Dear Social Media, I'm Breaking Up With You.
With the recent Facebook scandal and new changes to Snapchat, I’m finding myself avoiding social media more and more these days. When it comes to social media usage, there seems to be two types of people, and I’m sure you can name a few in your own life.
The first is the SMW [Social Media Warriors]. These people just cannot fathom why on earth anyone would not want to use social media! It’s fun! All your friends know what’s going in your life! It’s easy to stay connected! Everyone else is doing it! Texting is outdated! Hurray! Quick, take a picture of my kale and spinach salad so that everyone knows what I ate for lunch! SMWs just can’t seem to live without social media. I’m not just talking about taking pictures of things you’re probably not going to care about in 24 hours, I’m also referring to the mindless scrolling, liking, swiping, and sharing that we engage in on a constant basis. I know I’m definitely guilty of scrolling aimlessly through Facebook when I’m bored, sometimes not even stopping to read content. Occasionally I’ll dish out a like if I’m feeling generous. I might share something that’s relevant to me. Cool, 5 minutes well spent. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with SMWs. In fact, I would argue that the vast majority of us are SMWs. In fact, you probably discovered this article via a social media site. Heck, if it weren’t for social media, I know I wouldn’t be able to share my music and opinions on random shit as effectively!
The second kind of person is the Social Media Hater (SMHs). These people just cannot fathom why on earth anyone would want to use social media. It’s a waste of time. It’s an invasion of privacy. Do you even know how many people have access to your information? Do you even realize that everything put out on the internet stays on the internet forever – even if you delete it? Why would anyone want to spend a beautiful summer day at the beach taking pictures instead of enjoying the experience? SMHs hate being attached to their phones. They prefer to live in the moment and experience their surroundings with full attention. They know that pictures are just for show, and that their thoughts don’t really matter to the world in the grand scheme of things.
Now, I don’t think anything is just black and white. Of course, everyone falls on a spectrum between being an absolute SMW and a complete SMH. In all honesty though, if it weren’t for some of the more practical uses of social media, I would be perfectly happy without it. And for me, it’s not about not wanting to take pictures, or not wanting to share my every thought (come on, I started a blog, of course I want to share my every thought…) but it’s more about living a life of deliberation.
Living deliberately is a concept that we as a society have forgotten completely about. You may have heard of the word “mindfulness” – the idea that we must live presently, let go of the past, and stop worrying about the future. But I think living with deliberation is a different kind of mindset. It is a mindset that involves active and conscious effort. Human beings have lived without technology and without social media much longer than we’ve lived with it. These advancements just made certain aspects of society more convenient – particularly, socializing. When it comes to forging social relationships, we tend to favor the most convenient option. It’s much easier to maintain a Snap Streak with a friend for 2 weeks in a row than it is to coordinate your busy schedules to grab lunch sometime. It’s much easier to stay connected with friends and family through Whatsapp group chats than it is to actually go spend time with them. These aren’t inherently bad things – but they can be if we are not deliberate about our interactions with each other.
Living a deliberate life started for me when I discovered and started exploring another concept called minimalism. Minimalism is exactly what it sounds like – the idea that less is more, and more importantly, that every single thing in your life should deliver value. That means every object you own, every person you keep in your life, and everything that you do should be something that adds value or meaning to your life. Many people misunderstand this concept, thinking that it means they should just throw away all their things and never shop on Amazon again. In reality though, if you have 100 pairs of shoes and every morning you enjoy wearing a new pair to match your outfit – that’s adding value to your life. If you have tons of books on your shelf because you enjoy reading – that’s adding value to your life. We also tend to surround ourselves with things that don’t add any real value to our lives. I recently did some spring cleaning and found about 50 spoons, knives, and forks in my kitchen. Did I mention I live alone? NOBODY NEEDS THAT MUCH CUTLERY!
Anyway, I started applying this same concept to my life, and reflected on who I was surrounding myself with – both digitally, and physically. What I realized was that of my nearly 1,000 Facebook friends, I could barely even remember how I knew half of them. I realized that the vast majority of them weren’t adding any value to my life in any way, not even through social media. I will admit that I still follow a number of people on social media not because I know them personally, but because I believe that what they have to say and share is something that I can benefit from. The harsh reality is – most people don’t share, say, or offer anything that offers much beyond entertainment value. I also became acutely aware of how much of myself I was sharing with the world. I would run into people that I hadn’t seen or spoken to for years, who seemed to know everything about me before even having a chance to catch up. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, but I started realizing that…I don’t really want to share my entire life with the world, and especially not with people who I know don’t really care about me, as evidenced by the fact that I haven’t seen or spoken to them for years…
I started thinking about how I was using social media. Why was I on it? What was I using it for? Was I using it to add value to my life? For some platforms, the answer was yes. For others, it was no. Facebook, for example, was the first platform I ever joined, and still continue to utilize to this day for a variety of reasons. It adds value to my life because I often organize and find events on it, use it to manage my business, share my music, and engage in intellectually stimulating conversations. Snapchat however, was an entirely different story. I would find myself coming home from work and snapping people a picture of me as a dog. I was taking pictures of every little thing I saw that I found funny. I am ashamed to admit that I am even guilty of recording live concerts where all you can really hear is people screaming and all you can really see is blurry flashing lights. The turning point was when I realized how readily people are willing to engage in social relationships, but afraid to advance those relationships into real life, meaningful connections.
Long story short, I realized that I valued those real, meaningful connections far more than the day-to-day entertainment of social media interactions. I realized how easy it was to mask my own feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and depression by engaging in a digital world that seemed to uplift me. It was only after I decreased my time on social media that I was able to fully focus on the things I wanted. I was able to address my own issues, prioritize the people in my life, and gain a clearer perspective on the things that mattered to me most.
Whether you’re an SMW, an SMH, or somewhere in between, the fact of the matter is that social media makes it very easy for us to fall into routines, become less mindful, and prevent us from living deliberate lives if we don’t keep ourselves in check. I don’t care how you use social media, but I do challenge you to question what value it adds to your life. I challenge you to ask yourself “Do I really need this? Am I really happy with who I am? Am I scrolling to fill an emotional void? Do I have more digital connections than real connections?” Regardless of what your answers may be – I challenge you to be more deliberate in living your life.