I’ve noticed that when I catch up with a friend, family member, or colleague, the other person will at some point ask if I saw what someone posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. My permanent reply: “No, I didn’t see it.” This response sometimes leads to a curious look. Other times, people will just proceed to explain the latest social media buzz.
I’m sure some of you think I’m bragging about my lack of social media activity. There are certainly people who wear quitting social media as a rebellious badge of honor. The fact, however, is that I’ve recently realized that by limiting social media, I’m leading a much happier and more focused life.
The Upside of Life Without Social Media
I was recently reading an article about the cost of debt on happiness((The Ascent: Study: The Psychological Cost of Debt)) and it reminded me of how certain things have a taxing effect on happiness. Similar to debt, there’s certain things that can be so distracting that it can influence your personal life and how you are at work in a negative way.
At work, I’d stop what I was doing any time I received a social media notification. While one way around this would be to turn off notifications, use an app that blocks sites, or completely turn off my phone, I’d still feel anxious about having to check my social feeds. FOMO is a very real thing. In fact, research conducted at Duke University's Center for Advanced Hindsight found that even if you turn off notifications, you still feel anxious that you’re missing out.((Business Insider: There's a better way to get smartphone notifications that makes people less stressed — and it doesn't require eliminating them all))
These distractions may seem harmless, but they play a part in your productivity as well. Joanne Cantor, PhD, professor emerita of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the book Conquer CyberOverload said:((The Healthy: 13 Things That Could Happen When You Quit Social Media))
“When we stop ourselves to check social media again and again, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and you do it in an inferior way.”
The American Psychological Association reports that multitasking, such as going back and forth between social media and a work-related task, can actually reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.
Outside of work, social media distracts you from enjoying the present. For example, let’s say you’re having dinner with your family. Instead of spending quality time with your loved ones, everyone’s faces are glued to their smartphones like mindless zombies. That’s definitely not going to strengthen the relationships you have with one another. Even if social media is valuable to your business for feedback, it’s good to take a break.
Here’s another example. You go to a concert or a baseball game with a friend or business acquaintance. You’re not deeply involved in this activity or, worse, enjoying the company you’re with because you’re too busy posting social media updates — or checking in to see what everyone else is posting.
Besides these distractions, I’ve also noticed that I actually have more free time. I’ve been able to use this time to read, write, or learn new skills that make me a stronger person, both personally and professionally.
Without social media, I’ve been more productive and able to truly enjoy the company of the people I care about. Also, I have felt less stressed and am sleeping better. Research has found that social media is linked to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.((Journal of Adolescent: Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem )) This shouldn’t be surprising. We lay in bed scrolling through our feeds, comparing ourselves to others. On top of that, blue light from our screens stimulating our brains, we get jealous and wish we were lying on a beach instead of preparing for work in the morning.
How to Realistically Limit Social Media
I’ll be the first to admit that limiting social media isn’t easy. The fear of missing out, of course, plays a role. Even if you aren’t addicted to social media, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you limit. That’s actually the first step in being able to successfully limit social media: realizing you’re going to miss out on certain things. Eventually, you’ll realize you aren’t as isolated as you believe. In fact, you may have even stronger relationships because your main communication methods are more intimate, like texts and phone calls.
Besides, if someone didn’t invite you to a party because you aren’t on social media, is he or she really someone you consider a close personal friend? That person’s most likely an acquaintance who really isn’t all that important to you in the grand scheme of things.
After coming to this realization, you should uninstall all social media apps from your phone and log out of them on your computer. This is just a simple way to remove the temptation to view your social channels with one click or tap. Though it will be a rough start, you’ll eventually experience the benefits of not being tied to social media. The further you distance yourself from it, the less you’ll miss it.
However, if you’re still struggling, look for other ways to distract yourself. Pick up a new hobby, meditate, exercise, volunteer, or actually call to catch up with a friend. Not only do these activities give you something else to focus on, but they also allow you to strengthen your existing relationships and establish new, more meaningful ones.
Life Without Social Media
If you feel you need social media to stay in the loop, seek out alternatives like newsletters or RSS feeds that are relevant. If you have to establish a social media presence professionally, set boundaries, such as logging in once a week to check messages and schedule the following week’s content. You can also delegate or outsource your social media responsibilities so you can remain free of social media.
You can live without social media. In fact, it’s probably for the best. But it is an adjustment; you’ll miss out on certain things. Some people may forget you. But you’re also going to be happier and more focused because you’ll be less distracted and stressed. You’ll also be more productive and fulfilled.
To ease your way into this, don’t go cold turkey. Deactivate your accounts for a week, then maybe two, then possibly permanently. As you’ll see, it’s not the end of the world.