Quitting Social Media for 30 Days: What I’ve Learned

At the start of the year, I  quit social media for 30 days. I adopted a philosophy that Cal Newport refers to in his new book as “Digital Minimalism”.

  • I didn’t upload a single picture to Instagram or write a single Facebook status update.
  • I took an occasional peek at my tweetdeck, which lasted no more than a minute.

Through these 30 days, I’ve noticed some interesting changes in my life that have made me question the value of social media.

Decreased Symptoms of Depression

quitting social media

A few days ago, thanks to an amazing app called Heal, I had a doctor’s visit in the comfort of my living room. The doctor asked how my symptoms of depression had been lately. Until she asked me, I hadn’t thought about it.

Over my 30 day social media hiatus, my symptoms of anxiety and depression had subsided. I’d stopped comparing myself to other people because I had no idea what was going on in their lives and felt less anxious because I wasn’t compulsively checking social media.

Given how much research I’d done on this subject in the process of writing an Audience of One, I already knew about the opportunity costs of social media, the biggest of which is our mental health. But the result of quitting for 30 days was a dramatic decline in my symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Quitting Social Media led to Time on Meaningful Projects

Attention is the currency of achievement, and you’ll be amazed at how much you achieve when you’re no longer spending any of that attention on Facebook. Quitting social media completely allowed me to spend ALL of my time and attention on things that mattered, and led to greater levels of clarity, and progress on several different projects.

I read multiple books, published a blog post every single day, and finished writing a new book called The Scenic Route, which I plan to self publish in the next few weeks.

After my second book came out in August, I started working on a book proposal based on my article about what we should have learned in school but never did. However, I had been stuck for the last 2 months. After quitting social media, I had a major breakthrough. It’s hard to hear the sound of your own creativity when it’s drowned out by the noise of excessive digital input.

Deeper and More Meaningful Interactions

social media distraction

Having taken what would likely be our last trip as a family to India in December, and with my sister’s wedding on the horizon, I was starting to realize that there’s nothing more valuable in life than the time we have left with people who matter most to us. I made it one of my biggest priorities for the year to see my friends and family in person more often. Every interaction so far has been deeper and more meaningful. I’ve had long drawn out conversations with friends, family members, and first dates.

Measuring my Life in a Different Way

quitting social media

How you measure your life will have a profound impact on your happiness and well being. When I asked people in my audience about the metrics they use to measure their life, very few said they measured social media metrics. While that might be true, people don’t see that the features on most social media platforms cause us to unconsciously measure our lives with vanity metrics. You’re being programmed to measure your life with someone else’s yardstick. This kind of measurement inevitably leads to comparison, which is the thief of joy.

3 Incredibly Disturbing Consequences of Social Media

When I interviewed Cal Newport, I asked him what he thought the consequences were of the way we’re currently using social media:

1. Mental Health

There are really scary results when looking at how social media affects mental health, especially if you look at Generation Z. They were the first generation to actually have access to smartphones and social media in their preteen and early teenage years.

When those of us in my generation arrived at college, we didn’t have these things. We didn’t have them as teenagers. If you look at the statistics for my generation, there’s nothing all that alarming about self-harm or mental health statistics, and not much has changed recently regarding those.

But if you look at Generation Z, particularly young women, you see a massive spike in mental health issues. It’s one of the scariest graphs I’ve ever seen.

Looking at the state of anxiety and anxiety related disorders and looking at the number of hospitalizations as a result of self harm proves that there’s a mental health crisis going on. Depression, suicide attempts and self-harm stats have skyrocketed. There’s no better explanation that fits the timing of these stats other than social media and smartphones.

If you put these things in the hands of young people whose brains are still developing and who are still going through these hard middle school and high school periods, the result of social media use is causing physical harm and unprecedented levels of increase for self-harm and mental illness.

2. Anxiety

Let’s say that someone who’s my generation or maybe a little bit older got out of our vulnerable teenage years without actually being exposed to this. There are still some serious harms that social media use can cause in ages after teenage years.

The first is that it exploits time and attention. If you take your time and attention away from things that are more beautiful, these tools do significantly decrease the quality of your life. I think that there are a lot of people my generation and older that have this vague background hum of anxiety. There’s always some sort of chasm of existential despair that’s not far away from all of us, but just keeping it at bay by constantly looking at the growing rectangle of our online profiles is no way to live.

3. Warped Worldview

When you move your content consumption into the walled garden worlds of these social media conglomerates, you’re just consuming information from a stream that’s being driven by an algorithm whose whole point is to maximize engagement. This does really bad things to your view of the world, and how you think about other people. It pushes people to the far extremes, and takes them from unhappy to angry. It’s just not a healthy way to actually engage with the world.

You are Addicted to Social Media Whether You Realize it Or not

Quitting Social Media for 30 Days: What I’ve Learned 1

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