Mark Zuckerburg. The founder of Facebook and one of the richest men in the world. Snapchat. A mobile app that sends self-deleting pictures to your friends which is soon to have a massive IPO, at a valuation of something like $25 billion. Instagram, pinterest, twitter, google +. The list could go on forever. Social media has profoundly affected the lives of a huge portion of the global population. We have become so obsessed with our likes and retweets that it borders on insanity.
Humans are social beings. We get married, live in families, go to school, play sports. If you consistently do things alone you’re stigmatized as being weird or antisocial. It makes sense though. Before we had modern civilization, humans needed to have each other’s back in order to survive. So we want to know other people. Technology gave us the internet which in turn gave us social media. Social media enabled us to artificially fulfill our deepest desires of community, belonging, and engagement with others all from the comfort of our couch. Better yet, the keyboard and screen enable us to feel connected yet detached simultaneously. It gives us the bravado to say things we’d never mutter in real life. It also allows us to craft exactly who we want to be online. The good doesn’t come with the bad. It’s all good, all the time. Unless you want people to feel sorry for you. In that case, a cleverly crafted status update can manifest an outpouring of support from your friends and followers.
Social media platforms also inundate us with ads that know more about us than our friends. This leads to buying something when once again, we don’t need it. Lifetime savings from staying off social media all together would probably be well over $1000 for most people.
Although this is a personal finance blog, my reasoning to talk about social media has less to do with money and more to do with being aware of how we are living our life.
I have at some point had an account for all the biggest social media platforms. Facebook, snapchat, Instagram, twitter. As of right now, I only have Facebook. For a 22 year old recent college grad, this might be considered unusual. About a month ago, in order to keep myself from checking Facebook I changed my password to a random 10 digit number that I wrote down on a piece of paper and hid away in my room. If I want to log on I need the password on that piece of paper. I’ve only logged on twice since doing this.
I don’t say all this because I’m trying to brag or be a hipster or something. And believe it or not I am not even here to suggest that social media is evil either. But I’ve grown up with it since the beginning and understand it pretty well at this point. I would say that 99% of the people I know who are on social media misuse it.
What do I mean by misuse? Let me give you an example.
I went out to dinner with my family the other night. At the table across from us was a man probably in his mid 30’s and an elderly lady who appeared to be his mother. From the moment they sat down until they finished and left, the man was on his phone. What was worse was that his mother would talk to him and he would be scrolling through twitter or facebook and either mumble a one word response or not reply at all. By the end of the meal she was no longer trying to initiate a conversation. She looked as though she wanted to cry.
I also don’t mean to suggest that this is how everyone uses their phone or approaches social media but it happens far more often than many of us would care to admit.
So I gave it all up.
Like I said, I have had accounts to all the big social media players. I understand the attachment to it. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that getting a like or comment or retweet for instance triggers a release of dopamine in our brain (which is associated with giving us a feeling of happiness/pleasure) which reinforces the obsessive social media behavior. But, I have never felt more free and content then after deleting those accounts. The surprising part to me was that the feeling lasts. It is not a short rush of good feelings such as getting a like. Not having to check your profiles or be dragged down by it is an amazing feeling every single day.
I’m being honest here because I want to help out other people. If I had deleted my twitter or something and thought, man this sucks I wish I had twitter again, I’d be telling you that or maybe not even writing this article. I also realize not everyone is like me and the idea of disconnecting yourself is not for everyone. But if you’ve thought about it and then decided to leave it be, maybe reconsider. If you’re on the fence, try getting rid of one account and see how it feels. If you like it get rid of the rest.
So why do I still have a Facebook if I never use it? In the interest of full disclosure I will fully admit that Facebook and even LinkedIn (which is the only other social media account I do have although I don’t actively use it either) have practical purposes behind them. If I don’t have someone’s number but need to get in touch I can message them through Facebook. If I’m traveling abroad and don’t have an international phone plan I can get in touch with family through Facebook. LinkedIn got me my current job. So it has its benefits.
The point here really isn’t even to get people off social media at all, it’s more to help you realize that if you’re automatic response to boring moments throughout the day is to scroll through twitter you might be over doing things. Put down your phone for two seconds. Talk to someone next to you in person. Or even take a look at the world around you, it’s a pretty amazing place if you give it a chance.