Stepping away from social media

One example of me setting a goal to cutback on social media usage.

I am not trying to bury my head in the sand or ignore what is happening in the world around me. Not exactly. I’m reading/watching the news more than ever the last few weeks.

No, I’m not ignoring what is happening, I’m just trying to escape the noise.

Early in October, after a week or so off Facebook, I reactivated my account and scrolled through my feed a bit. I posted something, a memory on the one-year anniversary of the 2019 Chicago Marathon.

Then I logged onto Twitter and scrolled for a few minutes, getting sucked down a rabbit hole of politcal rants and people fighting about sports. I started to get agitated, angry and anxious. I knew it was time for a social media break.

I logged out of Facebook. I logged out of Instagram. I deactivated my Twitter account. I deleted all of the apps from my phone.

A quick scan through my bullet journal over the last two or three years will show you I’ve been trying to cut my social media usage for a while. I will make a goal to go without Facebook for a month, or I will bitch in a note about how much time I wasted that day scrolling my feeds.

I have been sober for 680 days after more than 25 years of drinking two or three beers on most nights and many more than that a few nights a week. Quitting booze was a challenge. I tried to give it up for a few months at a time and didn’t last, before finally pulling the plug on Jan. 1, 2019.

Quitting social media has been a much, much bigger challenge.

Getting sober was easier because it is easier to see and feel impact alcohol has. I haven’t woke up hungover in nearly two years. I haven’t woke up in the morning afraid I did something stupid the night before. I have saved thousands of dollars I used to spend on beer.

With social media, the impact isn’t so obviously. It is easy to waste hours scrolling your feeds, looking at updates, scanning through photos, watching those cute videos of cats getting freaked out by cucumbers, but unless you track those hours, you don’t realize it’s happening. There is no pile of beer cans to remind you. No hangover to remind you. No smashed up cars or hurt feelings to remind you.

But social media hasn’t been good for me for a long time. Spending hours a day scrolling feeds accomplishes very little. Getting emotional and angry at people I rarely talk to, or worse, don’t even know, accomplishes nothing. Comparing myself to people who have more money, or have faster marathon PRs, or have brilliant ideas destroys my confidence. Spending mental energy while I’m at the gym or running or hanging out with friends and family thinking about what I’ll post to social media (author/philosopher Ryan Holiday calls it “status anxiety”) is a sure fire way to ruin a good time.

None of this is healthy and none of this is worth the time I was investing in it.

So I stepped away. And it feels great.

I don’t know if this is permanent. I feel like I’m missing a lot, especially during a pandemic when it is hard to be social in real life. The social in social media is something I do miss. Not seeing the cool shit people are doing, not talking smack about silly post, cheering on people doing cool shit, even learning something from time to time. I miss all of that.

That stuff is all great, but the emotion and the anxiety that comes with it, not to mention the hours of wasted time, are not. I wish the good outweighed the bad, but it doesn’t. So, for now, I have stepped away. I’m trying to use my time more productively by reading more, writing more and actually paying attention to the things I’m doing. I have a reminder on my phone, courtesy Austin Kleon, that helps keep me on track.

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