On quitting Social Media
Social media has made the world smaller. It has brought great minds together, resulting in many unexpected connections and collaborations that would not have happened otherwise. It has brought great content from people’s personal lives in the palm of one’s hand. Birthdays, pregnancies, celebrations, you name it. Sadly it does not discriminate and has also brought hypersocial people closer too. People who like to post anything and everything on social media. Had a morning coffee? Got to post that on Facebook. Went to walk by the river? There’s a filter, a caption and a hashtag for that! More power to them but it adds time to the lives of those who are connected to them.
If you’re following one person and spend let’s say 5 seconds (probably more) looking at their one post, for 200 friends (on average its probably way more) each posting an average of 3 posts a day (include posts, sharing of links and sharing of other posts), you’d be spending a whopping 3000 seconds per day. That amounts to 50 minutes of your life spent every day on following people. And this number does not even account for all the notifications for likes, comments, likes for the comments, shares and direct messages to personal or group chats!
Imagine all the time saved if you just quit social media! I’ve seen YouTubers bragging about quitting social media, who quit because a large portion of their 200k+ followers commented this as the next thing to do on their video. Apart from the irony and the typical: I had more time to do X, Y and Z things, there doesn’t seem to be anything super game changer. I mean, I’m hanging on to the edge of my seat waiting for someone to quit social media and solve world hunger and cure cancer. Any day now!
Quitting the Instant life
So I thought I’d try it. Not go completely cold turkey – I live in the UK on my own while the rest of my family lives in India. Social media is one of the best ways for me to connect with them. But I sought for a way out of the Instant life. The life of constant Instant notifications where every single like, comment, like on comment, share popped up on my phone as if it is the most important thing for me to focus on.
So about a two and a half years ago, probably more, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. Within a week I came close to reinstalling it. The only reason why I couldn’t was that my old phone didn’t have the space available. It was a really old phone with 16GB internal memory, 9 of which was used by the operating system and other built-in system apps. Buying a new phone just so I could reinstall Facebook seemed absurd so I kept it uninstalled and moved on with my life.
The next app to go was Snapchat. At this point I wasn’t thinking about reinstalling Facebook, just looking for my next victim of an app to delete and remove from my life. I still had the Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp installed – mainly because I used those for video calls to my family back in India. But over time I did tune notification settings, mainly around the group chats. Some people who get added in group chats feel like they have to contribute every day by saying or sharing something. This is fine and it is great to have someone like that but getting an audible notification on my phone for a post about how Coca Cola breaks down your internal organs just like how it cleans a rusty nail is not what I would call urgent. Besides, I found that if there was anything important, I usually get a direct message anyway. Also, I can always catch up at the end of the day when I have time on all that was going on in the group chats. There is definitely some good stuff in there, it’s just not urgent.
Time went by and I uninstalled Instagram. Same thing. I found myself spending hours catching up on the “Stories” and photos. Either my life isn’t as interesting or I don’t know how to work the platform but I never had much to post.
Where’s my free time?
At some point, I looked back and thought – I have uninstalled all these apps, where is my free time? Where is my 1 hour every day that is freed up? Well turns out, the reality is that time tends to “fill up” in any given space, just like air and gases fill up any and all available space. Those blog posts and youtube videos do not tell you this. I am not solving world hunger, nor am I curing cancer. Why not? – I asked myself.
Well, the mind is a funny thing. Procrastination is an art form that our minds have perfected. Have an hour to kill? Oh, what’s on TV? No TV? How about the newspaper? No newspaper? What about the book? No book? Staring at a blank wall it is!
Procrastinators are going to procrastinate no matter what. I found myself doing this all the time. After spending some time dissecting this, I found that the 1 hour of expected free time was filled up thusly:
- Slightly longer video calls with family
- Some more time in prepping my workout setup
- Listening to audiobooks
- Tending to plants
- Longer time working
- Longer time cooking
Of course, this is a very dynamic list, sometimes the time is used up in catching up with friends on a 1:1 basis which is even better. Sometimes it’s used in walking to a place than taking a bus. There are all sorts of use cases. But the point is that it’s not like a single 1-hour block that I have left in my day. I have plenty of things that I shouldn’t do but I’d rather do than do what I am supposed to do. Quitting social media did not change this at all. It merely removed one aspect. Plenty of others very quickly gobbled up that space.
So, if you’re thinking, GOD! I can be so much better at whatever it is that I am doing if I just quit social media, just wait and see. Unless you really want to do what it is that you’re trying to do, it won’t happen no matter how much time you have left in the world. If you’re looking to catch up on a side project, try taking a week off of work. See what that does to you. Do you make strides? Or do you procrastinate and fill that completely free week up with filler stuff?
People complain about time all the time! If I just had X hours more, I could do Y and Z. Earth could have 30 hours a day instead of 24 and people would still be complaining about lack of time. It is not the lack of time that is the problem, it is the lack of initiative and discipline.