Why I Disconnected From (un) Social Media.

On June 1st 2018, I ended an eleven year relationship with Social Media. I didn’t think about it. There was no announcement. I just moved my mouse across the screen, clicked on my account settings and shut it all down. Facebook. Instagram. Linked In. Twitter. Pinterest. Snapchat. I said goodbye to it all.It was the end of a love-hate relationship that had endured for way too long. And like so many people around the world who are jumping on the ‘I quit Social Media’ bandwagon, I can honestly say I’ve never felt better.Deep down I’m a typical introvert. I need my alone time. Time to think, reflect, meditate, journal, do some yoga and recharge.Over the years, I have found myself slowly swapping the time I should have spent being more mindful, with completely mindless scrolling through pages and pages of news, gossip, pictures, feeds, updates, opinions, ideas, feedback and advertisements. Hours and hours of my life spent in front of a screen, absorbing information that I simply didn’t need.In the beginning, discovering Social Media was like opening up a whole new way of keeping in contact with the world and everyone in it.It was 2007, and my husband and I had just moved from Sydney to Melbourne. We were busy settling into new jobs, meeting new people, finding new hobbies, and discovering new places.Social Media was a quick and easy way of staying connected with family and friends we were unable to visit regularly. It was a way of sharing our travels, connecting with loved ones on special occasions, and keeping up to date with what everyone was up to. It made moving away from everyone easier.Once we had connected on Facebook, it was like we weren’t really that far away from each other at all. I even found lost school friends, old work colleagues and found celebrities I admired and wanted to follow.Sharing every aspect of our lives became very normal. Things we usually wouldn’t share in conversation could be easily shared via a quick post on Instagram or Facebook (anyone who has ever taken a photo of their food, or checked in somewhere can attest to that one!).Twitter was an easy way to stay in touch with individuals, organisations, celebrities, important news items, and the activities of our world leaders without having to read the newspaper or a magazine.Pinterest became a way of collecting ideas, inspiration, fashion tips, and all sorts of other interesting details that you could save for later. You might need it one day.LinkedIn became a way of connecting with your entire business network, and accumulate a list of contacts. After all, you might need them one day.We became a world of professional cyber-stalkers. Personal detectives. Constantly watching each other from a distance. Some people were actively participating in the online circus, while others sat silently in the audience, clapping at the right times and secretly following the show without making a sound.Oversharing became a normal way of communicating. Photos, comments, likes, pokes, emojis and meme’s became everyday trophies that we displayed to the world like we had achieved something important in life simply by being somewhere. It enabled alot of people to have opinions, and share them freely in a public forum.Remembering everyone’s birthday was a breeze. I’d send someone a message because Facebook told me to. I’d congratulate someone on their new job because LinkedIn told me to. I’d like someone’s instagram post because that’s how we connect with each other these days.Don’t get me wrong, I am a sincere and enthusiastic person. But with Social Media as my new best friend, I didn’t really need to think. It prompted me to do everything I needed to, in order to maintain my relationships with my ever-expanding  online network.The status of your friendship depended strongly on your social media connections. If you dared to unfriend someone, it sent a very strong message to the world that you no longer wished to remain in contact with that person. Ever. Period.But there were good things also. I sold 80% of my stuff using Social Media over 9 years (and it was so much easier than using other online selling sites!). I shared some really lovely memories and important life events with people that I may not otherwise have been able to if I was relying on face to face contact.I connected with like-minded keyboard warriors who shared my interests and hobbies (and quickly disconnected with them again when I saw their true colours coming out in too many ways). Cyber bullying was present everywhere you turned. It really didn’t feel like a good representation of the human soul. Were we really that horrible?The stories of people committing suicide due to online bullying really hit home that maybe the world of social media was not as ‘social’ as we first thought. It was hard to believe that someone’s online comment could create such anxiety and despair in someone. But as I scrolled through various feeds over the years I saw the evidence.It was like we had lost all common decency and abusing each other online somehow became acceptable behaviour (don’t even get me started on good old fashioned spelling and grammar!).Fast forward nine years, and I noticed that we were connecting more and more with people online, and less and less in person. Our friends list was healthier than ever. But all the phone calls had stopped. Text messages had stopped unless we initiated them. People we used to actively visit or arrange picnics with, we no longer saw or heard from. In a strange way, using social media to connect with people had left us more isolated and disconnected than ever.In 2010, when we moved back to Sydney we realised that life had changed. Friends and family had moved on. People we used to spend time with were starting to have families of their own and were moving to different places and connecting with different communities. Our small circle of friends had split apart as people were on their own journeys of discovery and learning. My husband and I had also changed significantly during our time in Melbourne. We become stronger and more confident individuals and less tolerant of the politics and gossip and nonsense that we would have resigned ourselves to in the past. It was almost like we had come back to Sydney, ready to commence the next chapter in our lives.It was time to get serious about living the life we wanted, rather than living the life we were supposed to live, according to the world around us.I sat down one day and scrolled through all my connections on each of my Social Media accounts. I realised that there was a handful, if that, of people that I engaged with regularly. And I mean proper old-school style two-way conversations – with actual talking and listening, not that abreviated online chatter.I was craving meaningful relationships, but at the same time realised that we had also moved on in our own way, and it was clear some of our old relationships were not going to be the same in the future. I was ok with that, and I am certainly not the needy attachment-driven person who needs to see people all the time in order to feel secure. But it was obvious how much social media had changed the way we connect as a society. And how much it had changed our expectations of each other, and how we conduct our relationships in a tech-obsessed world.I found a new purpose for Social Media – connecting with people I didn’t know through groups and communities. Using it for educational purposes, and to learn more about topics I wanted to explore. Learning new skills like photography, writing and wellness. Looking up new ideas, local communities, cafes and other destinations, local and international news and current affairs.This is when I discovered a thing called Minimalism.While searching for ways to get rid of our stuff, I found posts from people such as Marie Kondo, The Minimalists, Joshua Becker, Courtney Carver, Eco Vegan Girl, the Wellness Warrior, and a whole list of other people who were making waves online through sharing their journeys’ towards a simpler and more meaningful life.This whole Minimalist movement really resonated with me – especially because by this time, I had already been on a journey to simplify my life for almost 10 years. I started listening to podcasts and following blogs that were written by people who were on the same journey as me. I didn’t realise that it had a label. I just called it decluttering, but the more I researched, the more I realised there was so much more to it than just getting rid of your stuff. It was all about living a life with purpose and meaning. A life with less, could bring so much more joy and fulfilment. I finally realised that I was on the right path.In a strange and ironic way, spending time on Social Media made me start over. It made me review what was important to me, and I spent alot of time re-establishing my values and beliefs. It made me realise that perhaps I needed to declutter my whole life more than I needed to simply declutter my wardrobe.After finally identifying what was really important to me, I realised that spending so much time on Social Media – even though I discovered so much and shared so many wonderful memories with people – was actually stopping me from living the life I wanted to live. I was very good at posting inspirational messages about it, but not so good at stepping away from the screen and actually living it.So I shut it all down. And made sure I had all the information I needed to be able to keep in contact with the people that I truly considered part of my life.Over the past two months, I have started reconnecting with people again. I’ve started reaching out to people again. Seeing people in the flesh. Actually pursuing my hobbies and interests, and making deliberate changes to numerous areas of my life.So, I guess this is my thank you note to Social Media.Thank you for sharing the world and the people in it with me. And thank you for teaching me some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned so far in my life.But I can’t continue this relationship with you anymore.It’s not you… it’s me. And I’m really liking the new me 🙂

3 thoughts on “Why I Disconnected From (un) Social Media.

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