I realized the other day that I had been spending less time on social media, Facebook specifically. My time spent scrolling through (and sometimes slogging through to stave off boredom) motivational memes, pregnancy photos, and political rancor has severely dwindled. First, I stopped engaging with the political discourse. Then, I stopped liking as many photos even if I actually liked them. Finally, I cut down how much I posted. I went from posting several times a day to maybe once a day. You know all that talk about the world seeming like it’s in the most volatile state in the history of man? It’s because we’re playing doge ball opposite social media, outnumbered us 10 to 1. We can’t escape the barrage of hot rubber leaving red imprints in our faces and other sensitive areas. We’re hit, and we’re out, but the red rubber keeps coming. The physical pain and exhaustion really mirrors (at least for me) what it feels like to be on social media too much.
Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is a great tool for businesses (especially the publishing and gaming industries), but I find myself mindlessly scrolling through much of the chatter, and if I do come across something I like, I forget about it the next day, unless it made an emotional impact on me. Social media is a major distraction for me, so unless I am being purposeful with my time on it, I need to ignore it. This past weekend, I went on a vacation. Aside from the few Instagram/Twitter photos I uploaded, I was off social media. And it was fantastic. I was present in the moment, focusing on the flavor complexities of the wines I was tasting, focusing on Alice Cooper’s rasp as he sang “Dead Drunk Friends.” To be in the moment, unencumbered by the compulsion to capture the perfect smart phone shot, was great. I have a rule for myself now: one shot, one memento. If I’m not there to capture it with my DSLR, I get one shot to post later.
One major side effect that I have noticed from limiting my time on social media is that I’m happier. My mind is clearer. All the information that I was trying to take in and process at once was exhausting, but now I feel like it’s getting easier to focus. I’m getting rid of that “fear of missing out” so I can manage my time more effectively and reduce stress. The need to tag myself every time I get a coffee is gone. But more importantly, all this time I’m saving from not reading every little thing on social media has left me more time to read books and to write.
I’m not the first person to write about the transformative process of quitting social media, either partially or entirely. One author writes about how quitting social media erased his need for validation, and another wrote about building stronger friendships. This person wrote about overcoming his need to share everything, and now takes photos for himself.
Maybe, as I taper my social media use even further, I’ll become more disciplined. That is one of the ultimate goals for a writer, is it not?