I mentioned recently on the blog that a little while ago I underwent a digital detox, so I thought I might go into this in some more depth today. I’ve never really been heavily into social media, but nonetheless if you had told me at the beginning of this year that by now I would be completely off Facebook and barely using any other social media platforms, I would have been a little incredulous. Before now, I falsely believed that social media was connecting me to the people in my life, but the reality is that it wasn’t. In fact, it had become a burden hanging over my head that was doing nothing more than encouraging me to waste my time and feel inadequate. I had developed a love/hate relationship with social media, feeling simultaneously addicted to it and repulsed by its presence in my life.
It seems to me that social media has an uncanny ability to draw almost everyone it encounters into a virtual black hole. The more time we spend on it, the more time we feel we need to spend on it to stay up to date, and the further it sucks us into its tenacious grasp. While there are undoubtedly many positives to social media – don’t get me wrong – like being able to stay in contact with loved ones overseas and be part of niche interest communities (like minimalism) online, for me the negatives unfortunately outweighed these positives. Of course, I’m not saying that social media is a menace to society, or that we should all eradicate it from our lives. What I do believe, however, is that each of us needs a healthy balance in our online lives, a balance which will look different for each of us.
Once I came to the realisation that I wasn’t gaining any value from the content I was scrolling through, I was able to cut the cord. I was fed up with the constant stream of validation-seeking content from ‘friends’ (meaning, acquaintances from high school that I never even spoke to when I was actually at high school! Go figure..), so I deleted all those ‘friends’ and ended up with about 20 contacts. When I had a good look at these remaining friends, I realised that I only actually speak to a small handful to them, and we use phone calls and text messages to stay in contact. The others were neither here nor there for me really, so I had one last scroll through my news feed then deleted my account entirely without any regrets. To top it all off, I also went to my inbox, unsubscribed from as many newsletter emails as I could possibly find, then sat back and wondered what I had just done. Would I be missing out?
While it might be difficult at first, the great news is that once we cut the cord to the social media channels that we feel are no longer serving us, the FOMO dissipates. I can confidently say that I haven’t missed out on anything since saying goodbye to Facebook and drastically reducing the time I spend on Instagram to only a few short sessions per week. When we cut ourselves off from the neverending stream of information, photos, comments and advertising, we become blissfully unaware of what we could be missing out on, and are given the opportunity to be more grounded in the here and now. We are then able to seek out our own content, intentionally, at a time and place that suits us, and we can get back to more pressing matters – that is, our own, real lives unfolding before us.
Have you experienced a love/hate relationship with social media? How do you achieve a balance?