A few months ago I made the decision to walk away from social media.
It was a decision that was years in the making, stirring under the surface of my consciousness, poking its head every few months through a moment of frustration. Until one day I woke up and knew it was time. No more Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I deleted the apps off my phone and bid them farewell.
I did it without any hoopla. No big goodbye message. No explanation to the masses. I just walked away.
I walked away from the comparison, distraction, overwhelm and wasted time. I walked away from the “scroll-refresh-repeat” cycle that had woven its way into my hourly existence. I walked away from a daily task that was never, ever complete and from a false sense of community that sometimes still left me feeling lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to love social media. I enjoyed connecting with former classmates and work colleagues who lived out of state. I loved seeing photos of family and friends. I took pleasure in following their trips, accomplishments and even their photo-captured breakfasts. Sprinkle in a funny video or meme and it made for a fun place to hang out online. And birthdays? Forget about it. Social media always made birthdays super fun!
The downside of social media
But after a while, social media began to feel like pressure. What was once purely fun and entertainment now felt like stress. There was the ongoing temptation to compare myself to others, feeling an expectation to look or parent or live a certain way. Some days I handled that better than others.
But, the real heaviness came in the demand to keep up with what was happening in everyone’s lives around me. I felt pressure to be in the know if, God forbid, I should run into someone IRL (in real life).
I’m naturally a people person. I love living my life in community and having lots of connections with others. I take my role as an encourager very seriously and nothing brings me more joy than celebrating people and the great things happening in their lives.
And because of that, social media was my jam. It made it so easy to encourage, celebrate, and affirm others. Likes, comments, and well-placed emojis can make others feel great. I was on a personal mission to make it happen.
Until it all started to be too much. Suddenly I was trying to connect with a friend group of thousands. No longer could I jump online for twenty minutes, drop some love bombs and then be done for the morning. Twenty minutes became an hour which became two. Still there were more posts. More and more things to see, read, and respond to until I could no longer keep up.
If a day was too busy to comment, I worried that others might think I didn’t care about their kid’s super special award and then possibly conclude I also didn’t care about them. I wondered, “If I don’t acknowledge this post, will they think I’m not a good friend? And, if so, does that mean we aren’t really “friends” at all?”
Social Media and FOMO
Driven by this fear, I realized I was spending too many precious minutes of my day pouring into “friends” who might remember my name if we ran into each other on the street, but might just as easily not. My kids would be talking to me and wanting my attention, but I was too busy responding to a post from a mom of a kid from their classroom three years ago.
I was spending my life with my face stuck in my phone, neglecting real moments with my real people because I feared I’d miss out on what was happening online.
I didn’t like who I’d become.
And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That was when I chose to say goodbye. Goodbye to social media and hello to whatever was waiting for me on the other side of a deactivated account.
Goodbye virtual friends and hello real relationships.
Goodbye preoccupation with capturing a moment and hello enjoying the moment.
Goodbye wasted time and hello doing all the things I “didn’t have time to do.”
Goodbye staying on the surface with thousands and hello going deeper with a few.
Goodbye false sense of community and hello true intimacy.
Finding True Community
You see, even with my closest friends, social media gave me a false sense of being all caught up on their lives. I would see their posts and assume I was up to speed on what was happening with them. But once I gave up social media, it forced me to reach out intentionally with texts, phone calls, or invitations for coffee. And in those interactions I was able to learn what was truly going on in their hearts and lives, the deeper things not revealed on social media.
My relationships, the ones that truly matter to me, deepened and grew more authentic. My valuable time was invested wisely in the people and things I loved instead of squandered aimlessly.
How I walked away from social media
People ask me all the time:
- Why did you walk away?
- How did you do it?
- What has it been like?
This post essentially captures why.
The answer to how is pretty simple – I just did it. Sure, I took a few steps to prepare. If there were websites, Facebook pages, bloggers or groups I wanted to continue receiving content from, I looked for ways to subscribe via email. I receive a daily email that gives me a summary of the previous day’s news so I know what’s happening in the world. And rather than a post, I sent texts to family and friends when there’s an announcement, celebration, or interesting moment in my life. They do the same for me since they know I’ll miss any of their social media posts. Turns out, those are the folks I really want to hear from and care the most about anyway.
As for what it’s been like…..at first it was hard. I had engrained habits of regularly (read: obsessively) checking my phone throughout the day searching for what was new. Turns out, when you delete your social media accounts, the only “new” thing happening with your phone is email.
I checked A LOT of email. “Oh look, a Kohl’s coupon. Sweet!”
Life without social media
But, within a week, the siren song of my phone died down. I filled those 20 minutes of downtime with a good book or that hour in the evening going for a walk with a friend. I engaged with my kids and my husband and became more present in my life. My closest relationships flourished.
Sure, sometimes I miss a big moment in someone’s life. And sometimes that leads to an awkward 30 seconds in the grocery store before she realizes my lack of congratulations stems from ignorance and not spite.
But, the fear of missing out (FOMO) no longer weighs me down. In fact, it’s been replaced by JOMO – the JOY of missing out. The joy I find when I miss online moments in favor of real-life moments. The joy that comes when I make decisions each day without the thought of how these choices compare with others. And the joy I feel when the pressure lifts because my world is a lot smaller and also a lot richer, filled exclusively with people who know me and love me authentically.
And that’s the kind of community I definitely wouldn’t want to miss.