As a millennial journalist with a desk job, you could say I spend a lot of time on social media. But it's not always a positive experience. Mostly, I'm mindlessly scrolling past things I don't care about, which defeats the whole reason I signed up for these social accounts in the first place. I wanted to feel informed and inspired, but usually, I just end up feeling drained. (We have The Science Behind Your Social Media Addiction.)
Instead of blaming social media in general (what do I look like, your grandmother?), I decided to cleanse all of my accounts for the better. That means I spent one month, deleting, unfollowing, and unfriending. Here's what I found.
Erasing a Person Doesn't Mean Erasing a Memory
At the start of my quest, I felt really bad about unfriending Facebook friends who hadn't done me harm. I mean, I don't hate them or anything. I just don't like their social media presence, and I don't really talk to them anymore. Then, I realized that unfriending someone doesn't mean that there are hard feelings—it just means that I won't know their Candy Crush score or what their kid's sandcastle looks like.
To make the process easier, I devised what I like to call "the Costco test." Basically, it's just me asking myself if I would say 'hi' to this person if I ran into him/her at Costco. For me, this is a pretty high standard (depending on the day, I would totally avoid my mom at Costco). Nevertheless, the test forced me to draw the line between people I was truly friends with at one point (even if we don't keep in touch on a daily basis) and the people I've said two words to in my whole life. Most likely, the people in the latter category don't want to know all that much about me either. Unfriend. (Related: Is Social Media Making You Socially Awkward?)
Being a "Digital Packrat" Is a Real Thing
Thoughts I had while going through my email:
This is what I subscribe to? What would someone think of me if she looked at my inbox? That I'm a food and clothing obsessed freak? That's actually pretty accurate.
How many exclusive click-through-email sales will I miss out on? How many have I actually acted on and benefitted from? Zero.
Maybe I'll keep these newsletters for work to see how competitors design their newsletters. Wait, have I ever once, for my job, had to speak to what media competitors' newsletters look like? Nope.
I was a straight-up email hoarder, but let me tell you, unsubscribing felt oh-so-good. Which brings me to...
Digital Detoxing Is the Fastest Way to Lose Weight (The Emotional Kind)
I wasn't expecting to feel such a huge sense of relief at the end of this experiment, but I felt physically lighter. I trimmed just under 200 Facebook friends and unfollowed all but 50. So when I log in, I'm actually interested in what I see. I unfollowed 50 Instagram accounts, and I don't miss anything, especially the food porn that was making me hungry every afternoon. (P.S. Have you heard of social jet lag? It could be making you gain weight.)
Every account I unfollowed had something in common: none of them solicited any action, or positive reaction when I looked at their posts. I never once tried to make a smoothie bowl from the food Instagram I saw, and I never once used the retail discount emails to shop online. Overall, I feel more clear headed and not as bogged down when checking my email and social profiles. I also save time throughout the day, since I have fewer things to catch up on and look at aimlessly. So now I can spend more time working, or—you know—actually living life.