One hundred twenty-two days: that’s how long I’ve gone without a Facebook account.
Some people may find quitting social media as easy as giving away an old shirt, but for me, it wasn’t. I would spend more time scrolling endlessly through Twitter than talking to my siblings about how my day was. I have more Likes on my Facebook posts than actual friends I still talk to from high school.
I say one thing (“I’m having so much fun at this party!”) but feel otherwise (“I couldn’t stop thinking about my ex.”) just because I wanted people to think I was doing great. I was addicted to the vanity of it, to the validation that I got from praises and kind comments, and even to the highfalutin pseudointellectual exchanges that don’t amount to anything outside the virtual realm.
We all know how toxic social media can be. Others handle the virtual environment pretty well without feeling the need to leave it. I, however, was incapable of dealing with it while I was there. I thought it would never get to the point where social media would take over my life in a very negative way, but it did get there – and I wasn’t even aware of it until recently.
Soon, I popped the clogs off my only social media accounts, which included Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. And this is what happened after:
I Read More Books
When people would ask me why I chose to go offline, the first thing I used to tell them is this: I wanted to read more. When you’re wrapped up in other people’s lives, it’s so difficult to do anything. You’ll stop doing the things you enjoy just because you’ll spend the entire night sending your friend silly memes that you end up forgetting about a week later anyway.
Reading was one of the things I missed the most. And so the moment I quit social media, I picked up a book. I finished a novel in around two weeks, and I haven’t finished anything that quick in years. I read book after book in the last four months and haven’t stopped since.
I Talk to People More
All this time, I thought the moment I would disappear from the virtual lives of the people I knew, I would also be bidding some friendships goodbye. But that wasn’t the case at all.
In fact, more people started reaching out to me (initially, because they were worried about what happened to me) and I make it a point to reciprocate the efforts instead of just giving their photos a Like.
Before, my friends would tell me: “Hey, I went hiking two days ago—” and I would cut them off, saying: “Yeah! I saw it on Facebook!” Now, I would genuinely be surprised about the things they did over the weekend because I have no other source but them. It made my interactions with them more meaningful.
I Block Out Unnecessary Noise
Social media is a beautiful platform for the voiceless. It has helped so many misrepresented communities provide clarity to those who don’t understand their cause, and I’ll forever be grateful for that aspect of it.
Some days, however, there are things online that can be a pain to read. Whether it’s an uncomfortably personal account of someone’s marriage or a heavily misogynistic comment regarding victims of catcalling, social media will push you over the edge at some point.
We hear horrible things enough every day as it is and I chose to limit the avenues from which I hear them. I make sure to read the news and relevant digital sources every day, making sure the time I spend online is spent wisely. This way, I wouldn’t be surprised that I’ve been spending almost 5 hours just reading Illuminati conspiracy theories on Facebook or getting angry at someone’s rant about “manspreading”.
I Form My Own Opinions – and Stand by Them
We can’t help but be swept by the tide sometimes. Social media dialogues are often ping-pong matches between “Hear, hear!” or “I object!” and, by human nature, we are influenced by the opinions of the majority. Or people who are dearest to us, at least. I noticed that I was beginning to share the sentiments of a friend about a political issue I knew absolutely nothing about and could easily get away with it. There are times I would delight in playing devil’s advocate, changing opinions as I pleased because I felt like there were no consequences to whichever side I was taking.
I wanted to end all that. Outside social media, it was easier to form an opinion because I did my own research. I also took the time to think things through by myself and figure out what I thought about a certain subject before saying what I had to say. This strengthened my stance and had helped me stand my ground even with other things in my life.
I’m Not Missing Out on Anything
When I wanted to quit Facebook years ago, I told myself I couldn’t because school required me to have it and I wouldn’t have any other source of current events. Now that I’ve gotten my degree and I’ve rediscovered the gem that is Yahoo! News, I gave it a go.
I was expecting nicotine withdrawal symptoms, like the shivers or excessive snacking, but none of that came. Surprisingly, I was even happier without social media. I thought the moment I would miss a Nylon Magazine post; I would die a little inside. The opposite happened: I cared less about the things I thought I cared a lot about.
And did I lose anything? Not that I know of. An influx of information is great, but I’m through with thinking every single piece of information is valuable. It isn’t. I can live the rest of my life without knowing who Ewan McGregor’s new girlfriend is.
Am I staying away from social media for good? Maybe, I don’t know. It’s too early to tell. I might reactivate one of those accounts again, but I’m pretty sure all the things I’ve learned from living without it has changed me for good. If you ever come across this article and think “Damn, I can’t do that,” well, then all I can say is this: Yes. Yes, you can.