.” 

I have an addictive personality. When channeled in the right ways, this is a strength. It allows me to follow my curiosities to depths I otherwise wouldn’t have the patience for. It also has helped me become a lot more disciplined as I try to navigate the widely unpredictable path that is my neuroticism.

Lately, I’ve been struggling a lot. Like a lot, a lot, a lot. With A LOT of different things. (Did I mention it’s been a lot?) I’ve had to come to terms with some stuff in my own life that has left me feeling down and out, stuff I’m not really able to write about (which as a person who prides herself on the verticals of vulnerability and authenticity has only made it more difficult). 

I have to take some time to clear my head and heart (cheesy, I know) because the last time I felt this way, I ended up with a nasty case of shingles (the elder form of chicken pox). I also want to finish this dang book so you can read it some day!

My hope is to stay off social media for a while and focus more on what author, Cal Newport, calls “analog social media.” That is the offline, human-centered version of what social media sites have tried to recreate. More coffee dates and brunches with close friends. More in-person meetings with clients. More deep phone conversations, less texting. More reading books and newspapers. More involvement in the causes that I think matter. 

If this sounds appealing to you, I invite you to join me.

I hope that you know by now that I’m a person you can call on and trust. If you’ve read this far in this article, I want you to know how much I thank you for your support and counsel. During my sabbatical away from social media, I want you to know my phone line and email is always open for you:

Please call me, email me, or text me if you are having a rough day, if you want to talk about a potential collaboration, if you have a picture you want to share, if you disagree with something I’ve written, whatever.

Additionally, I will be living in Boston until at least March 1st of this year, then I will (crossing fingers because I hate winter) be traveling back to Los Angeles. Other U.S. cities I plan to hit this year are: Seattle (hi, Lauren), Austin, NYC, and a few others. If you are in one of these places, I’d love to see you and talk about the big wheel stuff that matters to you.

If you prefer to receive articles from me by email instead of through Facebook, please sign-up for my new email list below. Starting tomorrow, these articles will be pushed through email as well as to Facebook (if I can figure it out, that is). This is ideal for people like me who desperately seek to be off the grid sometimes. 

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Finally, if you are interested in moving more towards ‘digital minimalism’ without totally eradicating your own use of social media, here are the tools I’ve used in the past to help with this:

Chrome

  • Moment: A minimalist home page that prompts you each morning with the question: “What’s your main priority today?” and reminds you of your answer every time you open a new tab.

  • BlockSite: Simple. You can schedule periods of time in which you aren’t able to access certain websites. [The only problem? You can work around it. If you are a total savage and need help managing the work around, you can have someone else set a password for you and hide it.]

  • News Feed Eradicator: If you have to log into FB from time to time for clients or whatever (which I do), this plug-in eradicates your newsfeed (so you can’t get sucked into reading about the lives of people you haven’t seen in 7+ years).

  • DF Tube (Distraction Free YouTube): Ever been trapped in a YouTube vortex because suggested videos on the righthand sidebar seem intriguing? This plugin shuts that function off entirely, so that you are just watching the video you came to the site to watch. Boom!

iPhone

  • Never On the Table: there have been numerous research studies that have proven the negative effects of keeping your phone within your line of sight. Your creativity goes way down, your ability to connect goes way down, your focus goes way down. So, putting your phone in your bag or in another room is an extremely powerful way to step up your game. 

  • Shut Off Notifications (besides text + email): this means no popups due to email, Instagram likes, etc. You check those things when it’s right for you; they don’t interrupt your daily life. 

  • Time Limits: Apple introduced an awesome new feature that lets you set time limits for app categories or specific apps. I have limits set for how much time I can spend on email, the internet, etc. [Again, you can work around this. The point is for the functionality to kick in and you to question whether continuing to waste time is worth it or not.]

  • Delete Apps: just don’t have things that distract you (games, social media, etc.) on your phone; get rid of ‘em. 

&& an FAQ for worried parties:

  • How will you stay up to date on news? Talk with trustworthy friends. Read the newspaper (gasp). If something important happens, people will tell you - don’t you worry.

  • How will you make new connections? Seek out people. Go to events. Find emails and get crafty.

  • What if something happens that you need to know about? Trust that someone will email, call, or text you. Or, before you go rogue, find someone who will. 

Kate WardComment