A Life Wasted

So I’ve decided to take a bit of a complete social media break. I’ve already had my Facebook account deactivated a while, and through December I’d been taking time away from Twitter. For January, I decided to add Instagram into the mix. I knew this was going to be a tough last step, as, being a a photographer, Instagram is the one I enjoy using the most (even despite my various gripes with the platform that I’ve blogged about recently). Essentially off social media entirely now (at least the platforms that dominated my time), I’ve come to some conclusions already in just the first handful of days…

  1. I wasted more time than I thought on social media! It’s amazing how many times I’ll pick up my phone/tablet, or login to my PC, etc., only to then discover I don’t know what I really want to do, why I got online in the first place. If it’s later in the day, especially, I’ve already gone through all my news sites, so there’s not much I have to catch up on there. That’s when I’d realize that most of the time in the past, I’d get online and just start checking Instagam, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  2. We use our phones mostly for social media. The smartphone is truly a wonderful tool, and allows us to do a lot. What I’ve been finding, though, is that - related to #1 above - oft times we pull those things out of our pocket to just mindlessly scroll through social media whenever we’re bored. Now that I’m not using those apps all the time, once I’ve caught up on news, there’s not often a lot of use for it. As such, my battery life has skyrocketed, as I don’t have apps open, draining the battery, all the time anymore.

  3. These social media platforms truly are addicting. It’s amazing how often I have that impulse to open one of those apps/sites to start browsing, post a picture or my opinion about some nonsense, etc. It’s like a crack addict reaching for that pipe, but it’s no longer there….

Will I stay off all social media long term? I don’t know yet. Probably not. However, I definitely plan on curtailing my use and how I use it. I’m not sure what my path forward with Twitter is… I got back on for a couple days as December closed out, and I was taken aback at how negative the environment is there. It was nothing different than it’s always been, but having been away from it for a month, I really noticed it now. I promptly got back off, as I just didn’t find it enjoyable now. Maybe I’m done with it; I don’t know. Either that, or perhaps I just need to change whom I follow to craft a more positive, uplifting experience there. Being that it’s really just a time waster, though, I’m not sure if it’s really worth that effort.

I recently got back on Facebook just briefly for the sole purpose of deleting all my past content on there. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this post, but just let me tell you, it was a real eye opener, seeing how much crap I’ve posted on there over the years. The first year or two weren’t bad, and the last couple years weren’t too bad, as I deactivated for long periods during them, but those middle years…. Thousands upon thousands of status updates, comments, likes, etc. - it was insane! I had an automated script plugin doing a lot of the deletions for me, just leaving me to do manual clean-up on what it couldn’t catch, and it still took me about NINE days to delete it all! Just think about all that time I must have been wasting on it over the years! I think I’m pretty much done for good on that platform now. The only reason I deactivate instead of doing a full delete is so that I can keep my FB Messenger contacts, as that’s my only (or at last most convenient) contact point for some people.


The Distraction of Social Media

First, before the title makes you think, "Oh no, another person preaching the evils of social media right after they quit... These people are worse than vegans or ex-smokers!", let me clarify that this ISN'T what this post is.  I think social media can be a very useful tool, or even just a pleasant distraction, for many people when used properly and in moderation.  What I'm going to talk about here is my experience with it, with Facebook in particular.

I'm a Facebook addict.  There, I said it.  When I'm active on Facebook, I'm ACTIVE, meaning I post and interact a LOT.  What I had come to realize recently is that it had become too much a part of my life, often to the detriment of other things.  When I mentioned the "in moderation" above, that was the opposite of me...  Back in July, I deactivated my account for a couple weeks to just clear the cobwebs a bit, get myself away from the distractions and negativity, and just get myself a bit more focused again.  It's amazing how, with that time reclaimed, I began to think about more productive things: things I wanted to write, photo shoot ideas, website and business ideas, etc.  Basically, with my brain free of thinking about things to post, replies to posts, etc., I could put my mind to other uses.  It was very freeing.

Then it happened.  I had something (political) I really wanted to speak out about, and Facebook has always been my preferred venue, so I decided to opt back in.  Surely now that I realized the value of spending my time differently, I would be wiser and engage in a more limited, moderate way, not waste so much time.  Ha!  It didn't take long before I fell right back into the old habits, and not only that, but right from that first post, I fell right back into the same old tired debates with the same old people.  It's not just wasting time, it's re-wasting time, as I was having the exact same types of discussions with the exact same people, and per usual, no one was changing anyone's mind.  It's just friends speaking at (not to) each other on the Internet.  And man, all those ideas I had churning during my break?  They quickly fell to the back of my brain, hardly getting any more thought as I focused on these new lively (albeit repetitive) discussions.  After just a couple weeks back on, I knew what I had to do...

So I've quit again.  I'm now about 5 days sober. :)  The ideas and deeper thoughts have come back.  Not only that, I just find myself more focused in the moment: I'm a better driver because my mind isn't thinking about my next reply in an online conversation; I'm more engaged with my family, as I'm not just thinking about posting pictures of the moments were enjoying together; etc., etc.  

I've also replaced that activity with more productive (to me) writing activity: not only blogging, which forces me to write more long-form, but also doing actual, physical writing in a notebook.  I'm finding that putting actual pen to paper makes me achieve greater focus about whatever I'm thinking about, and when I read back on it later, I can then think more critically, "Is this really something I also want to put online, to blog about; or is it something I should just leave alone, leave it just for me?"  I'm not writing every single day yet, but at least every couple of days I've been getting the notebook out and putting some thoughts down, usually on an afternoon coffee break at work.  It makes for a nice break in the work day, too. 

Now, I haven't gone total 20th century and given up on all social media.  I'm still active on Instagram and Twitter (and cross-post to Tumblr), but those I've always been able to use in more moderation than Facebook.  I can read or post on Twitter for a few minutes, and then not think about it again for a couple days.  Instagram sucks a little more of my time, but I still keep it much more moderate; it's not anything I consider detrimental.  And I have kept my Facebook Messenger account active so I can still be in contact with friends for whom the only real contact info I have is FB.  I just don't have the main account active, so don't waste hours on the news feed, get tagged, etc.

I'm not going to count this any raging success yet, not until I've remained off for months and don't even think about it anymore.  Then the monkey is finally off my back... :)

What social media platform is the big time waster for you?  Or is it something besides social media?