By the time you read this, my profile will still be up on Facebook but it won’t be generating new content for a while. I’ve decided [once again] to go on a social media hiatus deleting the Facebook app from my phone and logging off of Instagram in the process. I was recently on a business trip in Bangkok for a project I’m managing and I was able to spend some time by myself to really ponder on things I never seem to find time for.
I’m an extremely introverted person so flying to another country, it wasn’t a surprise that I found my nose stuck on either my phone or my Kindle. I‘m not someone who thrives in interacting with people — especially those I barely know. There are moments I find myself enjoying it, but those moments are very rare.
There are only so much updates you can get on social media and you find yourself aimlessly swiping down to refresh only to find out that there isn’t any new content. This can be anxiety-inducing to be quite honest. What am I to do if there’s nothing new to consume?
I quickly find myself scrambling for other things to keep me busy— switching through apps, going from one podcast to another, trying to open my Kindle only to find myself already too dizzy to even get through a chapter. This has been going on for a while that my wife has flagged me many, many times about my inherent addiction.
During the trip, I really tried to stop and be aware of what’s going on amidst all sorts of things going on in my mind related to the project. It was a challenge to be honest as I kept finding myself getting bored and trying to look for something to entertain myself with. I put on Netflix and try to binge-watch Narcos, open a bag of chips and finish it myself — all while looking for new content on my phone.
We have a dependency problem
The internet is rigged. We’re dealing with the best behavioral scientists, psychologists, and designers here which is why the desire to seek out new content — swiping down to refresh your news feed — seems harder to snip than ever. These things were designed to keep us engaged.
You think you saw something you were very interested in by accident? These are algorithms working to keep us tuned in because it’s in their best interest to keep us glued to our screens. Ads are basically where these platforms get their money from but I’m not about to get into detail regarding this. I’ve tried to block these trackers using Ghostery but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the effort and that leaving the platform was the easier path to take.
It’s a fundamental human behavior to seek attention and affirmation and by generating social currency we are able to afford both. In his book Contagious, Jonah Berger says, “People share things that make them look good to others,” and getting likes from what we post on Facebook and Instagram is no different. This gives us a great feeling but it’s also an endless, self-defeating, pointless pursuit that takes a lot of time and energy out of us.
So, really, it’s not #FOMO or the fear of missing out but the fear of not being able to share something noteworthy that will get us the likes and the hearts. The reason you find people posting content as their own instead of sharing or retweeting them — crediting the original author in the process? Social currency.
Missing out can be pretty scary especially if the habit to check our feeds every now and then has been deeply ingrained into our routine. I urge you, however, to instead try #JIMO or the joy in missing out. Log out of your social media accounts and watch an entire world open up — a world that was buried beneath dopamine cravings and digital stimulation.
Where I’m at
I still log into Instagram every now and then — primarily to check posts and stories from my wife. Instagram, in my opinion, is better curated than Facebook and you can usually just scroll past the captions. Still, I try to avoid getting sucked into it again by logging out every so often.
Having said all that, I haven’t left the space entirely. You can still find me on Twitter where I tweet personal anecdotes, quotes from books or articles I’m reading, but mostly giving blow-by-blow updates (or reactions rather) on the NBA Finals.
Twitter is the worst of all social networks — it’s straight up garbage. It’s full of trolls and Donald Trump’s vehicle for his propaganda. However, if you’re careful and you curate it according to your liking, Twitter can be enjoyable. I like Twitter because of the interesting (not to mention timely) things I find in it but also because there is no need to outdo anyone. You just tweet into the abyss that is the Twitter feed and no one will be any the wiser.
I haven’t exactly figured out what to do with the extra time I have from being away from both Facebook and Instagram but I’ve started spending more time with my kids. Listening to them tell incoherent stories while stuttering all at the same time can be a grueling experience where one might find themselves reaching for their phones and attempt to multitask . Please don’t. I’ve learned that being intentional with your kids — your family — both on time and your attention can be an amazingly rewarding experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything — not even for any amount of social currency.
And so I’m sorry if I’ve somehow stopped liking or commenting on your posts on Facebook and I apologize if I missed one of your 🔥🔥🔥 stories on Instagram lately. But please do tell me about them when we see each other in person—hopefully not by shoving your phones in my face but by actually sharing your stories the old-fashioned way: talking.
I’m pretty excited to hear from all of you!