Leaving Social Media, one step at a time

After about 2 years of having been mostly inactive on my personal Twitter account, I decided to initiate the next step in my ongoing process to withdraw from Social Media, by deleting 24,300 tweets. It didn’t hurt at all. It feels pretty good actually, although the high number of tweets that I had accumulated since getting “hooked” on Twitter in around 2009 kind of shocked me. It made me realize how much time I’ve spent with the service; and how things have changed. There was certainly a time when I truly loved Twitter. This was before it became a place for polarized, impulsive political and ideological discussions and group think.

A few weeks ago I also finally deleted my Facebook account. It wasn’t such a big step because I already had stopped consuming the news feed and stopped posting way before, also about 2 years ago. Before I deleted the account, I accessed each 3rd party service where I previously had used Facebook as login, and generated a separate login, to make sure not to be locked out later.

Currently I’m working on reducing my Instagram usage. I’ve found somewhat of a primitive hack: When I want to have a look or check private messages, I download the app, browse around for a few minutes, and delete it again.

There are still some aspects of Instagram that I appreciate. It’s a nice way to connect with people one meets for example during travel, or to share some shots from places few people have visited before (= meaning places which I consider at least potentially interesting for others, if I happen to be at such as a place), but that’s it.

I’m still ambivalent about Instagram. But like all other major Social Media services, Instagram is built for distraction and as a way for the company to gain as much user attention as possible. Because Facebook has to make money with Instagram, the experience has gotten much worse lately, in my eyes.

I know some people who appear to be neurologically “immune” against the various habit forming patterns of social media apps. Good for them. I am not, which is why I have to take to radical measures such as deleting accounts.

In some ways, I am cheating a bit: I created a new Facebook Messenger account to be able to keep participating in a few messaging groups. Also I am operating 2 publication-specific Twitter accounts for promotional reasons. Both have a very clear narrow content profile and little activity on my part. In addition, I use Nuzzel to get a quick overview of the articles shared by those I follow with my personal Twitter account.

So am I happier without the major social media services, as several recent studies have been suggesting? No idea. But I don’t miss them at all, I definitely have more time, and it’s easier to focus again. That’s good enough. It also feels great not to contribute anymore to the business models of the giant tech firms which increasingly get into people’s minds and impact the way everybody thinks. I like to think for myself, and to come to my own conclusions, instead of being exposed around the clock to algorithmically-reinforced impulsivity and outrage, mob mentality, dogmatism, moral grandstanding and narcissism. It’s also pleasant to free oneself from the temptation to blare out any impetuous thought through the big digital megaphones that comes to my mind – a behavior which the platforms reward and incentivize. For me, adding some friction in that regard has been a good choice. So has been leaving social media, one step at a time.

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