Blog, Self Discovery, Simplicity

Thoughts on social media

Thoughts on social media. 

I watched illustrator Julia Bausenhardt’s video on giving up social media the other day, and it really struck a chord with me. I’ve tried hard to quit social media before, countless times (if you’re a long time reader of the blog you might know!), always lasting just a few weeks before limping back to that shiny endless scroll. Even now, I’m officially taking a social media break, but still find myself lurking, liking and occasionally posting – which in turn makes me feel even worse for not being able to stick to even my own goal.

Julia spoke of social media in terms of energy and effort – putting time and creativity into a platform where the return is infinitesimal. She quit social media a year ago, and wrote two blog posts here and here answering questions about it.

The biggest thing I took away was being able to fill the time with something else. When I quit social media, I never planned in anything to replace those hours I’d spent mindlessly scrolling. The twitch, the need for distraction, the short attention span – those things were all still very present for me, and I had no backup plan to deal with them. Julia says it is a slow process, and we need to re-learn and be gentle with ourselves. Know that social media is designed to be addictive, designed to feed us short, fast pieces of information. No wonder we lose our ability to concentrate or go deeper into topics. It’s all about a quick reaction, an instant dopamine hit. Eventually, our brains crave it.

I really don’t like the person I’ve become when it comes to social media. I spend hours, every day, glued to a little screen reading other people’s opinions, other people’s rules. I caught myself answering questions with “this person on Twitter said….” without being able to define what I thought about it, myself. It is terrifying me. Living through other’s surface level, reactionary opinions has stopped me being able to find enough depth to be able to formulate my own opinions. What do I think? Why don’t I know?

Being tossed about in the stormy sea of everyone else’s arguments has blurred the edges of the person I am. Julia talks about losing focus, not just online but in all areas of life, as our attention spans get shorter and shorter, fuelled by those addictive dopamine bites. I remember spending hours in flow, drawing, writing, playing music. Now my attention span is shot, ragged, flimsy. I struggle with that addictive unlock of phone, that need for instant gratification instead of deep satisfaction.

That effort put into posting on social media could be directed towards things that truly give me satisfaction. My blog, my study, my health. Those photos I take with Instagram in mind can appear here, on One Empty Shelf. The links I find interesting to post on Twitter can be analysed, talked about and shared in a blog post. Facebook, following and gathering data, serves only to goad me that my occasional cross post is only being shown to an audience of single figures, unless I pay for it.
The energy I spend is sucked in, with nothing to show for it.

I was worried about directing people to my blog, but nearly everyone finds the site via search, not social. If I’m really honest, although my 1000 Twitter followers is a very small number in the grand comparative Twitter-scape, I am proud that I managed to build up even that many and don’t want to just leave it behind. Although algorithms now control reach, and every little bit of energy spent dissipates into that large, shouty void. I compare myself to bigger accounts on all platforms. I tell myself I love looking at cosy cottage interiors Instagram accounts when really I feel inadequate comparing my dusty windowsills to their shiny, hyper-real setups.

Is it time to really give up social media for good? I’ve struggled with this question for years, and the answer is always yes. The problem is having something to replace it as I slowly come back to life. I found it a lifeline during depression – a distraction and a window on the world I couldn’t quite face at that time. Maybe I’m a little scared to let that go, too.

Instead of a knee-jerk all or nothing, (which is usually my default setting for pretty much everything!) I need to ensure I have an alternative set up before leaving that social media world behind. I worry about people being able to find my blog and engage with it – so I have a newsletter on the go behind the scenes, (you can register here!) and am thinking of new ways to talk in a deeper way about issues. Maybe videos? Recordings? Podcasts?

I worry about just letting go. Leaving it behind. But spending so much energy on something that really doesn’t bring me any benefit isn’t sustainable. I’d rather spend energy on those that want to read the blog, a like-minded community, a place free from comparison and pressure. I want to read, I want to move, I want to regain my attention and flow.

In short, I think I want my life back.



6 thoughts on “Thoughts on social media

  1. I’ve tried to give up social media (Facebook and Instagram) before. I deleted both accounts, but ended up creating new ones. In fact, I always intended to create a new Facebook account, because it is the only way to keep in touch with my running club/hear about when runs are happening. However, I’d intended to keep the account very ‘blank’- no friends, etc. I’d not realised how difficult that would be, as people kept adding me or asking if I’d deleted them, etc. I have compromised by just not following anyone or anything on there, so the feed becomes very dull/nonexistent. I have used it a bit more in the lockdown to keep in touch with people, but I don’t feel like I need that any more. Having read your post I’ve gone through and unfollowed everything again.

    Instagram…I intended to never go back, but there were some accounts I thought I missed, so I eventually caved and created a new account. I think I just missed the distraction. I’ve just deleted the app and will not use it for a week, and will pick up my knitting, or a book, or turn on a podcast if I get the urge.

    I supposed rather than be disheartened that I haven’t yet given it up, I should just try again…

    1. Hi Nicola!

      I’m motivated by your account and app deleting – I am going to follow you in picking up a book or listening to a podcast instead… 🙂

      Like you say, it’s the distraction – and the addiction of scrolling…! It’s coping with the urges that is the problem I think. Getting used to actually doing ‘stuff’ again rather than the easiness of social media.

      Please let me know how your week off Instagram goes!

      Sal x

      1. Hi Sal!

        The week off Instagram has turned into more than a week, and I have to say I’ve not really missed it. Occasionally I’ve wondered what one or two people are up to, but not enough to reactivate my account. I’ve spent much less time on my phone overall recently too (according to the screentime monitoring thing). I’m now most of the way through Michelle Obama’s autobiography, which has been sitting on my ‘to read’ pile for literally years.

        I feel a clear out of more things coming on- maybe TV? And physical stuff, too. I think I feel calmer and more focussed without so much social media.

      2. Hi Nicola!

        Oh wow I’m so pleased! I was wondering how you were getting on, it’s so good to hear. Was it hard at all the first few days or did you not miss it at all? Do you think it would be different if you didn’t delete your account and just logged out instead?

        It’s really interesting that you feel calmer without as much social media. We hardly watch tv and it really makes a difference. And a good clear-out is always calming, I find. It’s nice that it all seems to go together. I’m really inspired to step away from the socials now. I’ve been trying to write a blog post instead of scrolling, which is helping a bit…

        On another nnote, how are you finding the Michelle Obama book? It’s on my to-read list too!

  2. Hi lovely, as you know I’m a deep-diver with conversation and subjects I’m fascinated by, so social media has always felt awkward. I used it 2-3 hours a week and it clearly impacted creativity and anxiety. I deleted Twitter and Instagram for a year, twice, in the past 5 years. I’ve found a way between nothing or all, by setting boundaries. I have a theme (nature and things that inspire me), I have 1 account (Instagram) I visit twice a week. I only follow a few people I know personally. This means no anxiety; their responses are genuine and number of likes/follows doesn’t matter to me. As you did, I read a lot about its detrimental impact to brain function and wellbeing, so keeping my use minimal, to 1 account and using it as a creative outlet, works for me.

    Your blog has been running a while and you’ve got a newsletter. You have a wonderful way with language. It’s easier from a business sense for someone to give up social media, if they have another outlet (such as a You Tube channel or podcast) that is already established. Whatever you enjoy using, choose 2 or 3 and focus there. They’re all just tools at the end of the day, use the ones that support rather than hinder, your creativity and discard the rest.

    All those skills you say you’ve lapsed in using, are still there. The gift you have with them can be returned to, at any time. Maybe use those to plug the gaps where you’d usually check social media? I meditate and read in the morning then play music while cooking dinner, which is when I used to most often check it. Though I’ve kept 1, it doesn’t have the same pull it used to and the twitch is gone. By only following a handful of people it takes less time to catch up; on the days I look at it. Would love to hear how you get on with it all 🙂

    1. Hi Lou!

      I love your in depth thoughts on this 🙂 The ‘replacing’ is the bit I find hard – I think the other times I’ve tried to come off social media I never planned for what I’d do with the time I’d usually be stuck scrolling, so it didn’t go very well…!

      I like your way of having one or two things to do instead. Things that bring happiness, or creative pursuits. And yes! You made me realise the things I have that haven’t disappeared, although I keep forgetting they’re still there outside of social media. Blog. Newsletter. Two things I’d love to put more energy into and gain much joy from. 🙂 Thank you!

      Sal x

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