I have something better instead.
Two weeks ago, I leapt from the precipice that is Facebook into the abyss of life without social media. I survived the fall and, believe it or not, I’m thriving.
So, what pushed me to the edge of that cliff?
The Digitell Age
Remember in March of 2018 when the media was reporting on a massive scandal about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica being in cahoots during major political campaigns in 2015 and 2016? Well, you might not recall the details but, basically, Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, harvested the data of over 50 million Facebook users without their consent to assist in Ted Cruz’s 2015 and 2016 campaigns and the Brexit referendum.
This event was an awakening for many. Perhaps you were among the millions who thought, “Hmm… I really gotta get off Facebook.” At the time, I’m sure you meant it.
The post-Cambridge Analytica era brought and hastened legislative changes worldwide. Companies that buy and sell data are held to higher standards of accountability by authorities. Yet, while governments in the US, UK, and beyond have remained committed to ensuring data privacy, social media users appear to have recovered from this scare.
After the scandal, I tried not to worry about my data privacy; I became rather apathetic to the threat of data breaches and exploitation. In addition, I justified my use of social media as others did and still do.
“Facebook is how my relatives and I stay up-to-date about each other.”
“I find a lot of interesting articles and posts on Facebook.”
“I don’t use it much anyways.”
I agree with all of that. Nonetheless, I began questioning each point in my head.
“Shouldn’t family be involved in each others’ lives off social media? Is it really uncommon for aunts to email their nieces and nephews? Is it unpopular for cousins to call each other?”
“Can’t I access these articles off Facebook? Aren’t the original sources more reputable anyways?”
“If I don’t use Facebook much, would I miss it?”
The Ultimate Question
“Would I miss it?”
That was the question that really teased me. Sure enough, humans had fared reasonably well before the advent of social media. In fact, folks often ponder a social media-less existence, even claiming that they spend too much time on it. Still, most of us do nothing.
“Enough with this passivity,” I thought, “I’ve had it! Now’s the time!”
At that moment, I swiftly swiped my finger across my phone screen and uninstalled Instagram, without a second thought. A week later, I deleted the account in its entirety.
And, oh, the relief! Instagram was merely a guinea pig but there was a noticeable difference in my life after it was gone.
Over the next two weeks, I made several posts on Facebook, informing my following of my imminent departure from the platform and inviting them to continue correspondence via email and old-fashioned letters. I contacted several people directly with my contact information.
Prior to the deactivation (it sounds like a space mission assignment), I questioned my decision as much as my family and friends did. Having thoroughly reviewed the pros and cons, I remained resolute in my choice.
The day finally came. I had announced my leaving. I had added dozens of email addresses to my contacts. I had downloaded all of my content. I was ready.
I navigated to the deactivate button and tapped it.
(Then, I tapped a couple other things because Facebook doesn’t take break-ups well and needs closure: “Why are you leaving, Hannah?” I guess it’ll be a clean-break when I delete the account in a week.)
There was an adjustment period. During “the first 48,” I found myself opening my phone to check Facebook throughout the day in between different activities. Before, I had checked my feed while waiting for water to boil or for my next student to arrive. Without photos to like or articles to share, those sporadic moments were empty.
At first, that emptiness was uncomfortable. After a few days, those moments started to be filled differently. I became more productive, calculating how to accomplish various tasks in a fixed period of time. I learned how to compartmentalize.
By using my time more efficiently, I suddenly had more of it. Now, unfettered by distractions, I use that time to write, walk, hike, communicate with treasured friends and family, and do all of the things that satisfy me.
Perhaps the best part of this new world is the deepening of my relationships. Contrary to the expectations of some, I don’t feel isolated, even living abroad. When my friends ask me what’s new, they truly want to know. When I call my family, we have more to discuss. When I send an email to an old classmate, I long to hear about their latest adventures. No longer do we interact passively. We share our curiosity openly. We express our love freely. We live fully.
Of course, social media-less life isn’t for everyone. I only challenge you to explore yourself and your world in as many ways as possible.
So, what do I have instead of social media?
I have my life which I live more for myself than ever before.
Update: Since the pandemic, I’ve rejoined social media to maintain a social life and spread positivity. I think platforms like Facebook and Instagram can have powerful, positive impacts on our society in times like these. 🙂