So long, social media.
I have a confession: I’m a social media addict.
You may be surprised to hear that. For starters, if you and I have spent enough time together in person, you’ve probably heard me rant about how much I hate social media. Second, if you follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I post very infrequently, and of what I do post about 50% is retweets or links trashing social media. It’s true that I hate most aspects of social media, and I have for a while. But you can be addicted to something you hate, and the truth is I’m on more than my infrequent posts might suggest. It’s time to come clean: I’m addicted to social media.
What prompted this confession is the new Netflix documentary I recently watched called The Social Dilemma which makes the case that social media is designed to addict users and that this addiction has horrible individual and even societal consequences. The documentary is driven by interviews of former big-tech executives speaking out about the danger.
I won’t make the case here that social media is addictive and dangerous (most of you don’t need convincing), but I refer you to the documentary. Some of what they say is overstated, but most isn’t. (And they didn’t say all that could be said.) Honestly, I didn’t learn much from it I didn’t already know or suspect. But the film was a powerful reminder of how addictive and detrimental social media is. It was a power reminder of how addicted I am and how detrimental it is in my own life.
I’ve tried every method under the sun for limiting my social media use. Some work better than others. Yet, somehow, I find my way around all of them more than I’d wish.
Moderation is never the solution to addiction.
And for that reason—here it is, folks—I’m pulling the plug on social media.
I’m done fighting the battle with social media. It’s no longer worth it.
The truth is that there are really great things about social media. After I watched the documentary, I went on social media, just to sort of see it with new eyes having watched the documentary. And when I got on, the first thing I saw was that one of my favorite artists responded to my comment on their post. That sort of stuff is cool! It’s nice to be able to stay updated on the lives of old friends. Honestly, the main reason by far I check social media is for news links related to my (eventual) profession in the academy and church.
That stuff is all fantastic, and it’s the reason I keep coming back. The problem is: it’s finding the needle in the haystack. It takes a lot of time and energy to find something valuable, and the value is wildly disproportionate to the amount of time and energy. And, actually, it's more like finding the hay in the needlestack, because you usually get hurt in the process. Social media is no longer worth it.
FOMO was the only thing keeping me on social media. I’ve found great articles, new bibliography, Kindle deals, etc. on social media. I’ve found some of my favorite music through social media. Social media has enabled me to keep up with the exciting lives of my distanced friends and family. I really don’t want to miss out on all of that. But I’ve gotten to the point where I now have more fear of missing out on what I could be doing without social media than what I could be doing with it.
My time is limited, and saying yes to social media means saying no to something else. It’s called cost-benefit analysis. I’ll get a better ROI on my time without social media than with it. With the amount of time it took me to find an interesting article, I could have read half a book on the same subject. I never actually read the books I’ve discovered on social media because I’m too busy scanning social media for newnew books. What if I read the Bible as much as I read social media? (The fact that I can say this as a Christian, let alone an aspiring Bible scholar, is insane.) What if I actually talked to my family for an hour a day rather than like their posts?
And it’d be one thing if I could easily eat the seed and spit out the shell, so to speak. But the shell gets stuck in my teeth. The nonsense which I rightly consider a waste of my time is, admittedly, highly entertaining. The entertainment overpowers my judgement that tells me this is a waste of my time, and I watch the dumb video or read the dumb thread. I wish I had the willpower and self-control to bypass it, get to the good stuff, and get off, but most often I don’t.
And not only is the nonsense a waste of my time, but I suspect it’s really bad for me. Entertainment isn’t bad per se, but it’s like junk food. I’m suspicious of the kind of steady diet of entertainment that social media pours into me. Not to mention the outrage and vitriol (which, incidentally, is entertaining). I have more fear of what I’ve gained on social media than what I’ll miss out on.
If I could keep all the good about social media and discard all the bad, social media would totally be worth it. I wish I could keep all the bibliography and all the pictures of new babies and cut the dumb memes and even dumber political (not-so-) hot takes. I’ve tried purging my follow list, and that doesn’t work (in part because the companies find new entertaining content to insert into my feed unsolicitedly). I do not know of a way to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Social media is a package deal, a combination of good and bad. Unfortunately, I cannot separate the good from the bad, and the bad outweighs the good by far. And the net-bad of social media pales in comparison to the net-good of life without social media. And for that reason, I’m out. Take that, Zuckerberg and @jack.
Like I said, I hope to fill the void left by social media with more books and real-world human interaction. I’ll also subscribe to more newsletters, blogs, and—get this—actual publications. These will replace much of my social media content well enough, except for keeping up with the lives of my friends, which is sad. Hopefully we can stay in touch through a different medium. Maybe start a blog! I’d love it if blogs/newsletters would replace social media on a large scale. Or maybe someone will create a social media platform not based on the attention/addiction for profit model that will compete with the others. I won’t hold my breath.
I actually won’t be deactivating any of my social media accounts. Groups and Messenger on Facebook are worth keeping. But I’ve unfriended everyone so that my feed is empty and unenticing. Don’t take it personally if I unfriended you. We’re still friends in real life. I have, however, adjusted my profile settings so that you’ll be able to message and follow me without us being friends, and I’ll continue to post links to this blog on Facebook. I, likewise, unfollowed everyone on Twitter but will post blog links.
Social media and my own flourishing are in competitive space. I’ve recognized this for years, but I’ve kept social media in my life for the few genuine goods they do offer. Pursuing the good life while attempting to hold onto the promised goods of social media required me to fight against social media by trying to manage it and/or make it something it’s not. That’s a losing battle. Wars end when one side decides the cause is no longer worth fighting for. Social media, sadly, is no longer worth it.
So long, social media. I’ll miss you, but not that much.
If what I said resonates with you, I encourage you to consider logging off as well.