Every year around Lent, the season of giving up something as a way to reflect on the importance of Easter, my friends from church will say how they’re “quitting” Facebook for 6 weeks and then come back online when it’s done to say how helpful it was for them.
My thought was always, “Cool. If it was so good, why d’you need to come back to the place that you didn’t like as much as feel some deep need to say it?”
But now, I wonder if it was a call to the others who felt overwhelmed by social media that they too could have the permission to step away.
As someone who is wired for purpose and requires intention for most things in my life (including rest), I ask myself the following pretty consistently:
What am I getting out of this?
Are the “connections” I have on here truly real or just a fill in for authentic relationships?
Why do I care what some influencer half-way across the world ate for breakfast?
Will I be able to grow my business if I don’t have social media?
What if I miss out on important info or life updates from people?
How am I supposed to keep up with all of the channels and “parties” online while maintaining healthy boundaries?
Why do I keep “showing up” to these platforms and pretending like I’m working when I’m really just wasting time?
Any of these sound familiar? These are questions I constantly talk about with my friends and yet, no one really seems to have an answer.
Until I found an old interview with Seth Godin, which led me to more interviews with Seth Godin, where he talks about how social media keeps people from doing the work they’re supposed to do.
And it hit me hard.
I didn’t have the internet in my house until a few years after high school and would check my email once a week at the library. But somehow, over the last few years, I convinced myself that I needed to be where the people were — at the table having the “important” conversations.
But the truth is, that being super active on social media never felt right to me. I didn’t like the feeling of always hanging out online and hated that it created so much anxiety sometimes.
Then just get off line, right?
Like anything else in my life, I brainstorm heavily before I make a move. Talk to some people, and they’re like, “Do it now!”, but I’m slow to move on some things because it needs to feel right to me.
And for the ones who are contemplating whether or not they should get off of social media, this is your permission to do the same if your heart desires and here are some reasons that may resonate.
1. Building More Genuine Relationships
As humans, we’re wired for connection and while social media can be a great way to keep tabs on people, it creates a false sense of solid relationships.
Yes, I know that people meet people through the internet and become friends, but leaving occasional comments on someone’s posts doesn’t make you true friends.
Liking a post makes you feel like you’re talking to that person, but what does it really mean. Now, Instagram posts and Tweets are dissected by who “liked” what and things are retweeted or reshared. If no one liked your post or reshared, it probably means no one cares what you have to say — or so you think.
There are so many ways to connect now, and if someone doesn’t automatically like your post or leave a comment when you share something emotional online, you feel even more alone.
I’ve had friends get mad with other people because “They didn’t reach out after I posted how hard things have been, and I know they saw it”.
Oh, do you?
If it’s so important for a specific person to know, then why don’t you pick up the phone and tell that person?
What are we afraid of? That we’ll really be known and the pictures won’t match reality? Or is it that we’re more comfortable behind a screen and have in some ways forgotten about what it means to be face-to-face and do life together?
With every new piece of technology, we have to navigate how it does or does not serve us.
It’s comforting to see people you used to know or kind-of know, so you feel a little less alone. But who are the people you could call and be like, “Hey, everything isn’t okay. Can we meet up now?”
As connected as we feel, so many of us are just staring at our screens desperate for someone to pay attention to us.
The more we practice creating genuine connection, the easier and easier it will be to reach out to an individual instead of seeking validation from a bunch of people you wouldn’t invite over for dinner.
2. Keeping Up with People the “Old Fashioned Way”
I love a good long chat with a friend, and I’m a sucker for a handwritten note. When I was in high school, I would write long letters to my cross-country friends and check the mailbox frequently for their response.
It took effort to connect with people, and the reciprocation also required time. Now, it seems that just leaving a comment on someone’s post substitutes as a catch-up. How many likes or comments equal one verbal or face-to-face conversation?
Seeing pictures from someone’s trip to France makes you feel like you’ve caught up with that friend over coffee about their whole experience, but you just saw what everyone else saw.
Makes me think of that episode of Portlandia where Fred goes to Italy with his new girlfriend, and it goes horribly wrong, but the pictures look good. When he gets back, Carrie thinks he’s had a great trip.
Fred says, “Everyone on the internet, they’re not having as great a time as you think they are.”
To which Carrie responds. “I guess, they’re just cropping out the sadness.”
The highlight reel makes you believe that you know someone’s kids, partners and extended family. From posting funny conversations or your yearly Christmas pictures, we are all under the illusion that we really know each other through a screen.
But how often have you spent time with a friend who posts beautiful pictures of their family, only to have dinner with them and find out that she feels she’s a glorified servant?
Or what about the people who post pictures of their new cars and extravagant vacation? You assume that they must be making bank, until you find out it’s all financed on credit and they’re barely making the minimum payments.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media can be a great addition to keeping up with people who don’t live close, but for too many of us, it seems as the only way we keep up with even our closest friends.
For myself, I’m trying to call more, send cards and remember birthdays without the help of Facebook. I told myself for a long time that I had to be available for people, so they could find me if they ever needed to. Well, people used to have a lot less technology and be able to track down people they used to know, so I think if an old friend really needs to find me, they can.
3. Being Braver with My Work
For most of my life, I’ve been a performer on and off-camera. But the stage is where I feel truly alive. Something ignites with a live audience that you miss when you’re behind a screen. It feels very very safe.
I have never enjoyed telling people what I do because most people don’t get it or their questions come with so much judgement. They especially don’t get that you can have a variety of interests within a certain field.
You’re an actor? Why aren’t you on a commercial?
What’s improv? Is it like stand-up? Tell me a joke.
Isn’t it hard to make a living as a writer?
Oh, you want to work in magazines? That’s a dying industry.
What does a video producer even do?
A podcast? Do you have sponsors? Well, why not?
You wrote a book? How many people have bought it?
Not to be that tortured artist, but it gets exhausting having to constantly explain who you are and what you do. And people tend to only ask questions they don’t know, but sometimes, it would feel nice for people to just get it.
That’s why people move to L.A., New York, Paris, Nashville, San Francisco and on and on. They want to be around people who just understand.
The internet is a powerful tool for that, and it’s also a good way to hide.
When I started my podcast, I knew that I would have to talk about myself again — what the show was, why I created it, and where I wanted it to go. I also had to know what it wasn’t about. People hear podcast for women, and they instantly assume it’s gossip and makeup chat. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
I was terrible about talking my show up because I didn’t want to be that girl. For the longest time, I couldn’t even point people to my email newsletter because I was afraid of being too salesy.
That’s where social media saved me. I could share my work without having to deal directly with what people thought. It’s easier to share a podcast episode or blog post on Facebook or Instagram than it is to tell someone to their face they should listen, share and subscribe.
But I know that if I want to grow as a creative, expand my reach and monetize my work, I have to be comfortable talking to in-flesh humans.
Deep down, I’ve always known that I’m better in person for the majority of situations. I tried to avoid networking events or the like because I was convinced that they wouldn’t lead anywhere. Also, going to enough of them, can leave a bad taste in your mouth from the endless small talk.
Not every interaction is going to lead somewhere, but the more you show up, the more that you give yourself the option to have your work lead to something bigger. Why on Earth would someone sign on to your ideas if you can’t even muster the courage to talk about them with confidence?
That’s not to say that the internet can’t help you with your business or creative work, but social media isn’t the only way that you can find your people.
The people will come, eventually. You just have to believe that your work is worth sharing face -to-face first.
4. More Creating, Less Consuming
A creative writing professor in college trained me to read when I hit writer’s block.
And Stephen King says,
"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
So, when I started creating more content specifically for the internet, I convinced myself that I had to consume content on the internet when I hit a block.
What a terrible lie that was.
Because let’s be honest. My “research” was scrolling Instagram until I fell into such a deep hole of knowledge that I discovered all of the country singers who lived within a few blocks of me, what happened at an Australian fitness teacher’s engagement party and then knew the favorite NYC haunts of a famous designer.
None of those things inspired me. It just created another hole of questions and research that you look up and an hour has passed, and you haven’t actually done anything. (And I have a hard enough time not doing research on some random piece of history that pops in my mind.)
When you read for inspiration, especially if it’s a physical magazine or book, you put the book down to then do your work. You don’t let the creativity stop you from the creating.
There’s this idea that you have to know what’s relevant to create meaningful content.
If you work in comedy or journalism, sure. You should have a general understanding of what’s happening in the world — and it’s not a bad idea as a productive citizen to have some idea of what’s going on. But you can’t know everything or be everywhere.
And if your keeping up with the latest news, info, interviews, podcasts, videos etc, is keeping you from making, then you should reevaluate.
Consumption is a fantastic way to justify to ourselves that we’re working, but the less you consume, the more time you have to create. You don’t need to know what someone else thinks of something to put your energy into something. We largely discount or thoughts and abilities because we believe that someone else knows better.
But you’re the only you there ever will be, so you better use your time wisely and get your work out there while you can.
5. Keeping My Eyes on My Own Paper
I’ve never been one to want to do what other people are doing. I don’t enjoy following a crowd or feeling like someone else is making the rules.
But I found myself comparing notes constantly as I read the posts of similar entrepreneurs and people I admired. Read enough of the same things, and you forget what are your thoughts and what is from someone else.
Going back to the previous idea about creating > consuming, there are leaders I’m attracted to because we’re like-minded. Somehow, I’ve stumbled upon people with extremely similar ideologies to myself, and I know that I have to be careful about leaning too heavily into what they’re doing.
That being said, there are times that you’re going to make something that someone else also makes. I’ve had multiple ideas that someone else has also had, but with a slightly different twist.
The more that I concentrate on what I’m producing and the feedback I’m receiving from my personal engagement, the less I need to worry about what anyone else is doing.
It also means that I’m less likely to doubt myself because I’m not comparing myself to someone’s game.
I’m playing by my own rules, and the less I see of other people, the more I can own the playbook I’m creating.
Know I Can Always Come Back
There’s a reason why I didn’t say that I’m quitting social media because there’s always a chance I could be in a different place and want to come back.
To me, saying that I’m quitting is the equivalent of declaring my retirement, and the only time you should do that is if you’re absolutely sure you’ll never come back.
I may or may not return, but there’s an ease in knowing I can come back any time I’d like, and a comfort in that I’m choosing to step away. No one is twisting my arm or pressuring me into this. And like most anything else, I’ll do it until it’s not working for me anymore.
And that’s all we can ask of ourselves.