Dawid’s Blog
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Dawid’s Blog

Credit stevecutts.com

9 months off social media. I won’t be going back

After seeing the superb TED talk “Quit Social Media”, I decided to finally cut the cord on social media for a few weeks .

It’s now 9 months later and the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it years and years and years earlier.

I was a regular social media user. I checked it daily, several times a day, and would occasionally post.

First I left Facebook, and Instagram was more recent. I originally unfollowed everyone on Instagram except for The Rock, because well, he’s The Rock. But now that’s gone too. I also unfollowed everyone on Strava but still wanted to use it to record cycling and running.

The bottomless feed

I realised I had a problem, particularly with procrastination as I’d check Facebook before I would tackle any difficult task. Just a “quick check”, and then 10 minutes later I’d still be scrolling through that bottomless feed.

I know I’m not the only one. You see people walking through parks hunched over on their feeds. Groups of people sitting at a coffee shop, all on their phones with the blue Facebook banner so obviously glowing. That thumb flicking up, scrolling through an interface that is designed to keep you engaged as long as possible. Designed to be irresistible. We’re hooked.

I took the red pill

I’d also noticed how fake so much of it turned out to be. Friends who appear madly in love, end up separating. Work travel highlighted to construct a digital representation of your fantastic life. The conscious and subconscious status anxiety to match these digital fabrications of other lives. It’s also ‘uncool’ to be real. It’s rare that people talk about their true feelings. They only share the good, even if it’s fake. It’s ‘uncool’ to share bad things or negative feelings. You’re breaking the etiquette.

There are good things in Social Media — but do 1 or 2 good elements outweigh 100’s of negatives? Does weight loss justify smoking?

I’d fallen into the trap of feeling that social media is a fundamental part of society and to shun it would be the act of a luddite. So why do people use it? What are the arguments for it? “I use it to keep connected to my friends”, and “it’s harmless fun”.

Both crap.

I’m better connected without Facebook

My relationships are better without Facebook. Relationships that rely on posting pictures and flicking through others, feeling as if you’re connected when you’re not, are superficial and damaging. If you rely on a Facebook post to tell you that someone has given birth, they’re not your friend.

If I want to know how my friend is doing, I ask. If I’m not willing to ask, maybe they’re not my friend.

I also don’t need to see that John has just bought a new Mercedes (And by the way, John hasn’t posted in 3 months… but just had to post about his new car…) I feel inadequate, and John has shared his experience to help his self esteem.

I also don’t need to know that Suzie who I had English class with in year 11 is pregnant. I simply don’t need to know that, and she should feel the same about me.

Even if this social media brought us together, it’s not a harmless platform. It’s addictive, it’s designed that way, I was using it as it’s designed to be used.

Social media is hurting most of us

A recent study of 1500 Facebook users found that over 60% reported feeling ugly, jealous and inadequate compared to other social media ‘friends’. This is horribly unnecessary psychological damage, without even venturing into cyberbullying, stalking, security and pedophilia issues.

I even found this on Strava. I’d feel inadequate with my running times compared to others, and even missed a run or two because I was embarrassed how slow I’d be and didn’t want it to show up on my feed. And if I did go for a run and it was slow, I’d make sure I’d justify it in the activity. “Sore legs, need a rest day”.

Facebook is a platform designed to make money for its shareholders

Facebook is a publicly listed company, accountable to it’s shareholders, looking for profit. It measures us in terms of MAU’s and DAU’s. Monthly Active Users and Daily Active Users. If I’m on their every day, several times a day, it learns as much about me as possible so it can give me targeted ads.

credit TechCrunch
credit TechCrunch

Facebook generated $27 billion revenue last year from advertising. Think of how much money that is, and the average revenue per user in the USA for the last quarter of 2016 was $19.28.

Facebook is an addictive form of entertainment that is designed to keep you engaged as long as possible, to learn as much about you as possible, to advertise as much as possible, and to target those ads as much as possible.

It’s also been caught doing dark things. A leaked report showed that there was an initiative on how Facebook could be used to identify at risk youth’s to advertise to them. ‘feeling down? Try this new 30 day weight loss pill’.

My attention span became tiny

It also shortened my attention span. It trained me for tiny bites of information, nothing too long, because there’s still way too much else to read in the feed.

I tried to tame my addiction through removing the app. Then I just got really fast at accessing it via the mobile browser. I disabled all notifications, but I still popped on.

I further went on to disable all notifications on my phone. They’re not notifications though, they’re interruptions… taking you out of the present moment.

I’ve accidentally gone back onto Facebook once or twice by having used Social Sign On for my Spotify account. 10 minutes later I was clicking through the photos of someone I’d never met. This isn’t the first time that had happened.

Don’t get high on your own supply

I’m busy reading the excellent Irresistible by Adam Alter. It tells you the tools that apps use to get us hooked, and the technology giants that don’t let their families touch their products. Steve Jobs never let his kids use an iPad.

“Chris Anderson, the former editor of WIRED, enforced strict time limits on every device in his home, “because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand.” His five children were never allowed to use screens in their bedrooms. Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons, but refused to give them an iPad. And Lesley Gold, the founder of an analytics company, imposed a strict no-screen-time-during-the-week rule on her kids. She softened her stance only when they needed computers for schoolwork.” Wired

Like a crack dealer, don’t get high on your own supply.

Life after Facebook

It’s absolutely fine. It’s better. It’s more peaceful. I read more, I’m not glued to my phone, I don’t feel an urge to check my phone when I’m throwing stones in the river with my son. I also don’t feel the urge to post an update.

I do still use tech to journal these special times. I have a private diary using the absolutely brilliant Day One.

So how does life feel post Facebook? It’s better than before.

Facebook is part of a larger technology problem that’s robbing us of our attention in the present moment and leaving us distracted, tired, fat, hunched and depressed. The killer work app of the 21st century is the ability to do deep, undistracted work. The killer life app is the ability to spend focused, deep time with your family and friends. Leave the phone at home. I have a $29 “bat-phone” that only my wife has the number for. If I’m taking the kids for the morning, that’s how she gets in touch with me… my smart phone stays off.

Finally — There’s a Social Media myth that brands should listen to Social Media to gauge market sentiment and perception. There is no correlation between social media and word of mouth. It’s absolutely not an indicator of how your brand is perceived in the real world. Social media is used to amplify a crisis… and then to manage that crisis (think United Airlines).

You’ll never know until you try. You might just like it.

I really really encourage you to try this. Try it for a month. I believe that social media and phone addiction will be one of our generation’s biggest regrets. Like any addiction, you’ll have withdrawal and you need to engineer it so that you can’t fall back into it.

No one cares too, it took a month for anyone to notice I was gone. “Hey I tried to tag you in a photo… have you unfriended me”. Interesting how they noticed when they were posting something, not a lack of posts by me.

I love having one less information source bombarded at me and freeing up headspace to spend on more important things.

The only reason I’d go back onto Facebook is to advertise something.

Read Deep Work by Dr Cal Newport, and watch his video on “Quit Social Media”. For those of you who love Seth Godin, he is also actively against it and calls it a “trap”.

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