What Would It Take for You to Quit Social Media Cold Turkey?
A friend of mine disappeared last week.
One minute he was there, and the next, I couldn’t find him.
Perhaps I should clarify: He disappeared from Facebook last week. He had posted something funny, I commented on it, and when I went to look at the post an hour or two later, it was gone — as was his entire profile.
I checked Twitter, and he wasn’t there either.
These days, that’s tantamount to someone disappearing off the face of the earth.
When I finally tracked him down a few hours later — via email, natch — he informed me that he had quit both social networks.
Just like that.
I suppose the decision wasn’t entirely surprising. After all, social media has kind of taken over the lives of anyone who has ever signed up for an account. Given the tense political climate, and the way social networks seem to know just a little bit too much about each of us, curbing your social media use seems to make sense. And I actually know people who have quit Facebook as a way to protest its privacy policies, and others who have gone on a “social media diet” as a way to escape the overwhelming, never-ending content stream or all that political ranting.
But it wasn’t privacy concerns that inspired my friend’s decision, and he didn’t just want a time out. (Though, full disclosure, he did reinstate his Twitter account a few days later.) “I’m like Pavlov’s dog to social media,” he explained to me. “There are other things in my life that need and deserve that attention.”
He said getting off Facebook was good for the soul, and he was going to spend his increased offline time doing things that were “more significant” than what he often posted updates about.
At first, I was taken aback by this decision. My friend was a guy who always seemed to enjoy Facebook, and who was actively engaged there. We aren’t the closest of friends, but we had gotten tighter over the past year and a half as we learned more about each other through our posts and comments. And in the days prior to quitting, he had posted a bunch of photos from a recent vacation.
But wasn’t that his whole point? And isn’t that increasingly the problem with all of us active social media users? If we don’t document that we did something — through photos, videos, status updates, or check-ins — did we really do it? And if we don’t actively engage with our friends and Twitter followers, do those relationships cease to exist?
Well, that’s one way of thinking, and I’m not sure I entirely agree. Social media can be silly at times, but it adds so much to my life — from birthday greetings on Facebook to just my everyday usage of Twitter and all the friendships I’ve made (including many online ones that have become offline ones) just from getting to know people — and that’s not even counting my choice of career. If I had to, I could probably quit social media easily, but right now, I don’t want to.
Nevertheless, there was a big part of me that was impressed by what my friend did, and that really respected his decision to live (and keep) more of his life offline.
Given the sheer size of Facebook’s user base — it boasts more than two billion users — those who aren’t on Facebook are increasingly seen not just as the exception to the rule, but as “abnormal.” (True story. A study in 2012 found that some employers and psychiatrists find it suspicious when someone isn’t on Facebook.)
I know my friend isn’t abnormal — far from it. I support his decision to quit cold turkey. In fact, I kind of admire it.
That said, I’ll miss seeing his cool photos and entertaining status updates, and his comments on what I post, and I’ll miss keeping tabs on his life just in general. But I say good for him.
And besides, we do still have email.
What would it take for YOU to quit Facebook and/or Twitter, or any other social network, cold turkey? Have you ever considered it?
A version of this post originally appeared on Martin’s Musings.