Three Months Without Social Media
After a few months of gradual detoxing from social media, it’s been twelve weeks since I permanently deleted my Instagram account in July - my last remaining social platform except YouTube, which I don’t think counts. Some people thought I was mad (mad, I tell you) to give up such a valuable marketing tool when running a freelance business, while others called it ‘a shame’ - pretty much the opposite of how I felt. But most people were fully supportive and have been asking how I’m finding life without likes and retweets, so I thought I’d post an update after three months without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If you didn’t watch my (really long) video about why I decided to delete social media, the main reason was because I had become addicted to it and, in the pursuit of a happier, healthier lifestyle, I decided I would be better off without it. I hesitated for a long time because I’m freelance and rely on self-promotion to eat and pay my bills, but when I looked closer at my statistics, I realised the whole ‘you need social media to run a business’ rule was a bit of a falsehood. All it did was make me lazy with my marketing, so instead of posting on Instagram I now put more time and effort into my website, and I’ve been so much more creative with ways to put myself out there. I also don’t think social media is evil, and recognise that many people are capable of using it effectively and healthily, but unfortunately I’m not strong enough for that and allowed it to consume my life. Rather than struggle to overcome it, I decided to just remove the problem, but I know that for many people it’s a vital source of communication and inspiration, which is totally cool.
So, what is life like without being addicted to social media?
The short answer: Peaceful, liberating, productive - and frustrating.
The long answer? Let’s start with the pros…
My whole life has become more focused, more peaceful and less distracted. In the mornings I wake up, sip tea and watch the birds outside before climbing out of bed and starting my day. If I hit a wall with my work, I used to scroll through Twitter or Instagram and return to the same point I was before, still distracted and unfocused. Now I walk around, make more tea, do twenty minutes of yoga, unload the dishwasher, go for a bike ride or pop to the post office - nothing out-of-this-world, but simple and enjoyable time away from my screen.
I was worried I might feel out-of-the-loop with what my friends were doing, and while I’ve certainly lost track of what many people are up to, it’s filtered out a few people that I wasn’t that interested in to begin with. That sounds awful - of course, I’m still interested to hear how people are doing when I see them, but in terms of how much effort I put in, I have concentrated what was an otherwise diluted friendship group. The people whose photos I used to like or comment on have been divided into those I still talk to through email, WhatsApp, telephone or a midweek coffee, and those who have drifted apathetically into the ether.
I feel more at peace with myself and unburdened of the need to compare myself to others or worry about missing out on social events. I’m reading more books, listening to more music, spending more time outdoors and having proper conversations with people, rather than the How-are-you? Great!-I’ve-started-karate! I-know, I-saw-your-Insta-story! I’ve started writing letters to old friends and emailing people I met online, whose friendships are too valuable to lose without Instagram or Twitter. All in all, I feel liberated from the overwhelm of modern life - the constant exposure to false lifestyles, fake news, materialism and advertising.
And in terms of running my business, I’ve realised social media is only one tool in a crammed, jangling toolbox. It made me lazy with my marketing - you post something on Twitter, get a few retweets and think that’s enough. Without the instant feedback, I’ve been thinking more long term, and starting to value a loyal network of people who are genuinely interested in my work, rather than people just volleying for likes. I’ve been contacting new people, introducing myself at events, pitching feature ideas, crafting new creative projects and expanding what I do - all with the extra energy I’m not wasting on social media.
How about the cons?
There are, of course, downsides to unplugging from social media. Some of these are trivial - I’ve been taking less photos and forgetting names of random acquaintances I no longer see on my newsfeed, and it’s been really difficult contacting old friends whose addresses I need for wedding invitations! With my business, I’ve lost the ability to induce people to ‘impulse buy’ new items from my shop - something that’s very easy with a clickable link on Twitter. Having said that, although I enjoy making money and being able to eat, it feels nicer to build a more sustainable customer base rather than encouraging impulse materialism.
Perhaps the most frustrating part is adapting to a world where everybody else has social media. It’s so ingrained into our culture that without it, people look at you like you’re from the past. I spoke at a county show the other day and met a lovely lady who sells her own homemade cakes, and the first thing she asked was my Instagram handle, which I couldn’t offer. Similarly, we’re currently in the process of adopting a dog (more on this very soon!), and the only way to contact the rescue home was through Facebook. I had to create a temporary account just to message them back and forth - not the end of the world, but it felt much more natural when we moved over to email.
After going vegan, deleting my social media accounts has been the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done, and I can’t see myself going back in the near future. Having said that, I always try to stay open-minded, and perhaps one day I’ll find a need for it again. But somehow I doubt it. We’ve lived, loved, been entertained and made money for thousands of years before the internet was invented, and since deleting my accounts I don’t even think about them anymore. Instead, I’m focused on enjoying the present, utilising my other senses, using my brain and building a life for myself in the real world.
Who knows? In a few months I may have gone mad from hashtag-deficiency and clawed my way back into the Twittosphere. Either way, I’ll keep you updated!