Why I don’t use social media anymore.
I don’t think social media is “evil” or “ruining the world.” I think social media is completely amazing — and it can be used in so many beautiful ways. But for me, social media often felt like an alluring, tempting “distraction.” It clogged up my brain. It pulled my attention away from important projects. It just didn’t feel “good” for me, personally. So I decided to stop using it. I deactivated all of my accounts. That might NOT be the right choice for you, or for your career / business, but so far, it’s working out great for me. This is the story of why I decided to step away from social media, and how it felt when I did…
I had a Facebook account for about 24 hours.
I traipsed around Twitter for a couple of years.
I had a brief flirtation with Instagram this summer.
While I have experimented and dabbled with various social media platforms over the years — from MySpace (remember MySpace?) to Friendster to Pinterest and beyond — I rarely play with any platform for more than a year or so.
I currently do not use any social media networking platforms at all.
I do not think I will ever use social media again.
People often ask me, “Why?”
It’s a reasonable question. One that I continue to revisit and reconsider through the years. Because social media is not “bad” or “evil” by any means. It’s absolutely magical.
Like email, like electricity, like the clean running water that I enjoy here in my privileged Western bubble, social media is a miracle. Social media (well, a dating website, which is sorta the same thing) helped me to find love. Social media helps unknown voices get discovered. Social media helps people to express themselves. Social media dissolves the barrier between “maker” and “consumer.” With social media, everyone can be an artist and share their work publicly. These are all very beautiful things. I recognize all of that.
And yet, despite everything, I continually arrive back at the conclusion that social media — at least, in the way that I tend to use it — is “just not for me.”
Why is that?
Well, let’s consider: Twitter.
I was active on Twitter for about 4.5 years. It was fun, amusing, delightful for my ego, and led to a few intriguing opportunities.
Yet, in the midst of my tweetery, I often felt a nagging feeling inside. A voice asking, “Alex, is this really how you want to be spending your life-minutes? Isn’t there something else that might be a more meaningful use of your time? Wouldn’t you rather be walking outside, talking to your mom, writing a novel, having sex, working out, mailing a letter, volunteering, you know, all of those things that you ‘never have enough time’ to do?”
Mostly I would ignore that quiet voice because, ooh, look! A new re-tweet. #dopamineburst
Over the 4-ish years that I was active in the Twitterverse, I tweeted 9,074 times. That’s approximately 2,016 tweets per year.
Let’s fast forward.
It is the end of my life.
I am (hopefully, if I am lucky) 100 years old, with wispy silver hair, tucked into my deathbed, reflecting upon a century’s worth of dreams, passions, adventures, and a few regrets.
At the end of my life, will I say to myself:
“My God, I am so grateful that I tweeted 151,200 times (2,016 tweets per year times 75 years starting around age 25) over the course of my life. Time well spent! How wonderful!”
Will I say that?
I wish I could say, “Totally! I will feel very pleased!”
But I know, deep in my hut (heart + gut)… that I will not.
I will not feel peaceful and content knowing that I tweeted 151,200 times over the course of my life.
I will feel unsettled. I will feel remorse. Regret.
I will calculate all of the minutes that I spent coming up with thousands upon thousands of tweets — thinking about those tweets, typing those tweets, editing those tweets, publishing those tweets, tracking to see who “liked” and “re-tweeted” my tweets, and then re-sharing my witticisms on various other platforms — and I would probably come to the grim conclusion that it was somewhere in the realm of 1.8 million minutes spent on Twitter, alone.
1.8 million minutes of my life.
1,250 days. About 3.4 years.
At that point, I will probably cry.
I will mourn my lost life-minutes, never to be recovered.
I will fantasize about all of the things I could have done with that time.
The kisses, the walks, the rich conversations, the sunbathing, the moongazing, the books, unwritten.
I will desperately want to claw my way back through time for a chance to do it over.
I will not be offered that chance.
So that is why I no longer use social media and why I probably won’t use it again.
Because I know that at the end of my life, sharing pics & quips & LOLs & emoticons & working diligently to create a “presence” on social media networking platforms & eagerly seeking “likes” & “shares” & “hearts” and so forth is not a time investment that I will feel proud of. To the contrary, it’s one I will probably regret.
Others may feel very differently and that’s perfectly OK. This is my life. You’ve got yours.
The purpose of this mini-essay is not to say “social media is good” or “bad,” but rather to pose this question:
“The average human lifespan is 39,420,000 minutes, if you are lucky. How are you currently spending your life-minutes? Where are they going? Are you OK with that?”
This can be a frightening question to face — regarding social media or any other “time investment” — but ultimately, it might be the only question that really matters.