I quit Facebook about a year ago.
I’m not on Instagram or LinkedIn.
Reddit and YouTube are blocked on my devices.
I do have a Twitter account for automatically sharing blog posts, but nothing more.
Do the previous four sentences sound like the opening to a self-righteous article full of phrases like “wake up, sheeple” and “reclaim your brain”?
Well, this is not that article (at least, I hope it’s not). Yes, life without social media is better (I’ll argue) than life with social media. But it’s not perfect, and there are certainly tradeoffs to consider. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of quitting social media.
Benefits of Quitting Social Media
- More time. Holy smokes, I didn’t realize how much time I spent on Facebook and YouTube until I booted them out of my life. Makes sense, though. A social media company’s goal is to maximize the amount of time users spend on their site, after all. Plus, these companies are staffed with thousands of really smart people working in a new, unregulated domain, and they’re willing to use every available tool of human psychology to manipulate us into using their service more and more. The deck is simply stacked against the individual user. Quitting social media gives us our free time back.
- Less manipulation. The algorithms that decide what content we see on social media sites are built to maximize engagement, and nothing keeps us engaged better than appealing to our worst instincts and basest tendencies. In order to keep us on Twitter longer, Twitter deduces our beliefs and shows us content that makes us feel outraged and self-righteous. It divides us into tribes and sends us to war against each other, nudging us to call out and shame “the enemy.” No thanks.
- Better focus. Frequent social media use fragments our day, shattering the long blocks of time we need to do our best work into ragged intervals of less than an hour. Social media essentially trains our brains to look for a distraction after just a few minutes. Abandoning it helps restore our ability to dive deep.
- Higher self-confidence. Social media shows us everyone else’s highlight reel, which we then compare to our own blooper reel and find ourselves wanting. The curated lives we display on social media are about as real as a Rolex bought from a street vendor—somehow, we know this and don’t know it at the same time. I had no idea how much social comparison I was engaged in until I quit social media.
Costs of quitting social media
- Less exposure. If you want to reach people, you need to be on social media (or so the conventional wisdom goes). I have no plans to monetize this blog—I write because writing is good for me and sharing ideas is good for the world—but the fact is that many more people would see my content if I were active on social media. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make, but it is a tradeoff. If you want more exposure, social media helps.
- Less connection with friends. Keeping in touch with friends is harder without social media. Anti-social media disciples preach that the lightweight friendships kept on life support by social media aren’t worth maintaining in the first place, but I’m not so sure. I’m still in touch with my closest friends, but I’m much less aware of what’s happening in their day-to-day lives. And there are old friends with whom I’m now completely out of touch, and I wish that weren’t so. Social media had solved that problem for me, and I haven’t re-solved it since I quit.
- Less awareness of trends. Reading the news helps, and so does working with college students all day. But I’m certainly less aware of the latest developments in internet culture.
- Less networking. This one particularly worries me. Are there long-term career costs to quitting social media? There may well be. The value of a professional network is high, and keeping in touch with former colleagues and people I meet at conferences is much harder without social media.
Should you quit social media? It’s hard to say. If you have a choice (and almost everyone does), you should strongly consider it. You’ll be slightly less connected, but you’ll also be more productive and maybe even happier.
Try going dark for a week or two and assess your results. You can always go back.
But you may not want to.