Before FB and IG went down for six hours worldwide, I was already limiting my time spent on social media. Now I’m doing what I call a social media reset.
When MySpace first started, followed by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it was simply a way to see what your friends were up to without using the telephone or your family’s gossip line. (Come on, everyone has that one family member who passes on all the news.)
I remember sending letters through the mail. I still do this sometimes, but not as often.
I remember emailing friends back and forth just to chat.
I remember picking up the phone regularly to talk to someone. My husband courted me by phone for a year before we got married.
I remember visiting blogs and leaving comments that the author would reply to, which sometimes led to an entire conversation and a few times, even friendship.
I remember not having apps for social media.
I remember going to the Facebook website and seeing what my family and friends were doing. I looked at photos of their children as they grew up, read about their latest adventure in home remodeling, and connected with them even when they were across the country or the world. It wasn’t full of angry political opinions. In fact, we didn’t talk about politics on social media. It was literally and simply just to be social with each other.
Over time, social media has morphed, as everything does.
Stay-at-home moms who started selling products for companies like Avon, PartyLite, and Amway discovered they could reach more people by using social media.
Retail businesses found social media to be an effective and inexpensive way to advertise.
Celebrity figures realized social media was a new platform to increase their popularity.
Political officials began utilizing social media to proclaim their objectives.
Now, there is not a single minute that goes by where someone doesn’t post about politics. This isn’t even the politicians posting; it’s normal people. And it’s gotten ugly.
About nine years ago, I took a thirty-day break from social media because there was so much anger over the election results. I did it again four years ago. My heart couldn’t handle how mean people were acting, people I knew and loved.
At the end of February 2020, my family spent a few days in Puerto Rico, then went on a cruise to the Caribbean. It was fabulous! We chose not to have phone or internet access while on the cruise. When we disembarked and waited at the airport for our flight home, we started seeing insanity on social media. There were photos of empty store shelves and overflowing shopping carts. After some digging on the news sites, we finally figured out that people were panic-buying toilet paper due to a pandemic.
Since we were out of touch for a full eight days, it took us some time to catch up on the news. The cruise that left after we returned — on the same boat — ended up stranded at sea for several weeks. We were thankful that the timing happened for us the way it did.
But social media blew up. People were posting about shortages of food and general household items. They were talking about other people being sick and dying. Then came the rage, from every political stance and all sides.
“Wear a mask, or else.”
“Don’t wear a mask! It’s against your freedom.”
“You can’t come in here without a mask or vaccine.”
“Boycott businesses who require masks or vaccines.”
“You can’t work here without a vaccine.”
“Quit your job if they want you to get the vaccine.”
It hasn’t stopped. For over eighteen months, social media has been bursting at the seams with rants. Now, it’s about the COVID-19 inoculation.
And people are still angry.
It’s damaging to my mental and emotional health. I felt myself spiraling into depression at the end of last year, and I was a little concerned for a couple of weeks that I would not make it out. That’s when I fully understood that having all of this anger and conflict constantly in my face was causing extreme harm.
Since then, I have been slowly pulling back from social media. I set a time limit on my phone to help stop the mindless scrolling. I worked on building and maintaining more in-person friendships.
Last month, I did a “Back To” challenge with motivational speaker and author Jon Acuff. He said a few comments that stuck with me. Basically, we watch people on social media who appear to have it all together and compare them to ourselves. We know we don’t have it all together, so this comparison causes us to feel less than others. We aren’t as good, strong, healthy, pretty; we don’t make enough money, have a nice enough house, or own the latest gadget. We must be less because we’re lacking.
Most of social media is fake. Real beats fake.Jon Acuff
The truth is people post primarily good things about their lives on social media because we don’t want to admit the hard stuff to a bunch of strangers. Wait, what? Why are the people we’re friends with on social media strangers? Huh.
My biggest takeaway from the Back To challenge was the importance of removing from my social media who are not actually my friends.
We all have them: friends of friends that we haven’t met, people we networked with and then barely talked to ever again, or even a stranger that seemed interesting at the time. Why? If we do not truly care for each other, why are we seeing snippets of each other’s lives? What’s the point of being friends?
My social media reset includes removing “friends” who are just acquaintances, friends of friends. I am keeping only those I’ve met in person or have had meaningful interactions with. I am unfollowing people I want to stay in touch with, but are also in the throes of numerous political rants.
I’m wondering when I’m done if I’ll even have anyone left on my “friends list.” I wonder if I’ll even care.
I will attack my groups next. I’m in probably over one hundred Facebook groups, and some haven’t been active for over a year or more. Why am I still in them? Because there was information in there that I wanted to access later. Well, it’s not that hard to pull that information and save it to my computer if it’s something I feel strongly about. Some groups I joined when I had a network marketing business or to help friends with their network marketing businesses. Others are special interest groups. How many of them are still important and relevant to me?
Finally, I am removing the apps from my phone. I can check in from the computer or even my phone’s browser. I don’t need the distractions from real life and the things that matter. I especially don’t need to see all the anger, grief, and madness in the world. I know it’s there, and I’m not putting my head in the sand. But I am choosing to see it on my terms.
How am I going to connect with others if I’m not using social media as much? Simple. I am going to visit blogs and leave comments. I am actually going to talk to my neighbors and people in my community. I will *gasp!* call my friends and family. I might even go back to writing letters and sending cards regularly. I will build and nurture relationships that matter. These activities are healthier for my mind and spirit and will probably uplift others as well.
What about those people I’ve only met online but have authentic connections? I will remain in contact with them, but the platform might be different. Instead of Facebook, maybe I’ll chat with them on Slack or by email. Or we’ll actually exchange phone numbers or email addresses. Perhaps they won’t be willing to visit outside of social media, and we’ll talk from time to time when I see those sites. But I think if we have a genuine relationship, they will meet me halfway across cyberspace.
And if not, if those friends are so deeply mired in social media that they are resistant to email exchanges, I may have to count them among the lost friends. That will be sad, of course. However, I am no longer willing to compromise my mental health for others.
My social media reset has been months in the making. It’s time.