Not enough Likes, too many fake friends, and perhaps creating more problems than it solves – here are six pros and cons of quitting social media.
It seems like every few weeks, I see that one statement pop up on my news feed. That one statement that people routinely frequent, or try for the first time, or truly commit to following through on it forever:
“I’m quitting social media”
I dunno if you know this, but there was actually a time before social media existed. I know I know. Breathe. Relax. Don’t freak out. We struggle to remember our lives without Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or even LinkedIn. Before those, MySpace was the king of the castle. Before that… anyone remember Bebo? I do. Complete with its flashy profile pages and AWSUM SPEELINGH flaming text boxes. Before that, there was Hi5 and MSN Spaces. Wow, we’ve come a long way since those dark days.
So it should come as no surprise that life was actually possible for thousands of years well before we got to upload our profile pics and share the Likes with all our friends… and enemies. Before we were able to stalk our exes and keep tabs on people we haven’t seen in 5 years. Before we could be traced around the globe thanks to our photographic history checked into every location we and our children and wives and husbands have been.
But, we now live in a world where “Social” is integrated into pretty much everything. Quite some time ago, Facebook become the number one application on mobile and tablet devices for browsing the internet – not the web browser. Social is integrated into all our authentication mechanisms and can be used for identification. Plus, everyone does everything using social media, from organising events to paying for and planning the next holiday – it’s the core driver of many of our interactions in the modern age.
So, is it possible to quit? Is it even worth quitting? Here are 6 pros and cons of quitting social media.
Pro #1: You avoid information overload
Man, we get a lot of information thrown our way every day on those social channels. I remember when I was a kid and we used to have to take photos, wait for the photos to get developed, come back a few days later, blah blah blah. It took ages. Now I can upload all my photos of my holiday… while I’m still on the holiday.
People are able to upload thousands of images, hundreds of words and constant videos every few seconds. And they’re all coming flooding my way. It’s a lot to take in all the time. Add to that everything has notifications turned on now, so we can get spammed every few seconds by new information, some of which can be quite confronting or difficult.
Quitting social media means I don’t have to see it anymore. Simple.
Con #1: You probably will miss some important information
Like I said earlier, social media has become such an integral part of our lives that people will do almost everything using it. This includes organising key events, such as birthdays, milestones and even weddings. I have been invited to quite a few weddings that have been organised almost entirely using Facebook.
It’s also a place where people will reach out to their support network for help, announce the passing of a family member, or reveal some of their happiest news.
So if you’re not on the platforms, you’re not invited, and you don’t know what’s going on.
“Oh, if people actually cared they would invite me or tell me using my phone”
Well, the counter point could be made that if you really cared about those people, you would just restrict your privacy settings instead of pressing the big “I don’t want to hear anything about any of you” button. To say people don’t care is to say that you don’t care about them, either. You are the one introducing potential distance to your relationships – it’s unfair to blame people for the distance that you are creating.
All I’m saying is that you are accepting the fact that you’re probably just going to be interacting with people less, simply by merit of you being away from where a lot of interaction happens.
Pro #2: It gives you more time to connect with people in front of you
I love a good face to face and heart to heart. People are often saying we are too busy connecting with everyone else, except for the people who are in the room.
It’s true to an extent. It’s quite common for people to be at home on their phone, then to go out to work to be on their phone, then to be at someone’s birthday whilst on the phone, then to come home to their family whilst on the phone, to go to sleep whilst staring at their phone. And it was possible throughout the whole day that they weren’t actually “with” anyone they were “with”, so to speak.
Interacting with the people who aren’t here at the expense of the ones who are.
Con #2: You actually become more disconnected
The weird thing is, all the time my “quitting social media” friends used to spend on social media, they don’t use during their hiatus to actually connect. They usually replace it with Netflix, with being introspective, with spending time with less and less people. When I’ve organised events and stuff I’ll usually try to keep in mind the people who know who’ve done the quitting thing (the ones I know who’ve done this anyway), and they still won’t come to anything. Not always, but very often.
If you aren’t going out to places where you’ll meet people, if you’re not catching up with people face to face, if you’re not on the phone with people regularly, you actually end up cutting yourself off from an online community that can actually be a very good thing. Ironically, in the name of being more connected, we actually live out something very much the opposite.
Pro #3: You can avoid painful people or memories
I recently wrote about Donald Trump and how he and all modern leaders to come live in a different world where everything is public, permanent, and searchable. In the same way I can find out what comments Trump made during the 90s, I can also see all my ex-relationships, former friends, and instances of dark times in my life.
That can actually be pretty hard to face. That girl or guy you regret not dating – if it’s unresolved, you’re still seeing them every day potentially. That girl or guy you do regret dating, but you’ve maintained the facade – that’s a bit hard to see, too. Things you used to say or believe or do 10 years ago can be pretty rough. Reminders of happier times gone by, or of sad times long gone, but the memory still remains.
It can help not having to face some of those things.
Con #3: You escape, but you might stay escaped
I think one of the main cons of using the “flight” response when it comes to “fight or flight” is that it’s only supposed to be a temporary measure in most cases. Unfortunately, more problems arise because we are escaping… and then remaining escaped.
It can be nice to breathe for a while, but eventually a problem that is avoided becomes a worse problem. An issue unaddressed takes on a deeper, more sinister form. A relationship problem with one person that you address by cutting off all contact with people online for ends up affecting the other relationships you’ve cut yourself off from, too.
And we begin to form a habit of distance that we unknowingly begin to use as a coping mechanism whenever even minor things start to go wrong.
There are definitely people in our lives we don’t need to see anymore. There are certainly memories that aren’t productive to revisit. It’s more just a cautionary thought to keep in mind that you don’t want to fix a wound by cutting the whole arm off, if the wound can still be addressed itself. I think if we’re thinking of taking such a drastic step, we should really evaluate what the motive is behind the action, and whether or not the problem will actually be solved in taking it.
That, and you could just block/delete/stop stalking the troubled parties instead.
There are many reasons someone might decide to terminate their social media accounts. I always like to examine both sides. My personal view is that its the modern day equivalent of disconnecting your phone from the wall 40 years ago, with similar consequences and benefits. It might just be that we’re not using social media properly.
How about you? Is quitting social media worth it? Or taking breaks?
PS. Since they’re Facebook comments, we won’t be able to hear you if you have. That’s what they call a cruel irony.