I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, and came back online.

Photo by nordwood (Unsplash)

I have my fair share of stories about quitting social media, returning, or never going back to certain platforms. It’s that time of year when we preempt our wishes and desires for the year ahead. Each year, I strategise what I want to achieve and how much I would like to use social media in the year ahead. 2024 is no different.

I’m not quitting social media or having my bi-annual digital detox next year. I have kept up the tradition for the past five years. Instead, I will be using the platforms sparingly and focusing on posting once and publishing to many places using my micro.blog account. I will share more about that in a future post.

For now, allow me to share with you a few truths about quitting social media or attempting a digital detox.

Start with your phone. Always your phone.

In all my attempts to quit social media for 30 days or a year, I found the single most effective way to stop accessing these attention limpets was deleting all the social media apps from my phone. Your battery will thank you for a start. My iPhone can last two days because I have nothing battery intensive on there. I know one or two people who have to charge their phones around 2pm on the same day because they Meta-maxed out. Don’t be that person.

Instead, access your social media accounts through a web browser on your desktop. If you want to go ‘hardcore’ (thanks, Elon), you can sign out each time you have finished with the service and sign back in after each session. The added friction will make you question if it is seriously worth the hassle of going online in the first place.

There is also the questionable privacy aspect of using social media apps on your phone and tablets. Have you even seen the App Privacy section of these platforms? Just for a bit of fun. Go to Facebook on your App Store/Google Play Store, and scroll down the list of data the app requires from you. I’m yet to write a blog that requires that amount of scrolling.

You will lose friends and followers.

It is sadly inevitable that you will lose followers. I have a small following, so I notice when I lose 20-plus followers on any of the platforms. The longer you are off the grid, the more followers you will lose. Don’t worry. The loyal ones will stay, and you will be one less person in a viewer’s infinite doom-scrolling session. I found you will gain more once you go back online. You don’t need to be validated by the number of followers you have.

When I first quit Facebook and deleted my account, I had some so-called friends act funny with me. They became distant, and I was not invited to some events because I did not see the post on their wall. They forgot, as I had disappeared from their attention. If it doesn’t happen online, it never happened in the first place. The situation got worse when I quit WhatsApp.

I’m not saying people have become lazy, but they want to put as little effort into maintaining real-world relationships as possible. Social media is a great catch-all solution. Why run around to organise an event when you can make one post and share it on Facebook?

Be warned. You might be forgotten.

You will start to become obsessed (FOMO)

I remember the first week after removing the social media apps from my phone. I would pick up my phone, only to realise I have no social media apps on there. What do I do now? I scanned my phone for something else to pacify me instead — an ebook! The same book I said I would read for two years ago but chose social media to consume.

I’m going to lie. The absence in your life is uncomfortable. But, remember this, you now have a lot of time to explore projects, hobbies, and goals you have been putting off. Someone who uses social media for three hours a day will now have gained 90 hours during a 30-day digital detox. Someone who goes all out with a year’s digital detox will have 1,095 hours spare. Just imagine what you can do with all that time!

You might become a little bit preachy

You might have seen these people on YouTube. They go on about quitting social media, yet they interact and upload videos online. They preach their devotion to quitting social media and why you should, too. Maybe their persuasion is to validate their actions?

The point is, you will have more time on your hand, you will get bored, and you will have no-one to speak to (unless you’re super popular). People will soon get bored with you going on about your lifestyle choice and why you think people are silly to waste their time on social media.

You will want to share your newfound experience with everyone and boast about how productive and energetic you are now (yes, you will have more energy). Which leads me on to…

You will have more energy, mentally and physically

Now, here is my preachy bit. You will have more energy and focus than ever before. Or, for me, pre-2000. Being an oldie who was born in the early 80s, I remember life without social media or being ‘connected’ online. I was full of life, went places, interacted with others in person (the shock), and went to libraries to research.

With your freedom, which is certainly liberating, you will want others to follow you because they will still be hooked up to the Matrix. You are the Neo or Trinity of the real world. You might feel the urge to free everyone from the gross world of Zucks, Elon and GooglePlex.

I found my sleep improved. My concentration improved, too. With nothing to waste your valuable time on, you will appreciate any type of entertainment that comes your way. Another thing to remember is the extra hours you gain can be put to the to-do list you have been actively avoiding. The feeling of going to bed with all tasks completed will certainly be a motivator for the next day.

If you want to return, that’s fine.

I find the act of quitting social media to be experimental. Just like foods, you can diet and reduce the amount of online consumption. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person for returning, similar to the person who decided to eat a biscuit or a sip a glass of wine. We are all human. We have needs.

The only time I would say there is a problem is when returning brings back all the old habits and negative repercussions in your physical life. Seriously, seek professional help. There is no shame in that. Addictions are addictions. They all have underlining reasons to why you are hooked.

Simply enjoy your experience online responsibly

I work in the education sector and I have to watch what I say and what I share. I can’t share a lot of what I do for work, nor can I share my productivity practices. I’m sure some will be shocked to know I use Microsoft Windows 10 sticky notes for my productivity alongside office.com. I bet you didn’t expect that. Did you? Digital sticky notes keep me organised more than you would ever expect.

I digress.

You will always get people who disagree with you. We are all unique. You don’t have to tolerate any abuse online. Report them. You should also avoid getting into any tit-for-tat disputes with others. What would your employer think if you started having an argument online? This stuff sticks.

Social media has many positives. You can connect with people with similar interests, share ideas, share advice, and be there for those who need someone to speak to. You are awesome, after all.

I’ve lost count of how many people I have blocked and muted. But, I can say with confidence, blocking sensitive topics and images can help you have an enjoyable experience online. Mental health comes first.

If you feel you are doom-scrolling, delete the apps and access them through a web browser, like I said. If they don’t offer a web browser version, don’t bother with the platform.

Another tip: Time how much time you are spending on each platform. You will be surprised. It could be that you are not spending as much time as you originally thought on these social media sites. You could even set a timer for five minutes and go through a set criteria of what you want to accomplish on them. This is how I use the social media platforms.

Final thoughts

As 2024 comes around the corner, I want you to have a positive time online. Your mental and physical health should come first. I was able to reconnect with my family, and our time together is more precious than ever. We are spending a lot more time together. No distractions. No ‘I’ll do it laters’. Live intentionally. You deserve the best.

I hope you can find the right balance and make the appropriate choices that suit you. I am interested to see what you all think about quitting social media or going on a digital detox, so don’t be a stranger. Get in touch.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Mark @ CodeMacLife

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