Ah, the question every social media quitter thinks about. When your life revolves around posting everything, going cold turkey feels disconcerting. I would know because I quit social media three months ago.
Yes, I am still alive and no, I am not living in a cave.
Thinking about quitting social media has been on my mind for the longest time. Back then I had to walk the talk. Working in an agency meant I had to be on top of the latest developments. However, when I moved jobs and no longer had to rely on social media to do my work well, quitting became a no-brainer.
But first, let's define 'quitting social media'.
In my case, this mostly meant quitting Instagram. It consumed my days. I would lie in bed scrolling through my feed until it ate through my nights and even my sleeping time. True story: When you are in your thirties, sleep is a luxury. I knew I needed to take back my time to feel human again.
For me, quitting involved deleting the app. That was enough to begin with. It would allow me to return should I choose to, and my account will welcome me back with open arms, with hardly a beat missed.
What about the others?
I still had them. My relationship to Facebook and Twitter were normal and not all-consuming.
Facebook has always been a way for me to communicate with family as well as participate in groups. Aside from that, there was nothing much to do. I have long given up on my news feed—what with all the noise—that I hardly scroll through it.
Twitter, on the other hand, was fleeting and current. I didn't need to scroll through my feed to keep up. There was no keeping up, only what was being talked about right now. In a way, it wasn't high maintenance like Instagram and didn't trigger me as much as the latter did.
Am I all the wiser living the no 'gram life?
I want to put it out there that quitting social media was not a statement. It is not evil. And I am definitely not trying to question anybody's relationship with it.
For me, I felt that I needed a social media break and I took it.
While there were obvious positives like more sleep, more finished books, more time to ponder about life. I felt like there were some unintended downsides too.
For one, I lost the habit of documenting my days. With no need to update, no trigger to post on social media, the weeks go by in a blur. All details become lost and it begs repeating: if I didn't post it, did it even happen?
Side note: I went to Edinburgh right around the time I just quit and was tempted to get back on social media. Can you believe it? I wanted a hiatus from my hiatus. I didn't succumb to it in the end but now there's nothing to remember that trip by.
Went to Edinburgh
And all I got was this windy selfie taken at Arthur's Seat.
Another downside was, it became harder to feel connected to friends who were living elsewhere. This was true about my friends in Manila. We're not the type who would update each other on the regular. Social media was our way of keeping in touch and it meant I couldn't be part of their daily life. I knew friendships hinged on proximity and these days that means closely following each other's social feeds.
It took a few instances for friends to realise I won't be replying direct messages anymore and that I won't be able to see posts they tag me in. Instead of relying that I would "see it on their insta", we found ways to have real conversations about what's going on in their life. I liked that better than Likes.
While I have downloaded the app back into my phone, it is no longer consuming me. I hardly open it. If I do, it's to see if anyone tagged me or messaged me, but since I am not an active participant in it, I don't get actively tagged as much as I did before.
Quitting social media has helped me evaluate my relationship with it. What do I get out of using it? Am I triggered by what I see? If yes, why and what can I do about it?
Quitting has helped me in exploring other ways of connecting and deciding what my online life should be like. Where previously, I felt that Instagram became a micro-blogging platform that left me little to nothing left to post on a proper blog. Now, I have more time to make sense out of those thoughts.
Thinking back, I realise that my previous attempts to kickstart a blog were hampered by all the posting I have been doing on social media. My thoughts were as scattered and ad-hoc as my updating. With a blog, I feel like I can collect them and share something I felt was more substantial. After more than a decade of social media, I feel it's time to return to my roots: blogging.
And so, here we are. With every end, a new beginning.