In an article titled, “I quit Instagram and Facebook and it made me a lot happier — and that’s a big problem for social media companies,” Christina Farr from CNBC explains how a three-month break from social media changed her life.
CNBC health-tech reporter Christina Farr took a break from social media after realizing that she spent far more time on Instagram than she realized.
It’s been three months without checking Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s what happened.
Social media companies, most notably Facebook, have faced a reckoning in the past year, with reports surfacing about an infiltration of Russian propaganda to influence elections, misuse user data, and countless other examples of the platform being used for ill.
As a society, we’re starting to lose faith in our technology icons, especially in light of the questionable decisions made by the once-beloved Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and reports about early Facebook employees who got rich and now have the luxury of preventing their own kids from using social media.
#DeleteFacebook, once unthinkable, is now a very real trend. And it poses a growing threat to Facebook’s bottom line, and its future.
Against this backdrop, in August I made a big decision. I removed Facebook and Instagram apps off my phone, and logged out on the web. I didn’t get around to fully disabling or deleting them, as I wanted to see first how I’d respond to a month-long break. Baby steps, I told myself.
I haven’t been back, and I don’t really miss them at all.
Time not well spent
My break came around the time when Facebook and Instagram introduced “time well spent” features in the summer, which allow users to check how many hours they’ve spent on social media. I checked the activity dashboard after reporting on these changes for CNBC, and learned that I spent more than five hours on Instagram in a single week.
Five hours might not seem like that much, but it surprised me. I would have guessed an hour or two.
I told myself that my usage was limited to moments where I was standing in line for coffee or sitting in an Uber in traffic, with nothing better to do.
But if I’m honest with myself, I was sucked in a lot more than that, especially once I started following personal stylists, entrepreneurs and other glamorous influencers on Instagram who served as a kind of benchmark about success in my own life. Some nights, I’d pull up my phone and scroll through their feeds for inspiration about new meals to cook or new outfits to buy.
I started thinking: With five more hours every week, I could read a book, volunteer, spend quality time with a friend, even learn a new language. Maybe I’d be fluent in French again in six months if I took a break from these apps.
We take social media for granted these days. What was life like before Facebook and DMs and PMs took over as one of our major ways of communicating? I find myself using social media less and less. Maybe because I don’t have my kids around to post constant pictures of them. Or, maybe because looking at everyone’s happy faces and wondering why I wasn’t invited, doesn’t make me feel that great!
During the past few days I’ve spent with my daughter, we were looking through Facebook together. She made a comment that I’ve often repeated myself — “thank goodness there wasn’t Facebook when I was growing up!” Amen to that! I would have been a totally out of control Facebook mom, posting every step and who knows about potty training!
In the article by Farr, she brings up several points that are cause for concern. Studies are being done that may show that Facebook causes anxiety and depression. Right now, she said, the results aren’t in, but she feels less anxious without it.
Also, Farr talked with one of the program manager and he explained that it is an addictive platform and was designed to be that way:
That got me thinking more deeply about a conversation I had about four years ago with a former Google project manager, Tristan Harris, who I first met when working on a story about habit-forming apps. He described social media back then as “hijacking our minds.”
Harris was among the first to make the connection between neuroscience and social media, and question whether it’s even possible for many people to use social media constructively.
One example he used is the “bottomless bowl,” referring to studies that show that humans will often consume more out of self-refilling bowls than regular ones. The news feed format pioneered by Facebook, he says, is just like that, in the way it seduces us to keep scrolling through an endless stream of content for far longer than we planned to.
I found this to be an interesting article which made me think more about social media and how I use it. I’ve written about social media before and wonder what will happen to our kids raised on selfies. But, it’s also important to think about what happens to us, who use social media to connect and communicate with people online. Is it having an affect on our brains, moods and relationships?
What are your thoughts about quitting social media? If you’ve taken a break, how did it change your daily life?