I’m a millennial, so I’m a part of the social media generation. I joined Facebook just two years after it started, because back then you had to have a college email account to join (oh, how times have changed). That means I’ve had a Facebook account for over a decade. What started as a place to post silly updates about your life “Steven is… eating macaroni and cheese” as well as post your life philosophy and interests has turned into a daily barrage of mind-numbing posts that can either entice, excite, or incite your emotions.
Without even realizing it, checking Facebook — and other social media — started to take over my life. It became an almost unconscious act: Bored? Check Facebook. Standing in line? Check Facebook. Eating? Check Facebook.
All this started to interfere with my professional and personal relationships. I am not alone, however. It’s a societal issue now to balance the digital life with reality and as a teacher I can see it’s a major concern for the future generations, who have never lived in a world without social media and are more in tune with the latest and greatest apps.
In fact, it took me seeing this addiction in my students to realize that I, too, had a problem. So, to ring in the new year I decided I would de-activate my Facebook account. It was going to be an experiment to see whether I would actually miss anything from not using the social site. And so far, I have to say there are many positive benefits.
I have so much more time back in my day.
It’s amazing how much time I save by not randomly checking social media sites when I’m bored. Turns out, there is a lot more time in the day that I can now fill with actually productive things. Like blogging! But, more importantly, I am using that time to nourish my mind and body, instead of wasting it away as I was before. A good practice is to take a mindful moment instead of checking social media. I have started to slow down, take deep breaths, and engage with the present moment by truly observing my surroundings.
Instead of escaping to the digital world, I’m capturing the present reality in more vivid detail than ever before.
I am connecting with people again.
Like, actually connecting. With all the time I have back in my day I instead think about calling people to catch up or asking people to hang out. I listen and share with my colleagues at lunch. I send snail mail, text or video chat friends who live far away. I take weekend trips to see people in person. I used to think that social media is what kept me connected to these people, but then I realized that it was doing the opposite.
We just became each other’s “followers”, which resulted in passive engagement with one another’s lives. Now, I am enjoying actively building stronger relationships.
I feel less stressed.
Although there are many positive things to see on Facebook, it has certainly deviated from its original purpose of connecting people. The election of 2016 showed just how nasty and divisive social media can be when people use it for the wrong purposes. I’m all about freedom of speech and having differences of opinions, but there’s no denying that advertisers and politically-charged interest groups and familial feuds posting on social media has taken away from the initial goal. For some reason, I kept subjecting myself to these messages even though I knew it was stressful. Now, I have replaced obsessively checking the latest garbage updates with mindfulness techniques that are reversing the stress.
It doesn’t take long before “out of sight, out of mind” is a beautiful thing.
People reach out to me again.
It didn’t take long before people started noticing my Facebook disappearing act. By deactivating your account, people can no longer tag you in new posts. So, I had friends reaching out wondering what was wrong with my account. When I explained that I left Facebook, they had to directly message me the latest update or event invitation.
It was nice returning to this long-forgotten way of life, when people talked directly to one another instead of blasting their updates to whole groups of people.
Now granted, there are aspects of Facebook that I do miss. The events tool is probably the most useful aspect that I now miss out on. It was good to see what events in my city people were interested in attending and to create an event that I could easily invite all my friends to. I also miss seeing the lighter, more sentimental updates from my friends and family. These are things that supported the original intent of the social media platform, but nowadays didn’t outweigh the negative side-effects of its modern-day evolution.
I also must admit that I still use Instagram and Twitter — albeit more sparingly for sure. I’m not trying to disconnect myself completely from social media, but I have seen huge benefits just from paring it down.
So I recommend to anyone to give it a try. Deleting or deactivating one account can have hugely positive repercussions for your life. Respond and let me know what they are!