What Happened When I Quit Social Media

“Am saying bye bye to Facebook! It’s taking too much of my time. I’m on Insta (which I check sporadically) or Messenger, text or WhatsApp! Adios!” That was my last Facebook post, written two months ago.

As soon as the post went live, I deleted my Facebook app and shuffled my Instagram app to sit on the lowest row of my phone.

I was suffering from social media fatigue and needed to escape before it ruined me. I was tired of seeing my news feed dominated by the constant food pictures and posts on wedding engagements, baby announcements, and work promotions.

Don’t get me wrong—weddings, new additions to the family, and doing well in one’s career are all very commendable. But it was starting to get a little overwhelming.

Of course, there were accounts worth following, such as my favorite news channels, journalists and photojournalists that I admire—and who can say no to cute puppy videos? ​​But I was miles away from getting married, with a career that has yet to take flight. I felt like my life was less than perfect.

On top of it all, I realized I was wasting a lot time mindlessly scrolling my phone. The realization hit me one Saturday morning, when I woke up at 8:00 a.m., but ended up spending a good 40 minutes thumbing my phone. By the end of it, a dull headache had formed at the base of my skull and I was quite groggy.

I decided the best way to reclaim the hours lost was to say goodbye to social media. And I soon discovered that this was probably one of the best decisions I have made to date. Here are three things that happened since I’ve quit social media:

 

1. I Rediscovered God’s Love For Me

With social media out of my life, I could refocus on the things that were truly important—one of which was to return to my neglected Bible. Re-reading the Bible was like being embraced by an old friend, comforting and secure. I was almost ashamed for having neglected my Bible in favor of spending time scrolling through social media. I started by reading portions of the Bible, using a devotional as a guide. Reading the Bible soon led me to rediscover God’s incredible love for me.

When I was on social media, I was desperate for the love and approval of others. My emotions were tied to the number of likes my post receives. If the post did better than expected, I felt like Miss Popular. If it didn’t, I was Miss No Friends.

I mulled over what to post on social media. I once posted a photo of me post-ocean swim, in a sleeveless dress with a physio tape visible across my shoulder and down my arm due to an injury. I was proud of that photo—it made me look like I was a keen sportsperson, with an injury to boast about!

Once the post went up, I checked my phone every nano-second for notifications. Who has liked my post? Any new likes apart from the usual crowd? Imagine my deflated mood when, eight hours after the post went up, I had only six likes.

However, re-learning God’s deep and unconditional love for me broke my need for approval from others. Scriptures such as John 3:16, 1 John 4:16, and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 showed me that God’s love for me isn’t based on my posts or the number of likes I received.

You see, God isn’t into our status updates, cool photos or the hipster café where we had our lunch. God’s love goes beyond the superficial details of our lives.

He sees us in all of our strengths and weaknesses, and says “I love you. I approve of you. I am proud of you.” Knowing God’s love freed me from the tyranny of constantly wanting to earn the likes and loves of fellow men. With God, I can be #authentic.

 

2. I Reconnected with My Friends

My weekends have never been more social since quitting social media.

In the past, I used to go on liking sprees. The fact that I had barely spoken a word to these people in the last 10 years was immaterial. Hey, I liked their posts, right? So I was still floating around in the periphery of their lives.

That all changed when I stopped checking my account. I was forced to text friends that I really wanted to catch up with.

One of the first people I caught up with was a friend from journalism school. It had been nine years since we graduated from journalism school, and a good three years since we last met up.  Mindless peppering of likes or loves on Facebook cannot compare with the joy of being able to talk to someone in person over a cup of coffee.

I have since also been able to set aside time to write emails to my overseas friends. A long, carefully thought-out email is a hundred times more meaningful than merely reacting to their posts.

I thought my life would fall apart the moment I gave up social media, but I have found the reverse to be true. For me, I felt a lot more isolated seeing pictures of people having a good time (especially when  I wasn’t invited).

And who would have thought that the old-fashioned way of ringing someone up (or in my instance, texting/messaging someone) to meet up was actually a lot more fun and fulfilling? My post-social media life has been filled with dinner and movie dates with friends, and I walk away feeling I have developed deeper and more meaningful relationships.

 

3. I Regathered My Focus

Social media played into my vulnerabilities, and it would very often leave me feeling like an underachiever.

A former workmate’s success as a news anchor had me desperately wishing I was her, and thinking,  maybe if I had the right looks or skin color, I could succeed.

But it was not limited to coveting someone else’s career. It could be someone else’s sporting success—how is it possible for them to complete a triathlon or achieve an enviable swim time so far superior to mine? And I have been working at this for almost two years! This was completely unfair.

Moving away from social media has allowed me to cancel out all this noise, and to regather my focus. For too long, I had been focusing on my negatives—why am I not fast enough in the pools? Why hasn’t my career taken off like so-and-so?

With no external noise, I am now competing against myself. Sure, I will not be swimming a straight three kilometers open water session anytime soon. But I am making progress when I compare my progress to say, how well I did the last week, month, or year. And that should have been my focus, not trying to replicate other’s achievements.

As for comparing my career to that of my peers, it’s almost laughable. Most of my friends and acquaintances are in different fields, so I could not say for certain that other people were doing better than me. While this seems clear now, it wasn’t as obvious when I was a part of social media. I guess, in a way, I wanted to fit in on social media, and felt like an underachiever when I didn’t have anything to shout about.

 

It has now been two months since I stopped using Facebook, and I have only been on Instagram sporadically. But I have no plans of returning to either platforms on a full-time basis. I suppose I may miss out on breaking news or cool book launches, but I figure there’s always the radio and email subscription lists to keep me in the loop.

With the extra time I now have (to be honest, that’s really only the half hour before bedtime), I intend on making my way through the stack of books that is collecting dust on my To-Be-Read pile, continuing my long emails to friends overseas, or watching documentaries on Netflix.

My decision to quit social media has been a personal one. It may not be realistic or desirable for everyone. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by what you see on social media, I would encourage you to give it a try. This doesn’t mean that you have to burn your phone or delete all your social media accounts. But capping time spent on social media to 10-15 minutes a day, or going social media-free on weekends, might work just as well. I know my decision has given me a sense of freedom and relief I have not experienced before.

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