During my vacation over the last couple of weeks, I took social media off my phone. I’ve been having an increasingly unhealthy relationship with it, scrolling mindlessly for hours, compulsively checking it, and yet rarely posting or engaging. Just scrolling. Over and over and over. I needed a break.
A colleague posted about a month ago that she was finally done. The news that an in-house study had found that Instagram was damaging to the self-esteem of teenage girls and the company had not done anything was the last straw for her. She set a deadline, did a few last things, established ways for people to stay in touch, and has now shut down her account.
She is not alone. I’ve known quite a few people who, over the past decade or so, have left social media behind. My husband is one. I am seriously considering following his lead.
The problem is, I depend on social media for a lot: collegial connections and support; keeping up with friends from many different parts of my life, and my extended family as well; information and events in local homeschooling groups; buying and selling used items…the list goes on.
I’ve taken breaks before (including one I mentioned at the beginning of this year), and while I always enjoy it and find myself paying closer attention to what goes on around me, I also always end up feeling a little isolated. I don’t have good ways to replace those connections that get lost when social media is gone.
That in itself is somewhat terrifying. I don’t like feeling beholden to a corporation for any part of my life, never mind something so central as relationships, especially a company as lacking in ethics as Facebook is. There are plenty of other companies that I refuse to support with my time or money; why should they get a pass?
The other day, I put Facebook and Instagram back on my phone. I immediately started logging long hours of scrolling again. Catching up on what I’d missed, posting a couple updates, and getting my dopamine fix. I don’t like it. I don’t like the compulsion. I don’t like the lost time (especially when I don’t have enough time to get everything done as it is). I don’t like the algorithms driving what I see or don’t. I don’t like that in order to stay connected to people I care about or are interested in, I am giving them money (through advertisements), energy, tons of personal data, and a good chunk of my well-being.
Does social media have its perks? Sure. I got to go see a favorite band in concert because a friend saw my post about it and had an extra ticket. I recently connected an acquaintance with my husband about a job possibility because I saw his post that he is searching. I can quickly get opinions and suggestions from hundreds of people on topic ranging from Bible study resources and clergy attire to chicken illness, goat behavior, plant identification, lesson plan ideas, vegetarian recipes, hiking spots, and parenting conundrums. New friendships form faster when we get to see glimpses into each others’ lives and likes every day rather than having to wait for conversations over weeks, months or years; the same goes for church members and colleagues.
Yet the toll weighs on me heavily.
I haven’t decided for sure yet if the benefits are worth the cost, or if the sacrifice of losing my online “village” would be too great.
But for now, I’m taking social media back off my phone, and we’ll see how things go from there.