This month I’m walking away from social media.
I’ll be deleting my profiles (Twitter and Instagram) and reclaiming my time and attention.
In 2016 I left Facebook and never looked back. Nothing horrible happened. I still have friends (I found out who my real friends are), and I’m aware of what’s happening in the world—without the assistance of targeted algorithms or Russian bots.
When I first left Facebook, people were enthusiastic about telling me why they couldn’t go. To be clear, my leaving social media is not an indictment on those who choose to stay nor is it an appeal to get others to ditch social media.
Who Owns Your Attention?
Social media is designed to monopolize your attention. Social media companies hire attention engineers who have created the platforms to be addicting in the same ways drugs or gambling are. Author Cal Newport compares the obsessive impulse we have to check our social feeds to that of playing a slot machine. Watch his excellent TED talk.
Using apps to limit your time or straight up willpower are no match for the dopamine hit you get when scrolling through the socials. You are up against strategic and targeted engineering. You and your primitive impulses are no match.
Let me ask you this: what did you do before social media? Did you keep in touch with friends and family? Do you use social media to stay in touch, or are you being sucked in by the false sense of connection and the dopamine rush?
In 2014 I became wary of how Facebook was using data and didn’t feel right about them owning my content.
When we publish on social media, we are writing without remuneration—for their and their advertiser’s benefit. I ask my writer friends why they feel offended when someone asks them to contribute an essay or article for free when they willingly choose to do this each time they post on social media.
While most have accepted this as just the way it is—I am choosing to rebel and take back my time, attention, and content (and whatever shred of data I can).
By 2014 I had been taking regular sabbaticals from Facebook during a little event I called The Silent Treatment. I never felt anxiety stepping away, just a sense of relief. But, as the time came closer to return, I’d feel uneasy at the prospect of doing so.
The latest debacle involving Cambridge Analytica does not surprise me, it only confirms my growing discomfort with the entire industry. Until there’s a platform designed for the benefit of the users (one I’d be happy to pay a fee for), then I will walk away to protect my integrity, creative works, and sanity.
I don’t enjoy the way Instagram (owned by Facebook) manipulates what I see whether it’s poorly targeted ads (nail polish?) or random days old images. In two simple words, I am over it.
Researcher Robin Dunbar suggests that you can maintain intimate social contact with about five close friends. I can’t know, much less maintain, 5,000+ friends—the approximate number of my followers and those I’m following on Twitter. I’m hopeful that over the rest of my lifetime, I might make, say, six new friends. I’m aiming for quality and depth, not dopamine.
We all must decide what works for us. I’ve heard the reasons to maintain social media profiles like “it’s good for business” or “I met my best friend on Instagram” etc., but nothing will make me stay at this point.
Along with freedom, my values are integrity and intentionality. Using social media to distract myself from the deep work I want to do does not align with my values. Same for watching television—I haven’t owned a tv for decades. That was another choice I made to keep my actions true to my values.
With time and creative energy spent crafting the perfect post long gone, it’s time I bring my actions and intentions back to my digital home—my website. I may continue posting on Medium and will likely maintain a LinkedIn profile for international work (unless I discover awful things about those platforms).
The exact day I’ll leave is TBD, but I’ll announce in advance should anyone want to connect before I go.
I hope you’ll continue to engage with me—to comment and keep up with my whereabouts via my blog and newsletter (no spam or inbox overwhelm, I promise).
Are there topics you’d like to see me explore—like living with intention/simple living, minimalism, financial freedom, slow travel, or related? Let me know!
- My dear friend, Tammy, just left the socials, too—check it out.
- Zuckerberg Says He Needs ‘a Few Years’ to Fix Facebook. But He Still Doesn’t Understand Why It’s Broken
- Read Cal Newport’s On Analog Social Media
- A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel via the Harvard Business Review
Loved this so much my friend! Cheers to reclaiming our time & creative energy! Xoxo.
Tammy–thank you! So glad to have such a dear friend with which to walk this path toward freedom and greater creativity (and sanity)! xoxo
You’re making the right move. It’s getting harder and harder to justify the time spent on social media. Twitter became a war zone, so Instagram was my escape, but then that’s been fucked with to the n-th degree. I wish companies would realize that there are other successful business models outside of advertising. Hulu has shown that we’re willing to pay for ZERO ads. Why hasn’t that caught on elsewhere?
I look forward to see what flies from your fingertips with this newfound attention and time. And when it comes to future topics, you know I’m all about travel. =)
Thank you, Gabriel! Your support means so much to me. And regarding advertising, that seems the least noxious thing going on with social media these days, don’t you think? Travel–of course 🙂
I so respect your decision. I often feel drawn to do the same, but don’t feel ready yet. Please keep us update as how it goes, how it feels, and the like.
I will, Sandra. I know there will be some fits and starts, but I can’t even begin to express the joy and lightness I feel just having made the decision!
Shanna, I loved your thought: “I’m aiming for…depth, not dopamine.” Social Media has evolved into a visual assault to the point that I only participate sporadically (mostly to keep in touch with family — and maintain my sanity.) You’re not missing anything by being TV-less either — I can only describe it as “flashy.” The news channels spend more time (and presumably money) “advertising” the news than they do reporting it. When did our attention spans become so shallow?! (Per them…) I prefer well-written stories, letters, and blogs (such as yours!) any day. Thank you and best wishes!
Oh, Kim! Thank you 🙂 I appreciate your comment and your continued connection here (we don’t need social media for that!).
Well reasoned and well written. To think that somehow not using FB or other sites to stay connected to friends is “too hard” really speaks to the false need for everything to be “convenient.” Which speaks to so many other issues that we think make demands upon our precious time as we rush through our go, do, be, lives. Quantity has usurped quality (probably long ago – in the digital realm) and we are left breathless and anxious wondering if we “missed something.”
I look forward to reading more of your essays – they are always spurs to thought and often inspiring.
Thank you, James 🙂
beautifully written & what i’ve been thinking about as well (with curiosity as to how negatively it might impact my freelance career) — signing up for your ML! please do keep in touch!
Yay, Susie! So nice to see you here 🙂 Keep me posted as to what you decide to do. I think if you keep creating, and sharing on your own website, people will find you 🙂
Shanna just excellent article! I’m so proud of you.
Thank you, Shanna for this wonderful post! I learned of you through Tammy Strobel. I, too am making changes regarding Social Media and have experienced some welcome new energy. Yay!
And you know, I love supporting artists by buying their works of art, though I never, until now, realized it’s much in the same way I support them, I can support other creatives such as writers I resonate with by joining their newsletter or blog instead of “liking” them on Facebook. So I’m signed up for yours!
Thanks for sharing and being yet another pioneer to pave the way!
Barb–hello, welcome–and thank you! I appreciate the vote of confidence 🙂 Yes, reading my work, whether on my blog or via my newsletter, is an excellent way to support this particular writer. I’m glad you found your way here and hooray for making your own changes with social media!