I keep meeting people who are quitting social media.
“I give up,” they say. “Everybody is just competing with each other and comparing each other and it’s making me jealous and crazy.” “I can’t stop stalking my ex-boyfriend,” “My mom can’t stop stalking me,” “I can’t pay attention to my kids during the day,” “It’s ruining my life,” “It’s destroying my marriage!”
Yikes, that’s a whole lot of pressure to put on a social platform (or anything, for that matter).
It’s not that I don’t see what they’re saying. I have known people who have gone a little overboard when it comes to checking in on an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, at one time, one of those people). I’ve felt, on more than one occasion, overwhelmed with the notion that my employers and yes, my parents, can see everything I’m doing—not just the pictures I post of myself, but even what I’m listening to on Spotify and pictures I “like” on Instagram.
On more than one occasion, I’ve felt social media wriggle its way between myself and my husband (we like to argue over who gets to post a certain Instagram photo because of course we can’t both share it, and also we’re really mature like that).
But if I’m honest, I think quitting social media altogether is an overreaction.
Facebook (Instagram, Twitter) didn’t invent the disconnection between my husband and me. It didn’t invent jealousy or time-wasting or procrastination or coveting other people’s stuff. It didn’t invent self-centeredness. All of these things existed long before Facebook or Instagram did.
So why do we assume quitting Facebook will eradicate the problem? The problem isn’t Facebook. The problem is us.
Recently, I took a break from all technology—phone, computer, TV, etc (OK, I kept my car, my hairdryer, and all of my modern appliances to cook food). As I expected, it was hard at first and then incredibly freeing.
But strangely, my conclusion from the week wasn’t to stay away from technology forever, but instead to put technology in its place. I set new boundaries for myself—like not bringing my phone to the dinner table and turning off the TV an hour before I got to bed. Since then, I’ve felt more connected to my husband and more present wherever I am.
So I’m not quitting technology. Giving up technology entirely would be like giving up all dessert ever, just so I could never eat too much dessert again. Why would I want to abandon the benefits of something just because of its potential risks?
The way I see it, if you give up social media entirely, here are a few things you would miss:
The Opportunity to Share Your Voice With the World
As a writer, the Internet is the primary way I share my gift with people—online articles, tweets, blogs, Facebook shares, Instagram. Not only is this an outlet for my creative energy, which keeps me spiritually alive and thriving, but I also believe it offers hope, redemption and instruction to others when I am willing to share my story. What a gift it is that I can share my writing with so many people, so easily!
A Glimpse Into the Lives of Others
I follow all kinds of people online—writers, actors, people from other countries, mentors, friends, heroes and artists and brilliant thinkers. I am daily inspired by what they are doing and who they are and feel so lucky that, although I may never meet them in person, I get the tiniest glimpse into their lives. I get to learn from them and connect with cultures and circles outside of my own for a relatively little investment of time and money. How amazing.
Staying “In Touch” With Friends and Family
I have to be careful with this. I know following someone on Instagram does not necessarily count as “staying in touch” but I also live far away from some of the people I love most; and it wouldn’t be realistic for me to talk with each of them on the phone every day. Social media makes it so much easier to stay current with what’s happening in the lives of those people—and gives me opportunities to connect with what they’re thinking or feeling, even when we can’t talk voice-to-voice or face-to-face.
New Friends (Or Even a Spouse)
It’s true. I met my husband on social media! I wrote a blog post for a website bigger than my own. He read the article, followed the link to my website, followed me on Twitter, waited a few weeks before following me on Facebook (naturally) and then less than a year after that, we were married! Obviously, there’s more to the story, but I like to say Twitter is really where we got our start.
Since we’ve been married, we’ve met dozens of friends on Twitter who have become real-life friends.
Laughter, Humor, Fun
How many times have you taken a much-needed break from the grind because someone you know posted a funny video? Obviously, this can be distracting, but it can also be a helpful break. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
I don’t know about you, but rather than give these things up—rather than sacrifice this incredible tool—I’d rather find a way to heal my own insecurity, to fix what’s actually causing my anxiety, to find a way to make social media manageable for me.
To me, the answer isn’t to give up Facebook.
The answer is to find the root of the problem and fix it.
Maybe this is why the week away from technology was so healing for me, come to think of it. Perhaps it was that the feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, the lack of focus and attention, the feeling of needing affirmation from others, the inability to fall asleep at night without distraction—didn’t go away when I gave up technology. I had to wrestle with them. I had to fight against them. I had to find healing.
And eventually, at the end of the week, I think I found a victory.
Social media isn’t winning. I am.
Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, thinker, dreamer, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living LIfe with Less Baggage (Moody, 2013). She travels often, but lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband, Darrell. You can follow her daily at her website or on Twitter.