8 Reasons to Quit Social Media At Once, and 7 Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t
Deep Work author Cal Newport recently gave a TEDx talk in which he posed the tantalizing prospect of a world without social media. In particular, Newport postulated that you should quit social media altogether. While that idea may have seemed radical five years ago, it isn’t as much today since users have had time to absorb its ill effects.
In fact, Newport himself points to a 6,000-word essay from The Daily Dish (later The Dish) creator Andrew Sullivan in which Sullivan observes that his decision to quit Facebook a few years ago and “live in reality” is catching on with others.
It may be a bit hypocritical of us to say since we’re on Facebook and Google+, and we definitely want to interact with you all, but there is something to the line of thought that Newport and Sullivan are promoting. To put it all in perspective and help you conquer the problem — if you have one — here are 8 reasons why you should quit social media and 7 why you probably shouldn’t. Let’s get started!
Reason to Quit Social Media No. 1: It’s addictive.
Okay, so you knew this already, but it is worth pointing out if we’re talking about the reasons to quit social media.
Who among us in our SM life cycles hasn’t pulled out their smartphone to check Facebook for no other reason than the fact it was there. Companies like FB and Pinterest didn’t make it any easier on us when they introduced endless scrolling either.
Studies have shown there are few differences between the brain activity of a drug addict and a person enamored with social media, at least while in the moment where they are engaging with their addictions. Bottom line: it alters you, or CAN alter you … and not for the best.
No. 2: It facilitates damaging activities.
Social media makes it far easier to engage in activities that are harmful to ourselves and others. Take affairs, for example. Back in the pre-Internet age, it was more difficult to arrange for an extramarital tryst because you usually had to create the relationship out of circumstance (i.e. Someone you worked closely with and had a similar schedule to).
But with the rise of Facebook, it’s easier to seek out and follow through with affairs, which is something unfair to a spouse and any children who may be a part of the marriage.
That’s just one example. Sites like Twitter that allow users to more easily hold onto their anonymity make it simple for people to hide behind a made-up user name and engage in concerted bullying efforts towards other people. Online trolling is real, and social media supercharged it.
No. 3: It degrades the quality of information you receive.
How many times do posts have to be debunked regarding how Bush approved of the 9/11 attacks or President Obama will start microchipping Americans as part of the fine print in Obamacare before we all stop believing it?
On social media, posts like these are willy nilly shared thousands of times each day with the sharers and many of their followers taking it at face value without engaging in any private research and due process.
While free speech is a wonderful thing and should be an inalienable rite, there is a problem with it when it seeks to defame and destroy based on misinformation or complete fabrication.
The longer you hang out on social media, the more examples you can see of people who share completely unreliable information.
No. 4: It costs real world friendships.
As the writer of this site, I frequently speak on behalf of 4Tests, but this is a personal experience, so excuse the tonal shift from “we” to “I,” but it’s necessary for the example.
One of my favorite family members in the world joined social media about six years ago and began sharing alt-right political posts (i.e. Alex Jones, Roger Stone, etc.) every single day. Once or twice was mildly amusing because Jones and Stone are utter crackpots and can say some pretty amazingly stupid things.
But when this person, whom I love dearly, shared a piece calling the Sandy Hook shootings a hoax perpetrated by the federal government, I’d had enough. I found myself enjoying this person’s company whenever I saw them in person but absolutely hating who they were online.
It was a weird tightrope walk that strained our relationship, at least in the way I saw the person. Our relationship improved greatly when I unfollowed all of their posts. The fact we were blood relation also helped move me past the strain. But in many cases, that doesn’t occur.
People on social media see something shocking, made-up, or true-but-inconvenient, and they begin rejecting people they had good relationships with face-to-face. If social media wasn’t there to screw things up, there would still be a healthy buffer in place.
No. 5: It wastes copious amounts of time.
As an individual, I made the decision to quit Facebook last year because it had started to consume too much of my time, and the time it consumed was in no way productive even though I did occasionally use it for professional purposes.
The problem I ran into: pausing between micro tasks to waste five or 10 minutes seeing what notifications I had. Most of them were utterly worthless. When something wasn’t, it was usually of a personal nature, and it would suck me into a conversation or an argument that could turn into two or three of my prime working hours.
How I managed to keep the bills paid during that time, I’ll never know. Of course, this was a personal experience because I had a problem. Many of you may be able to better manage those intrusions because social media isn’t your particular addiction or you simply don’t have an addictive mindset.
That’s great if it’s the case, but do start paying attention to how much time you’re spending locked in either meaningless arguments or conversations that can wait until after work.
No. 6: It dulls your mental sharpness.
More than a few times, people with social media addictions are likely to visit the websites or open the apps for no reason whatsoever. They don’t even know why they’re there. They barely remember typing in “Facebook.com” and hitting enter or tapping the app button on their smartphone.
This zombie mentality that occurs can spill over into other facets of our lives with little warning.
No. 7: It’s more depressing than not.
When you go to Facebook, you usually see one of these scenarios play out among what your friends are posting: a horrible crime you’d rather not hear about; a politically slanted disaster piece on why the political right or left is ruining the country; a self-absorbed picture with some overly bragging speech about how wonderful the person who posted it is or how great they have it; people who post things like, “I don’t want to get anyone mad, but I will now post something completely designed to do just that.”
People are looking for arguments, they’re looking to be outraged, or they’re just being completely disingenuous, and when that’s what you’re seeing out of most every single post, it tends to darken the way you see the world as a whole.
Plus, there have been studies that show the more time people spend on Facebook or social media in general, the more depressed they become.
No. 8: It really is monotonous.
What we just said above about how easy it is to pigeonhole the content of an individual post — you see it day after day after day. There is little variety and little substance.
And here are the 7 reasons you probably shouldn’t:
No. 1: The whole freakin’ world is pretty much on it.
Facebook gets a lot of grief for some of the things we’ve mentioned above, but when its numbers continue rising in engaged users even after crossing the 1 billion accounts mark, there is an undeniable sense of value that people are getting from it. And since a great many of the world’s population have an account, you ignore it at your own risk, particularly if you’re wanting to network with others or reach out to a mass audience. As long as the numbers either keep going up or continue to hover where they are, there is some benefit to being there because that’s where you get to connect.
No. 2: It can be a great tool for finding individuals of like interests.
Introverts can have a difficult time putting themselves out there. So can people with niche interests, which would pretty much describe all of us to some degree. While your geographic location is often limited in what it has to offer you from a networking perspective, the Internet is virtually limitless. Deciding to quit social media could very well deprive you of forming deep connections with others from all over the world, who may more closely align with your passions and pursuits.
No. 3: It can reconnect you to the people you’ve lost contact with.
One of the most addicting things about first joining Facebook is looking up people you haven’t seen in years to see how they’re getting along. While there is definitely a stalkeresque quality about creeping on someone’s Facebook page, as an example, what’s to stop you from reaching out and re-establishing those lost connections? People have been able to rekindle old friendships and relationships thanks to these technologies, and that’s not always a bad thing!
No. 4: It can facilitate better communication.
Social media has given way to more functional platforms like Slack and Trello. While these are often considered “work management systems,” they are certainly born from the functionalities established by MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other technologies that specialize in communication immediacy. When you have a study group, or later in the workforce, you will almost certainly have to utilize social media and their related systems in order to better move projects along.
No. 5: It gives you something to do in long lines or at the doctor’s office.
It used to be excruciating walking into a doctor’s office and waiting … and waiting … and waiting. Then, you finally get called to the back, but after they weigh you and the medical assistant does her thing in the examination room, you hear/see the door shut and the waiting starts again. With the advent of smartphones and the plethora of apps, including to a large extent social media, you can more easily pass the time by allowing your mind to wander in all the different pathways that sites like Facebook and Twitter create. It’s now possible to go into that hypothetical doctor’s appointment expecting an hourlong wait and instead of thinking, “Rats,” you can simply pull out your phone and chat with friends, spy on others, or play a multiplayer game, which is an overlooked form of social media particularly when the trash talking starts.
No. 6: It can circumvent the social awkwardness that comes with establishing new relationships.
Specialty dating sites like Match.com have grown in popularity along with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and all the other platforms. That’s because it is now easier to do research on a person, see if they will be worth your time, and reach out in a way that isn’t clunky, uncomfortable, or downright awkward. It’s a passive form of socialization that comes easy for introverts and, for everyone, shaves off the time and money that goes along with establishing a relationship.
No. 7: It’s a bull that can be tamed.
Yes, all the bad things, all the pitfalls that go with social media do exist. But if you know this going in, it’s possible to approach it from a more cautious place that ultimately results in a more positive user experience. If you know Facebook is a time suck, then maybe you don’t have to quit it, but you can set rules to access it at the beginning or end of your day only. You can time yourself. You can restrain access to just the web only versions since those are usually less pleasing aesthetically. There are options to tame the bull, and with a little preparation, you can get most of the benefits with none of the drawbacks.
The decision to quit social media is not one you should take lightly. As you can see from the last section, there are ample benefits, but those benefits can often result in the worst outcomes if you’re not paying attention to the depth of the proverbial rabbit hole. What are some things you struggle with on social media, and do you think it would be beneficial to quit it altogether? Sound off in the comments section below.