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How I Broke Up With Social Media

Ending a relationship, 20+ years in the making.

If you're living on planet Earth, chances are you have or have had some form of social media enter your life. If you are one of the rare few that has managed to escape the "social networks" I bow to your greatness. You are a truly a rare and wise guru.


Like most people my age, I remember Facebook as it was in its infancy, back around 2005 when it was strictly for college students. I was in the second half of my freshman year at college when I heard about this new website for college students. Some of my friends from high school were using it and I quickly became connected with many of my friends who were all attending different schools. I was a little familiar with the concept of social media through Myspace. If you don't remember Myspace, you're probably better off, but it was a place where you could share pictures, add a bio, customize the look of your page, and even add music. It was basically like sharing your room with friends and, of course, strangers online. It had its uses but it certainly wasn't as pervasive as networks are today. I remember spending some time on it here and there but overall it wasn't a daily part of my life and more importantly didn't exactly shape the world. Also, and this is very important, there were NO smartphones at this time.


I'm what you would call an "Elder Millennial." I was born in 1986 so I missed the boat on Gen X but I'm not quite a Millennial either. There is a term for that, it's called a Xennial. (click on the link for a fascinating perspective on this group of people and how technology has affected their lives). I am a part of the generation that remembers life before home computers and who did not grow up using social media. I got my first cell phone when I was about 14. I remember it was a Nokia that had interchangeable face plates. It could call and maybe text and that was it.


This might sound crazy, but I have only had a smartphone for about 10 years. As a matter of fact, most of us have. The first model of the iPhone was released in 2007 so, there you go, we're 13 years into this experiment. When smartphones were making their debut I was pretty out of the loop. No one I knew had one and as far as I was concerned, my flip phone was great and I didn't need anything else. Life was going on just as normally as ever. I had a job, a boyfriend, a college degree, I drove places without maps, I had friends, I saw my family, all without the use of a tiny computer - what a concept! I remember upgrading to a phone with a keyboard and thinking even that was more than I needed, but I got used to it pretty quickly. When the idea of an iPhone or smartphone entered my world I remember thinking, "I don't really think I need one. I have everything I need on this phone. I know how to use it and I like it." Of course I ended up getting an iPhone 4 and it quickly became a big part of my life.


There's something very sneaky about social media because I really don't remember it being a big part of my life in the early stages as much as it has become today. It seems to have happened so quickly and honestly, without much informed consent. Subconsciously, though, I was already primed and ready to have my phone and social networks take over my life. I'm so grateful I wasn't born with a phone or tablet in my hand (no judgments, I'm not a parent, this is just my experience). If you haven't watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix, I recommend checking it out. It's not necessarily information we don't already suspect, but it's a fantastic look at how pervasive social media has become from some top former programmers and CEOs. A quote from the documentary says, "there are only two businesses that refer to their clients as "users" - drug dealers and social media companies."


One of the things that stood out to me was a statement from one of the former programmers where he said, "it [social media] affects your life whether you use it or not." This was a pretty mind-blowing statement because it really drove home the point just how much social media has affected our lives, minds, and relationships. It has fundamentally changed the way the world works, how we conduct business and how we relate to each other and our personal relationships. It's not all doom and gloom, social media has it's benefits for sure. I found avenues to health and healing that I never would have had access to or should I say, I wouldn't have come across as quickly and I did. I found a great network of support and was able to stay in touch with my friends and family.


I have taken some media breaks here and there. I took a 3 month break from Facebook about a year ago and my most recent hiatus was about 6 months, starting earlier this year. I remained pretty active on Instagram during my break from Facebook since that was where my health and wellness following began. I got off Facebook for obvious reasons. It had become a pretty toxic place and the monotony of it was starting to wear on me. The last Presidential election had some serious impacts on the use of Facebook. Regardless of your political party, the use of memes and the division remains palpable and it has only gotten worse. This was the catalyst that drove me to my breaking point and made the decision to leave social media that much easier.

 

It has been one week since I have looked at any social media. My accounts are still open but I have deleted the apps from my phone. I left the accounts open during my trial period of detox and I have to say, I think the verdict is in. I'm DONE. Within the first couple days I felt an immediate sense of peace wash over me. I felt younger, more hopeful and happier than I had been in a long time. My anxiety started to dissipate and I felt like I could breathe. I actually felt alone in my house for the first time in a long time. I felt a stronger connection to my partner and was able to really see him for the first time in a long time. He has been off social media for a while and has always said he doesn't miss it for a second. So far I can echo that sentiment. It has taken me a while to get here and there have been many previous attempts at quitting SM. Over time it has gotten easier and easier and with each break I found myself disconnecting more and more.


The times before when I tried to control my using I would always cave and look at Facebook or Instagram through my web browser and then eventually restore the apps on my phone. This is what you do when you are trying to quit using drugs or anything that is highly addictive in your life. Whether it be sugar, television, cigarettes, caffeine or drama. First we try to moderate. "I'll only use it after 12 pm. I'll make sure I mediate or do some yoga before I look at it. I won't engage in the drama or comment sections. I'll only post positive content. I'll only use it for 5 minutes at a time. I'll set business hours, I'll only use it from my computer, I won't have the apps on my phone." Sound familiar?


So, what now? Well, I plan on deleting all of my accounts in the coming weeks or months. I am leaving them up temporarily so if people want access to my pages and website info they can find it. And after they're gone, well, it's time to navigate the world without the use of social media. It sounds like a pretty bold statement to make. So much of our connection happens over some kind of platform. How can you even have a business in 2020 without using social media?? If a health and wellness advocate promotes finding joy and a simpler life off of social media does it make a sound? How can you tell people you've transcended without posting about it? Well, we still have blogs, email, person-to-person interactions, texting and talking on the phone.


It sounds impossible and that fear is what has kept me in the grips of it for so long. I just have this feeling that more and more people will be looking for a change and a way out. I'm not completely sure what that looks like but I am sure there are far more people out there like me than I know. We are all similar creatures and whether we realize it or not, we have been negatively impacted by social media in some area of our lives. It all boils down to how much of an impact it has on your life and if you would be happier without it. We all know stress has serious negative impacts on our overall health. It drains our immune system, puts pressure on our organs and can exacerbate underlying health conditions.


Funnily enough, I have not had too much trouble filling the void left by social media. I have found myself reading more, playing basketball with my boyfriend, going for walks and catching up with friends. We are extremely adaptable creatures, and I for one would like to adapt to a world without social media than a world with it. It's a personal choice and may not be for everyone and that's perfectly okay. As of today, we still have a say in how we live our lives and are the drivers of our own happiness and destiny. My goal is to post content directly to my website and continue sending out emails and blog posts.


My email is always open. Keep it happy, healing and simple.




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