How Leaving Social Media Affects Your Mind

Does it make you happier? I don’t know.

Isaac Simpson

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About four months ago I quit Facebook and Instagram after a big job I was up for didn’t pan out. Two months later, I left Twitter.

The first thing I noticed after I unplugged was that online ads unplugged from me. It was an overnight change. One day I was seeing Amazon book deals and food festivals near me, the next it was 100% women’s clothing. The more I use Chrome, the more ads close back in on my interests, but they’re nowhere near as accurate as they once were.

The other changes happened more slowly. Only now, sixty days later, am I starting to understand how things have changed. It’s a cognitive shift in the way I experience the world, and it’s more subtle than you might expect.

Is my life better without social media? My immediate instinct is to shout “Yes!!” I’m supposed to say that I’m “so much happier now” that I’m free from the shackles of Instagram. Or that I’m “so much more productive!” But I’m not sure if either of those are actually true.

In some ways, my life is better. The itch to record everything is gone—it disappeared after a couple of weeks—and that has been good for my ability to focus on the moment I’m in. I spend more time staring out into space, which I believe is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I’m relieved that the first thing I do in the morning isn’t flip through feeds.

But in another way, I’m less distracted by a delusion of importance that I think, at times, made me quite happy. Facebook is designed to make you feel like you’re famous. I was stimulated, intensely, by this delusion. I couldn’t wait to offer my unique and important take on the news, and would spend all day arguing in the comments, courageously bursting bubble after bubble, redpilling my sheeple acquaintances like digital Socrates. The delusion energized me. Not being on social media has lowered my cognitive testosterone; reduced the hours I spend gunning for glory.

It has also changed the way I take in, process, and produce information. This has been the most significant change, and it’s also the most subtle.

I should, for example, stuff this piece with statistics and expert opinions proving that…

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