I deleted my Instagram and Twitter accounts a few weeks ago, my Facebook account about a week ago (before news of Cambridge Analytica made headlines), and my Reddit account days ago. For someone with a fledgling blog, this might seem like an incredibly bad, perhaps suicidal, idea. In a society where social media marketing is now an assumed part of any brand’s marketing efforts, such an idea could only be made with strong conviction and compelling evidence that the brand could grow without it.
The reason I deleted my social media accounts is quite simple: I missed who I was before social media.
Social media has never been something I have enjoyed without discomfort.
Despite being a fairly open person with friends and coworkers, I have always been sensitive about my privacy, especially online. At some point, my paradigm about privacy shifted and I came to believe that I had already forfeited my privacy by using Google products and that, there was no such thing as online, and by default, offline privacy.
While I had my initial reservations about Facebook and was proud of being nonconformist in high school, the draw of Facebook claimed me. During college, Facebook offered a way of feeling part of a community, of putting names to faces on campus and having things to relate and talk about. Having my friend request be accepted served as a tangible way of getting through initial barriers someone may have put up – perhaps with lower effort and more easily labeled than the process of repeated meetings and getting to know someone on a deeper level. Being friends on Facebook meant less awkward greetings without knowing someone’s name, and along with that, a false sense of rapport. It also served as an incredible time waster (there was no end to ironic Facebook memes about time wasted on Facebook).
When it came time to study abroad in South Korea during my junior year, I decided to delete Facebook (probably for the 2nd time) so that I would be more present during my travels, waste less time while studying, and retain an air of privacy about my life. The funny thing is, not more than a handful of people, even out of the huge, supposedly family-like campus ministry group on campus, reached out to me through IM or email. (I know, what a shocker!)
I didn’t expect to come back to campus and feel a thick air of having missed out on something and people asking me, more distantly, where I had been all that time. Not only was it “out of sight, out of mind” but it was also that a whole year went by that I didn’t pay them any attention. By not partaking in the online community, it was like I was no longer a part of the real, in-person community when I returned.
I found this somewhat disappointing, but not incredibly surprising or unreasonable. A lot happens in a year and people forget about you when your presence isn’t felt. But this really was a much-needed, often-needed (for all of us) reminder that we’re not really that important and that life is meant to be lived offline.
Sure, we’re important to God, and our families, and significant others (hopefully), and, our friends will even have us believing that we’re special, occasionally. But to think that we’re important to a few hundred, maybe even a thousand or more people, or to think that they’re our “friends” is the lie Facebook sold its users from the very beginning. And it worked because the human ego is insatiable. It’s part of our nature, along with being social creatures.
Fully knowing this morally bankrupt backbone of Facebook and the assumed harvesting of data native to its existence (it would be naive to believe otherwise), I created an account again and added everyone I could, within the Korean community, and previous friend groups, to feel like I was a part of something again, and not floating around on my own. With only one semester before graduating and then having moved to an entirely different city, I can’t say I ever got the feeling I was yearning for. Only through the very slow and daring process of meeting people in person and on repeated occasions did I start to feel that I had a friend base in Boston.
Fast forward a few years and social media has gotten much worse. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. still remain tremendous platforms for the purpose of spending time idly, but it can be argued that now, instead of mainly allowing users to feed their egos (or yes, to share valid updates and milestones and interesting stuff) they now serve a primarily political and commercial purpose. And it wasn’t until I tried to create branded accounts and really started following the news that I realized the extent to which this has happened, gradually, with our knowledge and passive consumption.
This means that social media has become less about connecting and more about the spread and consumption of ideologies and products. And while there’s nothing really new here (television has been used for this for decades), social media is particularly addictive and extremely pervasive in our daily lives via, ahem, smartphones. In fact, I was thinking recently, what ever happened to the flip phones with the GPS feature? Honestly, I could use one of those and be all the happier (provided it can support Waze, right?)
Since deleting most social media accounts and removing all social media (and otherwise unnecessary) apps from my phone, the number of times I check my phone must have reduced a hundredfold. I no longer check it compulsively or feel the need to have it constantly near me in my own home. More and more often, I get on my laptop to respond to emails and use my phone to call my family and text a couple close friends. It can be argued that apart from convenient banking and Waze, I don’t really need a smartphone. Remove “convenience” and I don’t need a smartphone at all. A little convenience can be expensive.
I’ve been spending more time reading, working on all things Nukde, focusing on work. I go on walks, I spend more time just thinking. Overall, I’m a happier person and I feel a tremendous sense of regained freedom. I feel more like my old middle school self, hungry for knowledge and new adventures. What’s more, I think I may be regaining my attention span.
Why waste precious time living an online life or staring at a phone screen every few minutes of every day? Do yourself a favor and start by deleting social media. In fact, I think we’re entering a post-social media era and the next thing will either be a retreat to old school ways of interacting or technology that goes too far and shifts adopters’ perception of what is real (VR, holograms, etc.)
My bet is on the old school. Meet and talk and “connect” with people in real life. “Connect” with nature. Live. Thrive. Reevaluate what you believe is necessary to live a happy life. Chances are, the list is a lot shorter than you initially thought.
Disclaimer: I still use LinkedIn as I require it for my day job. I am considering alternatives, however, and hope to be rid of social media for good in the future.