How To Quit Social Media
You don't realize that right now, you're actually looking at something quite rare.
You're reading a blog post by a digital marketer who is telling you to quit social media.
My livelihood depends on you liking my content and sharing my articles, yet I want you to use social media less.
Let's go back to when I was working in Silicon Valley at the dawn of the "smart phone revolution" around 2011 to 2012.
As time went on, walking the streets of San Francisco, I could see everyone being "hooked" on this thing.
The boom in technology seemed like a dangerous proposition.
A double-edged sword.
In the home of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, people were becoming zombies to their "smart" devices.
Why I Quit Social Media
In 2012 I remember living across for the Instagram offices on 3rd and Brannan in downtown San Francisco shortly before they sold their platform to Facebook for $1 Billion.
Little did I know that the 2 weeks before the sale that they had hired "Attention Engineers" to ensure that the general public would be "hooked" on their photo sharing platform.
There are 2 things I'd like for you to understand:
1.) Although I don't currently have any social media accounts, I am still okay.
My business is thriving and my "48 Hour Digital Detox" course is becoming a household name.
You don't have to worry, I still communicate with family and friends, and my relationship with my girlfriend is stronger than ever.
2.) I still know what is going on in the world.
I still collaborate with people all over the world and I'm still exposed to new ideas.
I am rarely bored and I do not lack any entertainment options.
Top 3 Objections To Quitting Social Media
Not only am I "okay" with having no social media accounts, but I actually think I'm better off for it.
I'm actually happier and I think I'm living a more sustainable life.
Believe it or not, I'm actually more successful professionally by not having a social media presence.
My goal writing this article is to convince more of YOU to do the same thing.
Let's paint a picture of your digital future where you put down the smartphone and go out and live a fuller life.
This is a big claim so I will start off by giving you the Top 3 Objections I hear when I suggest to people that they quit social media:
Quit Social Media Objection #1
1.) Quitting Social Media will make you a hermit / Luddite / outcast
"Kris, social media is one of the fundamental technologies of the 21st century!"
To reject using social media would be the act of an technology extremist.
It would be like riding a horse to work or using a rotary phone booth.
"I can't take such a big stance in my life".
My reaction to that objection is complete nonsense.
Social Media is not a fundamental technology.
It leverages some fundamental technologies, but it's better understood as this:
It's an ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCT.
Technologist Jaron Lanier puts it as "companies offer you shiny digital treats in exchange for minutes of your attention and bites of your personal data, which is then packaged up and sold to the highest bidder."
To say you do not use social media should not be a radical stance, it's just rejecting one form of entertainment for others
There should be no more controversy than saying "I don't like newspapers, I like to get my news from magazines" or "I prefer to watch cable series as opposed to network television series".
It's not a major political or social stance to say you don't use this entertainment "product".
If you look at bit closer at these social media technologies, its not just that they are a source of entertainment, but they're somewhat unsavory form of dopamine gambling.
Social Media Roulette
We now know that many of the major social media platforms hire individuals called "Attention Engineers" who borrow principles from Las Vegas casino gambling, among other places, whose job it is to make these products as addictive as possible.
That is the desired use case of these products:
You use these apps in an addictive fashion because it maximizes the profit that can be extracted from your attention and data.
So it's not a fundamental technology, it's just a source of entertainment.
Quit Social Media Objection #2
The second objection is hear when suggesting your quit social media goes as follows:
"Kris, I can't quit social media because it is vital to my success in the 21st century economy."
"If I do not have a well-cultivated social media brand, people won't know who I am, people won't be able to find me, opportunities won't come my way, and I will effectively disappear from the economy."
Again my reaction is once again:
This objection is nonsense.
We recently published a course called "The 48 Hour Digital Detox Formula" that gives you a blueprint for your first digital detox.
Within days of publishing this free video course it was already ranked 3rd on Google for the search term "48 hour digital detox" and had been accessed over 127 times.
All this without any promotion on social media.
In a competitive 21st century economy, what the market really values is the ability to produce things that are rare and valuable.
If you produce something that is rare and valuable, the market will value it.
What the market dismisses are activities that are easy to replicate and produce a small amount of value.
Social Media is the epitome of an easy to replicate activity that doesn't produce a lot of value.
It's something any six-year old with a smartphone can do.
Deep Work vs. Shallow Work
By definition, the market is not going to give a lot of value to those behaviors.
Instead it's going to reward the deep, concentrated work required to build real skills and to apply those skills to produce things - like craftsmen - that are rare and that are valuable.
To put it another way:
- if you can write an elegant algorithm
- a legal brief that can change a court case
- if you can write a thousand words of prose, that's going to fixate the reader until the end
- if you can look at a sea of ambiguous data and apply statistics, pull out insights, that can transform a business strategy
If you can do these types of activities which require "deep work", that produce valuable outcomes, then people will find you.
Produce deep work and you will be able to write your own ticket in the coming Automation Revolution.
You will also have the foundation to build a meaningful and successful professional life, regardless of how many Instagram followers you have.
Quit Social Media Objection #3
This objection goes as follows:
"Kris, maybe I agree, maybe you're right, it's not a fundamental technology.
Maybe using social media is not at the core of my professional success.
But you know what? It's harmless, I have some fun on it, and I don't use it that often. What's the harm in that?
Again this objection is also nonsense.
Social media brings with it multiple, well-documented harms.
Social Media Is Harmful
We need to confront these harms head-on when trying to make decisions about whether or not we embrace this technology and let it into our lives.
One of these harms that we know this technology brings has to do with professional success.
I just mentioned that the ability to focus intensely and produce things that are rare and valuable is what the market will place value on.
I also argued that social media tools are designed to be addictive.
The actual design of these platforms is that you fragment your attention as much as possible throughout your waking hours.
That is how these platforms are designed to be used.
Social Media Causes Fragmented Attention
We have a growing amount of research which tells us that if you spend large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention, to take a quick look at your Instagram feed, this permanently reduces your capacity for concentration.
In other words, you could permanently reduce your capacity to do exactly the type of deep effort that we are finding more and more necessary in an increasingly competitive economy.
So social media use is not harmless, it can actually have a significant negative impact on your ability to thrive in the economy.
I'm especially worried about this when we look at the younger generation, which is the most saturated in this technology.
If you lose your ability to sustain concentration, you're going to become less and less relevant to this economy.
There's also psychological harms that are well documented that social media brings that we need to address.
Psychological Factors of Social Media Addiction
Research literature tells us that the more you use social media, the more likely you are to feel lonely or isolated.
We know that the constant exposure to your friends' carefully curated positive portrayals of their life can leave you to feel inadequate, and can increase rates of depression.
Something I think we're going to be hearing about more in the near future is the fundamental mismatch between the way our brains are wired and this behavior of exposing yourself to stimuli with intermittent rewards throughout all of your waking hours.
It's one things to spend a couple of hours at a slot machine in Las Vegas, but if you bring one with you and you pull that handle all day long, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, we're not wired for it.
It short-circuits the brain and we're starting to find it has actual cognitive consequences.
One of them being this sort of anxiety.
Next Generation Of Social Media Addicts
If you go talk to mental health experts on college campuses, they'll tell you that along with the rise of ubiquitous smartphone use and social media use among it's students on the campus came an explosion of anxiety-related disorders on those campuses.
This type of behavior is a mismatch for our brain wiring and can make you feel miserable.
So there is the real cost to social media use:
Increased anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorders, mental health costs, and increased risk of suicide.
Which means if you're trying to decide if you should use it or not, you actually have to identify a significantly positive, clear benefit that can outweigh these potential, completely non-trivial harms.
Why You Need A Digital Detox
People often ask me "Ok, but what is life like without social media?"
It can actually be a little bit scary to think about.
According to people who I've coached through this process, it can be a few difficult weeks.
Biologically speaking it is like a drug detox process.
The first two weeks can be uncomfortable.
You feel a little bit anxious.
Some of my clients have said it felt like they were missing a limb.
But after that, things start to settle down.
Life after social media can be quite positive.
Life After You Quit Social Media
There are two things I can report back from helping clients quit social media:
1.) It can be quite productive.
If you treat your attention with respect and don't fragment it, you allow it to stay whole.
Preserve your concentration when it comes to work.
Do one thing after another and do it with intensity.
Intensity can be traded for time.
I'm still surprised how much I can get done in an 8 hour day if I'm able to give each thing intense concentration.
2.) Life without social media can be quite peaceful.
Now I joke that I'm an old Amish farmer because if you look at my leisure time I'm walking, reading a book, and sit at the beach and listen to the waves.
It's actually a restorative, peaceful way to actually spend your time out of work.
You don't have a constant hum of stimuli and the background hum of anxiety that comes along with that.
So life without social media is really not so bad.
If you pull together these threads you see my full argument that not everyone, but certainly much more people right now, should not be using social media.
That's because we can first discard with the main concerns that its' a fundamental technology you HAVE TO use.
Nonsense! It's a slot machine on your phone.
We can discard this notion that you won't get a job without it.
Anything a six-year-old with a smartphone can do is not going to be rewarded by the marketplace.
Finally, I've emphasized the point that there's real harms with it.
So it's not just "harmless".
There are real tangible positives associated with quitting social media.
My goal is that many of you reading this go through the same analysis and you'll at least consider the perspective I'm making right now which is:
Many more people would be much better off if they didn't use this technology and just quit social media.