My first year without social media
It has been a year since I left social media. It was difficult to do at the time, and I kept finding excuses and reasons not to. Looking back I realise it was because I was an addict. I was addicted to the scrolling, the likes, the unlimited content.
I was addicted to social media in the same way I was addicted to cigarettes. I wasn’t a heavy social media user (or smoker for that matter), but I knew that it wasn’t in my best interests. I knew that it was clever capitalism that kept me on my leash, and I knew that it was robbing me of my time and my physical and mental health. But it was there with me every day. It never made me feel any better, yet I still spent time and energy on it.
There are many reasons to quit using social media, and few to remain connected. The switch flicked as I posted a picture of a gorgeous sunset on Instagram. I was showing off to the world how beautiful my life is, while at the same time knowing it was a false representation at that moment. At the time I was mildly depressed and hungry and cold. Did I want people to admire me right there and then? Why was I doing this?
The year since has been great. It’s not a huge change. Things have just regained their natural cadence. When I meet up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, we have lots to discuss since we don’t have a constant feed of one another’s lives on our smartphones. My relationships deepened as they became more intentional. It was easy to feel like I was keeping in touch when I was on social media, even though there was no conversation happening. No relationship being nurtured.
And finally, this has been by far the most productive year of my life. I’ve taught at an accelerator in Ghana and a university in Cape Town. I’ve started 3 projects, one of which turned into a business that allowed me to quit my job and live a much freer life. Another became a lovely open-sourced platform of which the ethos is dear to my heart. I've built little games and played with interesting ideas.
The combination of productivity, but also mindful leisure has made the past year delightful. In my free time, I read books and spend time with people who are important to me. I play and exercise and don’t keep up with the Joneses. I spend time in the mountains or on beaches, and the whole world doesn’t need to know. In a fundamental way, quitting social media has made me more free.