A few weeks ago, I wrote about my decision to quit social media for 30 days. Now, more than halfway through my detox, I can truthfully say I don't miss the apps and bookmarks banished from my browsers and devices.
The first day was admittedly a bit of a struggle -- or, more specifically, the first several minutes. I'd just returned to New York after a long trip back to the Midwest for the holidays, and I was missing my friends and family. I'd also been tossing and turning for a good half hour, unable to fall asleep. If this had been a normal evening, I'd reach for my phone and start scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feeds to see what folks back home were up to (because there's always at least one person posting a random musing at any given time). I didn't want to inadvertently wake my loved ones, so calling and texting were both out of the question.
Really, I probably could have gotten away with checking my feeds that night. My detox started the next day -- and fine, since it was 12:45 a.m., it was technically 45 minutes into "the next day." But I hadn't slept yet. And since I hadn't slept, it wasn't really "tomorrow," yet. Right?
The disappointment I felt at the thought of surrendering before I'd even started my resolution was, thankfully, more powerful than the need to check my Facebook feed. Instead, I read a magazine.
That was the toughest things ever got. Since then, it's been surprisingly easy to abandon my social media accounts. It's actually been, dare I say it, enjoyable. My stress levels have dropped. I have time for other things (so much time that I nearly forgot to write this update -- whoops). Plus, I'm sleeping better, and we all know how important sleep is for mental health and overall wellness. Instead of keeping touch via social media (which now feels like such a passive way of communicating), I've been calling, texting, and video chatting my friends and family.
Though there's no way to know for sure, I'm convinced quitting social media is responsible for these changes. I've sequestered myself from the content that moves me to compare my haves/have nots to others' and overanalyze my life and my choices.
I've also taken up crocheting. But that's another story.
Since the publication of my initial post, we've received dozens of inspiring notes from readers who are either currently evaluating their own social media use or who have already conquered their FOUL (the fear of an unfulfilled life).
Thinking of going on your own social media hiatus but need additional encouragement? Read on for advice straight from the mouths (keyboards?) of HuffPost readers.
Responses have been edited and condensed. Names used with permission.
Right before I read your article -- literally, 15 minutes -- I deactivated my Facebook account. I have been afraid to do it for a long time, although I've wanted to. It sounds so silly to say that, but I have a similar story, having moved to San Diego from New Jersey eight years ago and using Facebook as a tool to "stay in touch" with family and friends.
I too, however, found myself being a constant lurker, wondering what I was missing out on and suddenly feeling dissatisfied with my own life. Having a 14-month-old makes it easier to use Facebook as my socialization and friendships, since getting out of the house can be rather difficult, but it always made me feel bad about my life and myself ... There has GOT to be something more productive to be doing with my time ... So here's to 2014. To new hobbies and projects instead of constant snooping!
-- Lana Schoen
I too suffer from your condition. Since waking up I check my Facebook and begin an endless cycle of scrolling and refreshing. I'd even read all the comments on pictures of people that aren't even friends of mine outside of Facebook. Comparing what they had to what I lacked, how they looked to how much I want to lose 10 pounds, and how much fun they were having at the moment compared to me... It only occurred to me this year to stop comparing and focus on my life.
So, this year I made a permanent decision. I deleted my Facebook app from my phone and only have the messaging app. That way, anybody who wants to stay in contact is free to, while I keep myself away from scrolling when I'm bored! The only time I get on Facebook now is to upload my pictures for family members and friends to see, while also giving me the ability to look back without worrying about memory use. But those comparing days are over for me.
-- Diana Vazquez
For months and months I've been depressed... my hubby and I have targeted the problem... Facebook. Although I was smart enough to get those braggers off my wall, I too have been feeling somehow unfulfilled, missing out. Even this New Year's. Before Facebook, I NEVER cared if I was in bed before midnight. This year, I was like, "OMG, I should have stayed up. Look at what I missed!"
What? If I didn't see stupid drink posts and ridiculous New Year's Eve party hat wearing, I would have never felt like I missed anything ... Instead, I should have been happy to have chosen reading in bed and hitting the sack earlier than the fireworks. My life is wonderful with my amazing husband. Why do I need more? I've never wanted what others have ... I'm a big believer that technology has changed this world into a "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality, even more than it used to be. Not good.
-- Lauren Shepard, Mantra Creative, Tampa, Fla.
Rather than having a New Year's resolution, I thought that I would have a personal challenge. I deleted Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter from my phone in addition to deactivating Facebook. I planned to reactivate after a month, but I am enjoying the benefits of unplugging so much that I may go longer.
For years, I have been interested in the effects of social media and read articles about it for fun. Although I acknowledge that there are benefits of social media, I think that there are a lot more negative effects. In particular, the social comparison you wrote about, the lack of fully being present, and the lack of real-life interaction. I worried about not staying connected but realize that I can reach out to friends in other ways. Missing someone becomes more real when you can't see them in the virtual world.
I have noticed I have a lot more time to do productive things that benefit me such as reorganizing my room, working out, and cooking. The biggest thing I have noticed is how clear my mind feels and how present I am when I am with family and friends.
-- Leah Dornbusch
When the new year came around and I was at a church service, my gut, instinct, [or] perhaps God himself told me that it would be a good idea to do a social media fast. I didn't give myself a clear timetable, only a "just do it" mentality.
I have to admit that it's been quite difficult. It feels as if I'm fighting compulsive behavior to need to know what's going on in the lives of hundreds of people I'm not all that close to. And I know that shouldn't be the case.
What I'm realizing is that while it's difficult, I'm also doing other things to compensate, like actually using my time to be productive and get something done for work or reading a book. Additionally, I'm calling and texting people a lot more to directly find out how they are doing and engage in conversation as opposed to relying on social media. And more than anything, I find myself actually being "present" during good, happy and unexpected moments, taking them in, instead of snapping a picture and posting it on Instagram waiting for "likes" to start popping up.
-- Jimmy A. Hernandez
I feel exactly the same way. I have already deleted my Facebook and Instragam accounts when I found that my obsessive checking was ruining my day. I'd see posts and pictures of couples, babies, homes, travel, and fitness accomplishments, which made me feel really disenchanted with my own life. I have a great job, great friends, a small but fabulous apartment and work out every day, but somehow the comparisons stung. I am a pretty private person and don't feel the need to share major accomplishments via social media but would rather share with a few close friends and family.
I definitely agree where the chronic checking or need to see others' updates was keeping me from enjoying the present moment and making me doubt just how fabulous my life really is. Many of my close girlfriends feel the same way. We also agree that a lot of the posts on Facebook or Instagram are staged. Staged in order to project a certain image of what their life is like. Perhaps all these posts are really smoke n' mirrors and we are all just trying to keep up with Jones via social media? How much is really true? ... Living a simple, minimal life where you can focus on the present moment, relish in your own accomplishments (big and small) and share things with a [close-knit] group of friends rather than projecting to strangers feels amazing.
-- Leah Simeon
I made one attempt to quit Facebook in January of 2013. I failed after a couple months. A few weeks ago I decided to quit all social media (except Pinterest, of course!). This time it stuck (so far) and I feel more secure about myself than ever. It is such a self-esteem killer and I see one friend in particular suffering -- using social media mostly to make her life seem more "fun" and "exciting." I, on the other hand, finally realized it was making me miserable and cut it out!
I'm at day four right now. I was mostly a Facebook addict, only glancing at Twitter occasionally, and I don't have an Instagram [account] at all, but I can identify. I decided to commit to a two-week break as a New Year's resolution, so I deactivated my account on Jan. 1. It hasn't been difficult. Surprisingly easy, in fact, and while I feel I'll be back (after my two-week goal), I think even this short break has taught me to utilize the site differently.
Like I said, it's only been four days, but it has been so easy that I know the effort is worthwhile. I've reached out to friends via text and made a few phone calls to try and get back to more "real life" friendships.
-- Kelly Gallagher
I read your post and I couldn't agree more. Young adults, like myself, are in a precarious place in life. Completing our educations, looking for our dream jobs, dealing with relationships and friendships, and all the other things young people deal with. Throw in social media updates into the Crock-Pot, and how easy it is to access our Facebook and Instagram accounts from our phones, and we create a situation of unnecessary anxiety.
I'm currently working on my second degree, and I know I have a bright future. But you see posts of your friends/acquaintances in Dubai or at weddings, and you start to wonder if you're doing things right ... it's important to take a break when one feels that way. Social media wasn't created to make you feel inadequate. Take a step back and regroup.
-- Kika Anazia