Social media can help foster friendships and keep us connected to loved ones. When people insisted it couldn’t replace face-to-face, in-person conversation, I scoffed, responding with anecdotes of how many of my friends needed it to keep in touch when the military moved them from place to place.
When folks warned that social media was likely exacerbating my depression, I shook my head, pointing to my support just a click away. When my husband suggested I spent too much time on my accounts and should consider deactivating, I insisted I needed the outlet for an escape from the stress of work and home, of life in general.
But no more. I’m over it. I’m done.
My husband had indeed been encouraging me to consider ditching social media — Facebook specifically — for years, especially after my postpartum depression. But he would always concede when I gave the above reasons for needing to stay.
Then one day my depression hit a new low, sending my mind whirling with thoughts of driving my car off an overpass to spare my family the hassle of having me failing them all the time. I realized something had to give. I was on medication, in counseling, and still struggling. I needed to do whatever I could for my mental health. So I took my husband’s advice, and left.
Taking It a Day at a Time
Sort of. Since I run an Etsy shop with a Facebook business page, I couldn’t leave completely, but I could come pretty close. I set up a second account as an admin for the page, deactivated my personal account, and deleted the Facebook app. I kept messenger active so I could remain in touch with friends for whom I didn’t have other contact info.
I didn’t set a goal for how long this break would last. I didn’t deactivate with any plans to return or not. My only plan was to take each day at a time and make decisions as needed.
At first, it was insanely difficult. I had been on Facebook since its inception. For more than a decade I had been an active user, posting pictures of my family and travels, staying in touch with friends, making new friends, and keeping up with current events through my feed. Suddenly I felt cut off, and it felt wrong. But I knew it was for my own good. I had to adjust my habits, but the benefits outweighed any of the negatives.
The initial feeling of isolation, of not having a sounding board to air any thought or feeling at once, subsided as I started seeking out friends individually. Yes, it was often electronically, as many of my friends are long-distance or our lives simply don’t easily allow for regular face-to-face interactions. I actually felt more connected when I was forced to intentionally contact someone to talk rather than waiting for people to react to my status updates and posts.
I also had to decide who I wanted to talk to rather than shouting into the ether and waiting for a response. As a result, conversations became deeper, more personal, more heartfelt than those that could happen on timeline threads. And having friends reach out to me individually to see how I was doing meant more to me than any “like” or comment ever could.
That Took Only About a Week
A week or so after I left, I logged back in just to see if I wanted to return. I expected to be excited to be back, to see updates from folks I hadn’t talked to, to catch up on current events and the general goings-on. That isn’t at all what happened. Instead, an anxiety attack hit.
It was a deluge of information crushing me like a giant wave against a rocky shore. Memes, articles, status updates, and pictures mixed with ads and banners overwhelmed me so that I immediately deactivated my account again. Someone told me I just needed to adjust my settings. No. It wasn’t my settings or number of friends—it was the design of the platform itself.
It’s designed to distract us over and over and over. The constantly updating timeline — and their obnoxious algorithms meant to show you “what really matters to you” — keeps us scrolling and scrolling to see if we’ve missed anything from someone. It’s a wonder we don’t all develop some form of attention deficit disorder from these hours of social media use.
It seemed everyone had been right. Social media wasn’t helping me. It was hindering me. I had to find a new normal. I began writing more letters, scheduling lunch and coffee dates with friends, and making an effort to reach out individually and ask how people were doing. I could no longer be a lazy friend, just waiting for someone’s updates to pop up in my feed. I had to actively engage, and it was a beautiful thing.
I now seek out news and current events instead of waiting for Facebook to tell me what is going on. If I need a break from the latest political kerfuffle, I can take it easily, no longer having to struggle to ignore whatever showed up on my feed.
I take more pictures with and of the kids, read more books with them, spend more time drawing, am better focused at work and home, and am now a pretty good cribbage player. My friendships feel stronger, and my depression less debilitating. In short, life is better without social media — and with the Pages app I can run my business page without ever actually logging in to Facebook.
We don’t need to accept a social media takeover of our lives as our fate. We can rebel against it and come out stronger, healthier, and saner. Who’s with me?