He quit cold turkey.
This summer my twenty-year old son declared he was quitting social media. On the 4th of July he said social media was driving him nuts, and by July 5th he had closed all his social media accounts except LinkedIn. More than three months later, he is still socially sober and says he feels happier, more connected and more productive as a result.
Is that possible? Can using less social media actually strengthen personal connections? According to a recent Fast Company article entitled “Yes, social media is making you miserable,” the answer is yes.
The positive (and negative) power of social media
I’m not suggesting that social media is all bad. As the article explains, social media can be a useful tool that enables people to share special moments with family and friends, celebrate milestones and create an archive of memories to look back on fondly as life goes on. For others, social media platforms can help them create communities that share a passion or purpose, and provide a forum for collaboration and advancement.
But according to research cited in the article, positive interactions on social media don’t make people feel happier, while negative interactions can increase feelings of sadness. Comparison with others can also cause negative feelings. Too many of us scroll through our social media feeds and rate ourselves based on other people’s perfect moments. We use “likes” and “follows” to measure our personal success or worse, our own pitfalls. We compare ourselves (sometimes subconsciously) to hundreds of others posting a moment in time to our feed. Does one person’s happy moment mean your life is boring? Of course not – but most of us have fallen victim to this feeling of envy at some point in time.
The addictive quality of social media creates a negative circle. The more frequently you scroll, the less time you have to spend creating real-life moments with people you care about.
A challenge: embrace your authentic, offline self
After reading the article, observing my son’s positive experience with his social media detox and reflecting on my own online habits, I wholeheartedly agree that spending less time on social media can lead to greater happiness and productivity.
Don’t get me wrong. I love how the internet helps me stay connected to our constantly-changing world. It enables me to share thoughts and ideas through my blog and LinkedIn (the only mainstream social media channel I’m hip enough to use). I also use digital tools like podcasts and online courses to advance my own learning and personal growth.
However, I never saw the appeal of using social media to deepen my relationships or gauge my professional or personal progress. I prefer to develop my relationships through face-to-face human interaction, and to set clear and measurable goals for myself that don’t rely on comparisons with other people.
So, I’m channeling my son’s inspiration and challenging the Front and Centered community to try it: Quit social media for one week and see how you feel. I would love to hear whether you notice a difference in your mood, so please comment below on this post or reach out to me personally. If enough readers share their experiences, I’ll do a follow up post to summarize what we all learned through this one-week experiment. Who’s in?