Personal

Giving up on social media

10. December 2021,
life is not on social media

“I’m Andreea and I haven’t been using Instagram since September.”

And I’m so proud about it, even if it’s the September of 2021, so only 3 months ago. Inspired by the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (so many times seen in movies), this statement describes what I feel today. 

Is it too much?

NO. 

I am feeling proud as it was a success, and it is Justified by the fact that for a long time I knew it would be really hard to give up social media, and specially Instagram (also written as IG). I have lost my interest on Facebook long time ago…

Again, is it too much to say I was addicted to IG thinking of my usage? 

NO. 

More than the minutes or hours spent there, this comment is based on the feelings I had when not checking IG, or even after checking it. I was opening the app daily, and that’s already an addiction. Whenever I was having a “moment” I would check my feed. And, the worst, whenever I was having more than a short free moment, for example my Sunday mornings when I enjoy some hours of “me time”, I was losing around 1 hour or more on Instagram. 

Instagram as my educational platform

To my defence, I admit that while using IG I was learning many things: constantly reading about interesting persons such as authors, entrepreneurs, activists etc, finding new trendy ideas, concepts, maybe getting inspired by new books, new food recipes, skincare products, psychology based quotes or tips for sustainable and minimalist lifestyle, and so on. However, this perspective of Instagram as my education platform was a justification to constantly use it. It was a permission for me to use the app as often as I did. It was making me feel less guilty about the time lost using the app. 

Another justification that I’ve been using for a long time was related to my own published content. I was always arguing with my husband that if all people interested in great ideas (and less on showing off) are not on social media, then these platforms would be left in the hands of egocentrics, brands, advertisers big or small, and to those that share everything and too little useful content. I hope it doesn’t sound too harsh, but I really don’t enjoy seeing photos a friend’s kid naked on the beach or the third after-gym selfie of the week of somebody else. And no, it’s not jealousy, it’s just these posts are not bringing ANY VALUE to my life.

And before judging me, just think about yourself: Is that the content you enjoy? Is that content that makes you a better person? Or even relaxing you or inspiring you in a way or another?

So, coming back to my justification, I wanted to be intentional with my publications. I wanted to publish about serious and helpful topics, such as sustainability, books, parenting reflections and so on. I don’t know if I succeeded, but now I see clearly that behind this excuse was a looooot of ego. Yes, welcome ego! It is so hard to see you and so painful when I do see you! 

Quitting social media is just like giving up on a drug

Yes, I was addicted to Instagram even with my one hour (or less) of usage every day. Also, after stopping using IG, I felt exactly what addicts say they experience when stopping the drug. I identified myself with the stories of my friends who have tried quitting smoking. At first, whenever that free moment or “nothingness moment” was coming, I was thinking of the app; I was unlocking my phone and reaching my finger to the icon on my screen, without me even being aware of it. My gesture was happening before my brain actually was aware of the thought. I was soooo curious to see what was on Instagram, “in that right moment!”. Even if I knew from my previous detox experiences of weeks and months, that, in general, nothing changes: everybody is keep posting the same things constantly, in a way or another.

Those first days were hard. It was a cocktail of emotional, rational, chemical and FOMO reactions. Right in those days, I remembered one trick that could help you stay away from social media, which was hiding the app icon on your phone screen. So I did. Now after 3 months, I’m not sure where my Instagram app is on my phone. It worked! 

By October, I’ve found myself not thinking of IG. I’ve noticed that my thoughts and my finger were not going towards the app anymore. I’ve noticed that in those free moments, I was more inclined to look at the sky, or to the people around me in the bus, at the terraces, or just to breathe and feel my body. On the weekends, however, when I was enjoying bigger slots of time alone, I turned to Youtube. 

In English, it would be adapted to “Life is a different thing”. Full building grafitti in Valencia

Replacing an addiction with another one 

Too much to say that Youtube is my new addiction. I’m exaggerating! However, I’ve been consuming so muuuch since September. Especially on those Sunday mornings when I had more time for myself. I’ve started watching videos about the topics I enjoy: minimalism, skincare, decluttering, productivity and food. I still feel the need to learn, to discover new ideas, to get inspired. I also turned to Pinterest way more often than before, and with the same objective: to find inspiration about decor or outfits ideas and of course, handcrafted things to do with kids. 

Compared to Instagram, I think the Youtube videos offer a more complete view one a topic. I do have the patience and the interest to watch or just listen to a 30 minutes video about a skincare routine (from dermatologists, not influencers! just saying…) However, I rarely had the patience to read an Instagram post longer than 10-15 lines on my phone. Many times, I was impatient reading the full caption even when it was something interesting. So, in this regard, I’m satisfied with my consumption of Youtube. If on Instagram I was having a glimpse of many small ideas, after my Youtube sessions I feel more confident that I know a topic from different angles, and in greater depth. 

In conclusion, I think my addiction was all the time about learning new things rather than the channel used to satisfy this need. Luckily, this is an addiction that I’m OK to live with. I accept it and even more, I’m welcoming it in my body and mind. It’s connected to one of my deep values of “lifelong learning”. I know it’s exactly like the platform of the European Commission, but it’s the best expression of what I’m feeling.  

And what triggered this interior war with social media? 

Maybe you are asking why dropping social media NOW? What’s wrong about it? 

Well, mamy things are wrong about social media, too many to name them all here, but that’s not the purpose of this article. I only know my experience, of course. For a long time I had a feeling, something like a deep voice inside of me which was telling me that it’s a waste of my time, that social media is not the place to dedicate my energy to. For this reason, I’ve had previous periods of digital detox that would really satisfy that inner voice.

Another reason that fed that voice was all the knowledge I have regarding digital marketing and branding. I’m teaching Marketing at university level so I know how it works; I constantly read scientific articles on these topics, and for many years already, I’ve been reading tones of books in the field of psychology. This last field is so relevant for marketing activities!! A lot of marketing, if not all, is just psychological theories put into practice for the financial success of companies. Therefore, I was aware and couldn’t close my eyes to the fact that social media platforms are now the main paths for companies to sell us things, people and ideas. And even though I am aware of it, I’m human, and I do fall in those traps of persuasion once in a while. 

You can read here some tips on teaching Marketing online.

Another important trigger for me (and my husband) to quit social media was a mix of publications of our friends and people we used to know. My husband was checking Facebook twice a year and in this fall, mostly by mistake (or not, because Facebook knew that story was impressive), he saw some publications about a tragedic life event of a person he used to know. He was deeply touched by the sad story. We were both so sad for days! And talking about it, we realised that we don’t need to know everything that’s happening, good or bad, with so many people in our social media networks. It’s just too much information and we were not made to digest it! People that we’ve seen 2-3 times in our lifetimes and now we know so many private details about them… what’s the purpose in all of this? 

In the same time, I experienced myself with many Instagram posts from older friends, and people that I don’t want to keep in my life due to different reasons (having different values or just incompatibility). It made me reflect upon these thoughts:

  • Do I need to know what’s happening with a person that I decided I no longer value in my life?
  • Why should I still “be connected” (via IG) with persons that I’m not interested in?
  • Or what about the persons that I met once at a conference and never saw them again?
  • Or persons with whom I never contact directly, but we just exist for each other as ghost friends on Instagram? 

I guess these lines sound harsh, and I am sure some “enlightened persons” or “very good persons” could criticise me for not accepting everybody in my life … but for me, all these questions made me reflect on my time and with what and whom I spend my energy and my life with. Again, call me arrogant for thinking that, but I don’t need to follow or to know everything about everybody! And, I’ve already seen so many positive benefits of this decision. 

Already very positive impact on my relationships

The first and the most important consequence of me stopping watching everybody’s posts, is that I went back to deepen my relationships that I really want to have in my life. So, not seeing the social media posts of my friends made me really curious and sincerely eager to meet my friends again in person (because you know, Covid), or even to connect more on Whatsapp. Just because I was seeing on social media once in a while something from a friend, it was giving me the false impression that I knew what s/he was doing with life. Come on, that’s so superficial! But this is how social media sold itself to us as “connecting people” (Right!!!)

Take for example a friend that posts only about when he is going out for drinks, meals or travelling. Only when I met him for lunch, I got to know that he was actually hating the current job, looking for another one, that he was super in love and very happy in the relationship and many many other details. Details that they were never on Instagram, and never will be! We shared details about our authentic lives that deepen our friendship, and our real connection.   

The final moment

And the ultimate moment that made me take the decision to stop using Instagram was a conversation with a student. She said she couldn’t give up on Instagram even if she would like to do that. I asked her why. Her answer was FOMO, fear of missing out. She explained what FOMO was for her: feeling that she won’t belong anymore to that group (of friends or whatever), feeling that she won’t know what’s happening in the world (of that group). And so on… after she stopped, I realised that I was not feeling FOMO in the scenario of quitting social media. And then, again I heard that inner voice loud and clear, reaching my rational level: “Andreea, you are addicted and too weak to recognize it”.

That thought made me shiver and I couldn’t stop thinking about my body’s reaction to it. Putting all these pieces together: my knowledge on digital marketing, the non-interesting content from some acquaintances, my time spent with no purpose on IG, not wanting to feel connected with people that I didn’t want to have in my life …. I made the decision. 

And what about the future?

I can’t say I will never use Instagram or Facebook again. I like social media platforms, and I think they are amazing tools for businesses, or sharing beautiful ideas and values too. There is no doubt that I miss it once in a while. And I know that at some point, I will go back to check my IG account. Maybe I will even publish something about this article 🙂 But I will definitely:

  • 1) put an alarm for a few minutes;
  • 2) prepare in advance the post so I stay around as little time as possible;
  • 3) in time, I will create some kind of list of accounts that I would like to keep up with and check them every two weeks or monthly.

I admit there are people and brands that share almost everything on Instagram and they don’t have blogs or websites. Luckily, Brené Brown and Esther Perel do have. But few others don’t… 

Therefore, this conversation is to be continued … 

What about you? What’s your relationship with social media? Love and hating, as in my case?

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