As I continue my year of refinement, I want to take some time to reflect on my biggest refinement to date: deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts.
It’s been a full year since I quit Facebook and Instagram — and I mean really quit. I didn’t just deactivate or suspend my accounts, or just delete the apps from my phone. I literally deleted my entire account — all of my connections, all of my info, all of my old posts, all of my data. I no longer have any use of those apps at all.
I want to be clear that I’m not judging Facebook or Instagram or anyone else’s use of them. But I know myself and how these sites affected me and my mental health. I needed space from the constant barrage of content and the pressure I felt to post.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned about myself, my friends and my experiences from a full year without Facebook or Instagram.
I Don’t Miss Using Them
I don’t miss scrolling through the sites at all. I almost feel a little giddy sometimes when I look at my phone and I don’t see the icons there, staring at me and pressuring me to use them. I feel a sense of freedom not even having that as an option. If it’s late at night and I’m awake, I feel grateful that they aren’t there, so I can’t get sucked back into the scrolling. I usually read or text a friend instead.
I Don’t Miss Important Updates
Before quitting social media, I was really worried that I would miss a lot of news from people. But in an entire year, I’ve only missed one thing — the death of a friend’s pet — that I felt bad about, since I wasn’t able to reach out to my friend when it happened. I found out a few days after she shared the news, which wasn’t the end of the world. In one year, I missed one announcement. Not a bad track record.
Friends Keep Me in the Loop
On the flip side, when something’s really important, enough people know that I’m not on social media that they screenshot items they think I might enjoy or not want to miss. For example, a few friends texted me to share a Facebook post inviting alumni from my alma mater to share books they’d published. My friends have made sure that I don’t miss anything, and I really appreciate that. It feels like the modern equivalent of seeing a paper poster tacked to a telephone poll and giving a friend the little paper tab you’ve ripped off from the bottom with a phone number on it.
I’ve Had More Real Interactions with Friends
Since quitting Facebook and Instagram, I’m exponentially more in touch with people than I was before. I have a close friend all the way across the country in California. Before, when I followed him on social media, I’d like his posts, leave emojis and comment on cute pictures of his kids — but I rarely actually talked to him.
The experience of scrolling through and interacting with someone’s page isn’t the same as talking with them one-on-one. What’s been lacking in “likes” I’ve more than made up for by texting, calling and visiting people – in person! – since leaving social media.
On the flip side, one funny side effect has been a few people reaching out to me and asking if I’m mad at them for some reason.
“Of course not!” I’ve replied. “Why would you think I’m mad at you?”
“Because you blocked me on Facebook and Instagram!”
Some people, when they notice I am no longer on their list of followers or can’t be found in a search, assumed I had blocked them personally! I hadn’t expected that, so if you had this reaction, please accept my apology.
I’ve Gained More Control Over the News I Consume
One of the most surprising outcomes of quitting Facebook has been the agency to choose when and how I engage with upsetting news — like war, mass shootings, politics — as opposed to logging in to social media and being confronted with an upsetting image halfway through my feed.
I choose to look at the news now when I feel ready for it, and from a mental health perspective, I’ve really benefited from having that control over when and how I engage with the news. I didn’t realize how much a lack of control over news exposure had been affecting me until it stopped.
I’m Living More in the Moment
I’ve noticed that since deleting my social media accounts, I live more in the moment than I did before. I’ve discovered the freedom to enjoy interacting with people — especially my family — without feeling the pressure to take the perfect photo or find the exact right hashtag to accompany an image.
Overall, quitting Facebook and Instagram has helped my mental health by significantly reducing my daily stress levels. And that, in turn, has improved my relationships and my mental health.
Of course, what worked for me may not necessarily be what you want or need. I recently heard of someone who’d been laid off and felt like her career was severely off-track. For her, understandably, being confronted with work-related conversations and other peoples’ promotions on LinkedIn triggered feelings of stress. I personally find LinkedIn empowering and valuable while Facebook and Instagram had been major sources of stress.
(And, if you’re wondering, I’m still nominally on Twitter, but pretty sure I’ll give that one up, too.)
I encourage you to find out what stressors are in your life and see what you can do to “delete” them and free yourself of them. And baby steps are just fine. I deactivated my accounts before completely deleting them.
If you’re thinking about a clean break, I want you to know that freeing yourself of social media can be extremely rewarding. If you want to be on social media, that’s great. But I want to be an example that you don’t have to be.