I recently finished a book called “10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.” You might expect something like that to be written by some counter-culture guy living off grid on a compound in Utah, or a homeschool mom with 14 kids who believes rock music is from the devil. Surprisingly, the author is thoroughly entrenched in Silicon Valley and the tech industry and makes his living from being very, very clever with computers.
I won’t go into all the details of the book because it’s so short that you can read it yourself in a few hours. It resonated with me enough that I deleted my Facebook before I even finished it.
I had already gotten off Instagram because I saw the futility of staring at beautiful images of places I’ll never go and people I’ll never meet. When Instagram first started, I thought it was very cool, inspirational even. I followed a bunch of people really different from me and I felt like I got a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of people who were doing interesting things, like running a cattle ranch or guiding river trips out west. Before long Instagram turned into one giant commercial. EVERYONE was sponsored. Every post was a thinly veiled plug for some product. It also got oppressively perfect. I liked seeing REAL lives, not perfectly curated feeds with hours of prep work behind a photo that’s supposed to look spontaneous. I felt that corporate advertising was bleeding into everyday life and I didn’t like it, so I quit using it. I think my account is still up but I haven’t looked at Instagram in over a year.
Facebook was a little harder to give up because it’s local. I had used it very successfully to market horses for adoption at a local rescue, and I had bought or been given several horses, all thanks to Facebook. I sold tack, bought tack, got advice, participated in forums and generally kept up with the local horse community.
Seeing what everyone was up to turned into seeing what I felt I was missing out on. I have FOMO big time (fear of missing out), but only as it relates to horses. I love showing and going to trail rides and obstacle challenges. Facebook kept me apprised of every single horse event in the Southeast, and I felt like I was missing out every time I couldn’t go. I would see everyone’s pictures afterward and feel gutted that I had missed all the fun.
I was also getting very annoyed with how much time I spent on Facebook. It was easy to check it multiple times a day and then get sucked into some drama and read all the comments on whatever post was blowing up that day. I couldn’t pee or sit through a traffic light without checking my Facebook. I was getting compulsive about it and I didn’t like it.
The book I read confirmed all of my worst fears about Facebook and about the culture of social media in general, everything from how your data is mined to how it screws with your brain’s ability to focus. I didn’t need any more convincing. I had already gotten off Instagram and now I was done with Facebook too.
Since deleting it, I can tell you that I’ve seen multiple positive changes in my life, the most obvious of which is a happier feeling in general. Not once have I felt left out or upset that I couldn’t participate in a horse show or horse event. I don’t even know what shows and rides are going on. I find that I’m very happy with my life when I’m not comparing it to other people’s perfect pictures and highlight reels. I have created and been blessed with the kind of life I envisioned as a kid. Okay, I’m not as rich as I imagined, but I have multiple horses and that was all I ever wanted.
I’m now able to live my life without needing to document every second of it. Being on social media means participating, putting content out there for our followers. Since I’m not on social media, I don’t have my phone attached to my hand constantly and I don’t feel the need to digitally capture every single positive moment of my life for public consumption. I still take pictures and I use them on this blog, but I have an idea of a specific picture I’d like to take, one that will go along with a post, rather than feeling the need to capture every single thing. I’m living my life, being present in it, instead of observing my life like a documentary producer that’s looking for a killer shot.
My attention span is already improving. I can sit through a traffic light now and look at the shapes of clouds or the trees on the side of the road, rather than grabbing my phone and scrolling hurriedly to catch up on whatever I missed in the last 30 minutes since I checked my phone. My kids have my full attention when we’re doing school or playing. I’m not distracted by a device because there’s nothing interesting on it anymore.
It is too easy to get sucked into the digital world and miss the real world. It’s easy to get involved in drama that doesn’t involve me. It’s especially easy to soothe my boredom with social media, but it isn’t helpful for my brain or my psyche. I find that I prefer to participate in the world directly, rather than through a screen.
I haven’t given up on the internet by any means. I still google things every single day, listen to podcasts, and watch horse training videos on YouTube, but those things aren’t sucking me in to a point where I feel compulsive about interacting with them. They serve an educational purpose for me; I’m using modern technology to learn something. The technology is serving me instead of me serving the technology.