Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My social media diet

"Ugh, I'm depressed!" I wailed jokingly to my husband one morning while scrolling through my smartphone. "I posted a pic on Instagram yesterday and it only got, like, four likes!" 

My relationship with social media can be summed up in two words. Love-hate. I love it for the same reasons you do: It's a great way to keep in touch with far away friends, the news feeds are useful when you want to find out what's going on in the world (current events, memes, pop culture) and it's fun keeping a virtual scrapbook of your own life -- bookmarking a thought, a cute photo of your kids or pets, or something that inspired you that day.

I hate it for the same reasons you do: trolls, shamers, your annoying "friends" clogging your news feed with their annoying political rants/check-ins/pet videos/kid photos. 

I also hate when I allow social media to make me feel small. 

How did my self-worth get reduced to the number of Likes I get on an Instagram photo or Facebook post? Why am I using it as a tool to compare my life to others? No wonder we've coined phrases like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out = anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may be currently happening elsewhere, often perpetuated by posts seen on social media). No wonder there are studies linking Facebook to depressive symptoms. 

Complaining to my husband about my lack of Likes that day -- a sincere moment of self-doubt cloaked in a half-joke -- was the reason I decided to ban myself from social media over Thanksgiving. Nine days without Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. No posting. No peeking. No lurking.

At first it was really hard to resist. 

It made me realize how automatic my interaction with social media had become. Opening up my Facebook or Instagram page was like brushing my teeth. A habit. An essential. A necessity to living.

Good thing I'm stubborn. When I set my mind to something I will do it even if it kills me. One day without social media turned into two, then four. Then a whole week went by. Instead of reaching for my phone I dove into a book I had been meaning to read. I spent more time snuggling with my kids and just being present with them. I stopped caring and wondering about what other people were doing, what they were eating and wearing, where they were vacationing and how glorious and glossy their lives seemed to be.


If you've never gone on a social media diet, I highly recommend it. Even for a few days. See if it affects you in any way. Take notes. Does it change your behavior? Does it make you feel less anxious? Is your FOMO better or worse? Does it help you carve out time for something else?

Let me know how it goes.

love, -j. 

Illustration by Liam Walsh for The New Yorker.
The death of conversation.