What I Learned By Breaking Up With Social Media

I quit social media.

Well, almost.

I am a digital marketer by profession. I use social media for a living. I have conducted webinars and presentations on the subject.

So why did I distance myself from something which helps me put food on the table?

Negativity sometimes sticks to me like chewing gum to a shoe. It reduces my productivity and makes me moody. At such times, I’m at my lowest, worse than when business faces a setback.

Lately, the clamor on social media platforms was too much to handle. The demonetization drive, the Tata versus Mistry fiasco, Donald Trump’s victory – economic, business and political judgements flowed like wine from people with little or no knowledge about the events. It sent me into a downward spiral. I had to do something to address it.

So, I decided to quit social media.

Obviously, a Twitter addict like me couldn’t succeed. It’s like expecting Arvind Kejriwal to become sensible.

But during these days, I rarely visited Twitter. I checked notifications and read a few funny tweets. Facebook was used even less. Just for client work and brief engagement on sensible communities.

I also stumbled across opinions on how social media platforms are proving counterproductive. (Read two opinions here and here.)

For the past two weeks, I have been on a low social media diet. In this post, I want to share what I experienced during the phase.

1. Less Frustration

Polarized, poorly researched opinions frustrate me. Social media is filled with them. Earlier, I tried to educate people who shared unfounded media-peddled news. It didn’t end well. The wall had a hole and my head had a huge bump.

Distancing myself from this brought me instant peace. I stopped feeling the need to let others know my opinions. Accepting that nothing would ‘go wrong’ if I stayed away reduced my Fear of Missing Out.

2. Focused Work

The absence of social media left me free, not just with mind space but also time. Since I cannot sit idle for long, this emptiness translated into focused (deep) work.

Cal Newport describes deep work as

professional activities performed in a distraction-free environment, which push your cognitive abilities to new levels.

Earlier, each time I encountered a small challenge while working, I turned to social media. This escape route made me feel good in that moment, but miserable later. Deadlines went to hell, as did quality of work.

Now I can stay with a problem for longer. My focus is better, and I can feel my brain muscles strengthening. Quitting social media helps me stay in the flow for extended periods of time. This, in turn, makes me feel happy.

3. Looking Beyond

There is a difference between the internet and social media. It might feel like separating noodles from spaghetti. But the internet is far more diverse.

I strive to be a lifelong learner. Hence, along with reading books, I turned to Quora, Kickstarter, Medium and Flipboard. It’s not that polarized opinions don’t exist on these platforms. But I strengthened my ability to bypass biased opinions (even those which supported my thought process). Instead, I focused on reading something interesting every day. This further strengthened my brain muscles and inspired me to be productive.

4. Less Pressure

Two things the mind hates most are criticism and pressure. Both of these are present in plentitude on social media. I know what you’re thinking. Pressure, on social media? Isn’t it a platform where people let off steam?

Think about this. Isn’t it easy to looking at others’ highlight reels on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, and compare those with our behind the scenes?

I did a lot of it. And it made me feel worse. For instance, I would see a blogger win an award, or an acquaintance with more followers on Twitter, and would start comparing. Often, it led to a case of sour grapes.

Pulling myself away let me focus more on goals I have set for myself. This made me compete with just one person – my yester-self. As a result, I started witnessing a positive shift in my mindset and skills. I intend on accelerating this growth in the coming days.

Social Media Depends on You

“Biased”, “addictive”, “no policing of updates” – the criticism of social media can go on forever. But remember, judicious handling of social media is about self control. Media sites go beyond reporting the news to incite your outrage. Algorithms just feed you more of what you engage with. A robot cannot figure out whether you are mad over something. It shows you more of what you click.

I confess, I can never quit social media. But I have limited its use. I will try reducing it further in days to come. Now, my Facebook timeline is filled with dog photos and videos. I browse through my Twitter lists and look for interesting posts. I read more books and watch Kickstarter projects. Social media is still an angry place, but my insides feel better. If someone posts something offensive, I look the other way.

If you find yourself suffering from anger or a creativity block, give social media a break for a few days. Don’t engage with news that makes you mad. Instead, give your precious clicks to sites you trust. The world will be the way it is. But you will feel calmer. And the focus will shift to what matters in your life.

Life is not a result of what happens to you, but how you respond to your experiences. You only live once. Make it count.


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