Family & Education

Goodbye Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Hello to life

A survey has found that 78% of social media users want to leave, but are scared to step away from their online life. Michelle Stimler Morris took the plunge...


My name is Michelle and I’m a social media addict. I’ve been clean for 237 days.

I followed the migration onto Facebook in 2008, and wasted ten years scrolling through timelines.

Since quitting, most nights I fall asleep reading a book. A book is a thick rectangular starchy thing, with pages you can’t turn by prodding the surface with your finger. Beware, if it falls in the bath no amount of rice will make it work again.

I now feel freer than I have since I was teenager. I no longer feel that anything I say or do will be stuck on the internet’s bulletin board forever. Or that someone I’ve just met can look me up and instantly be under the illusion that they know me. It’s like the delectable purity of socialising on Shabbat.

It was surprisingly easy to quit cold-turkey. It reminded me of that rush of relaxation when you finish your last exam and don’t have to worry about homework anymore. There were still initial pangs of “Ooh, I need to Tweet that,” but they did fade.

Since I pulled my head out of the rabbit hole, my eyes have adjusted, and I finally realised how dark it was in there.

When mundane interactions are sensationalised and immortalised, we become neurotic, and rightly so. Even though I deleted my Instagram account, if you search my old username on google, all my pictures come up. With social media, the light transience of life is lost as any uninhibited moment can become a life-ruining event.

Snapchat gives the impression of reinstating that lost transience. After 24 hours, pictures and videos disintegrate into the digital abyss. But Snapchat still carries the other downsides of posting online, like not being present in the moment and doing things so other people can see, instead of for yourself.

The worst case I’ve witnessed was at a concert I went to with my sister. The woman next to me came alone and spent the entire evening violating my space by ferociously dancing and singing into her iPhone. She simultaneously posted these clips on Snapchat, constantly checking who had watched them.

Like a gaming addict wearing an adult nappy so as not to break away from the screen, a person’s digital avatars can become more important than their real life needs. Enjoying a performance, face-to-face socialising, eating food while its hot these come second to constant communicating.

Through the window of a smartphone, statements in the same size font give the illusion that they all carry equal weight. The removal of context who people are and their authority causes everything to become sensationalised. When someone makes a negative comment to you in the real world, you are able to assess it in context. If it’s from an unbalanced person on the street, it’s disturbing but it doesn’t hurt your feelings. If it’s from your mother, then it cuts you to your core.

Using social media for a business has extraordinary potential if executed with effective branding. Yet if you aren’t promoting a business you are either a) promoting yourself as a brand or b) a consumer, begging the question, what is being consumed and to whose gain and detriment?

I had always wondered how a successful blogger behaves in real life and whether they can function normally. I finally found out during a recent trip to New York, when a famous blogger sat at a cafe table near me for lunch. Despite being in the company of her two daughters, her face was lit up by her phone for most of the meal. Oblivious to her children in front of her, socialising online replaced present interaction.

Social media corporations design homepages to be addictive content the user is most interested in is prioritised and to encourage nosy behaviour bordering on voyeurism. Nowadays I see friends’ photographs only if they show me themselves. It’s radical.

According to a survey by cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, nearly 78 percent of social media users want to leave, but Fear Of Missing Out (known as FOMO in cyberspace) makes them stay. The irony is, that by staying in the digital world, people miss out on moments in the real world. By being so accessible everywhere at all times, you cease to be anywhere at anytime.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. I still use my phone for texting, listening to Spotify, taking photos, writing notes, and googling. Oh, and making phone calls (I genuinely forgot that one). Apple’s new Screen Time reporting feature has alerted me that I use these apps more than I thought. Although that usage is geared more for what I actually need, I hope I manage to curb that addiction too.

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