Deleting my social media

What would I create if social media didn’t exist? What would I create if I didn’t spend hours mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds? What would I create if my brain had the space to think freely? What would I create if I didn’t have the thought of numbers, likes, heart, shares, clicks, and comments, at the back of my mind? What would I create if I truly let go of outside influence, opinions and validation? What would I create if I was just being myself?

I am deleting my social media.

I don’t know if it’ll be forever, or a month, or a year. But I will be deleting, unfollowing, removing, and ridding myself of all outside influence. And I tell you what, the thought of that is pretty darn thrilling.

rose latte

But how did I get to this point?

I have always been a fairly early adopter of social media. I was straight onto MySpace as soon as it launched. And with Facebook I even lobbied them to give me an account before it was open to the public.

I immediately signed up to Facebook in 2007 and was so enthusiastic about the possibilities of the platform that I even ended up on BBC Radio 5 to talk about it.

I’d get everyone I met to sign up to Facebook, telling them how great it was that we could all stay in touch wherever we were in the world, that we could reconnect with old friends we’d lost touch with, that it was the best place to keep those friendships going.

In 2009 I joined Twitter. It was relatively new, and no-one I knew used it. But I was temping in an office in Soho and a fire broke out nearby. I joined Twitter to find out what was going on with the fire because none of the news networks had anything, but sure enough, people were sharing photos and updates about the Soho fire on Twitter.

Eventually I started my blog properly 8 years ago. Just a few months after starting Rosalilium I found this incredible community of other bloggers, they were writing about their interests and daily lives, we found common ground on shared interests and aesthetics. It was truly lovely time.

Not long after I began Rosalilium, my personal blog, I joined this brand new platform called Pinterest, it was an ideal place to save images you found all over the internet, and I loved it so much I blogged about and the co-founder commented on my post thanking me for sharing it.

A month or so after that I set up a Facebook page for my blog so people could follow my updates there. And a few months after that, in 2011, I joined another new image-based platform called Instagram.

In those early days, social media, for me, was an opportunity to share my life, my interests, my ideas, and there I would find a community of likeminded people from all over the world who I might not have met otherwise.

In fact, in 2011 I jumped on a train to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire to spend the weekend with another blogger who I chatted to on Twitter everyday. We had never met before. But I went to stay for an entire weekend, and it was brilliant. We had a wonderful time together, and I didn’t feel weird, or creepy, or insane. It felt totally normal. And I was excited about the possibilities social media had for us.

I guess, I truly embraced the community intention of social media in the early days. And it really did make a difference to me when I was stuck at home in bed with a bad back. Or when I was moving around the country with no friends close by.

But it’s different now. Social media is an all-powerful beast. It’s pervasive. It’s in everyone’s lives. It’s in everyone’s hands, all-day, everyday. And as it turns out, social media isn’t there for our benefit. Social media isn’t there for community, or creativity, or connectivity.

Social media isn’t the product, we are.

And I’m tired of being the product. I’m a human being! I don’t want to feel like a product. Yet, over the years, slowly but surely, I’ve been manipulated into a product and it’s crapping on my wellbeing.

I think we all had our suspicions over the last few years that social media was starting to make us feel bad, but this has been confirmed by engineers from places like Facebook where they have designed these platforms to psychologically hook us in, and capture us in a cycle of posting and validation.

There are studies that have found endorphin (the feel-good hormone/chemical) release whenever we see a like on our own social media updates. These platforms are created to have us physically and mentally rely on them to feel good. But if we don’t get the same level of validation from previous posts, we start to feel shitty.

This is literally how addictions work.

I don’t want the number of likes a photo I shared to be the deciding factor in whether I feel good about myself. I don’t want to be validated by algorithms that are actually designed to centre me as a product to sell as advertising to companies. I don’t want to be holding back how I connect, and share, and create with others just in case I don’t get that validation.

It’s totally stifling.

And the thing is, I’ve been feeling this way for so long. But the thing that has held me back from deleting social media is that I literally earn money from it. Somehow social media became intrinsically tied to blogging which accidentally became my job and career.

I couldn’t delete it because I needed to earn money, but I wasn’t feeling good about it because it was detrimental to my wellbeing.

deleting social media

So what’s different?

I’ve reached the end of my tether. I have become so disconnected from the creative process that I don’t create anything. The anxiety of social media is so deep-seated in my brain that I have unconsciously stopped myself from doing the things I love. And I do genuinely love writing, photography and making videos. I love ‘content creation’. I have a hard drive full to the brim of photos and videos and ideas, but I’ve held back on sharing them.

Why? Why am I holding back on sharing something I love creating? Why am I holding back on sharing something important to me?

Because the fear of not getting sufficient social media validation is too strong. If I don’t get enough likes, comments, clicks, etc. then my work was ‘not good enough’.

This fear is no longer subconscious. I have recognised what is happening and I am calling out that fear. I am staring it down, and saying no more!

My worth is not calculated by social media likes. The quality of my work is not quantified by views and clicks. My value as a creative is not decided by multi-billion dollar overseas corporations preying on the little guy with their high-tech manipulative structures.

I need to untangle myself from it all.

Social media has become so much part of my everyday life, it’s a habit. I wake up, I pick up my phone, I scroll though Facebook, Instagram, Twitter with no real reason for it. That has to stop.

I don’t need to know what everyone else is up to all the time. I don’t need to see what other people are creating every single day. I don’t need to be constantly connected to the entire world. I don’t need to be picking up my phone every hour of the day. I don’t need to be feeling the anxiety every time a notification interrupts my day.

It’s been so long now that I don’t even know what my life looks like without social media. And now is the time to find out.

I want to remove the constant input into my brain to make space for output. I need to remove that constant influence and anxiety that channels into my mind, so that I have the room to think, and mull, and create.

I want to find out what I would create if I wasn’t constantly bombarded with other people’s lives. What can my brain really do?

I am well and truly into my mid-thirties and I need to know who I am now. I can’t do that with everyone else’s noise.

So today I will be deleting my Facebook account, unfollowing everyone on Instagram and Twitter, and removing all of the apps from my phone. I will keep my blog and my YouTube channel, but from now on I will be focusing on output. I will use digital channels only to create. I won’t be thinking or measuring numbers.

I may or may not blog or vlog, I may or may not work on my photography, I may or may not finish my podcast episodes, I may or may not start writing the book I’ve had in mind for years.

I just need space and time. I’ve no idea how long that will be. And it doesn’t mean I don’t care about what other people are doing. But I do hope that if it works out I will come back with something better to offer. I’m hoping it will improve my wellbeing, it will nurture my creativity, and it will help me understand how to live and function in this drastically fast-changing world.

Thank you for being an amazing community over the past few years, and I’ll keep you posted with how this experiment goes.

x

P.S. If I’ve followed you on social media and you noticed I’ve unfollowed please don’t be offended. It’s not you, it’s me. I might re-follow people in the future. But for now, know that who does or doesn’t follow you has nothing to do with your value as a person is in no way linked to who follows you online.

Lots of love everyone!

 
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17 Comments

  1. 28 November 2018 / 11:37 am

    Bravo Elizabeth! I take it you’re keeping the blog online? Hope it all has a positive effect on work and life, always thinking of doing similar myself. Best of luck!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      28 November 2018 / 3:04 pm

      Thank you so much! And yes, I’ll be keeping the blog. I want to keep the options open for creating output. I just want to remove external influences of social media.

  2. 28 November 2018 / 11:40 am

    Elizabeth, as always you are ahead of the curve. I remember those heady days of Twitter in 2009/2010, in fact, I think that’s how we first met online.
    I too feel tied to it all as you do as it is linked to my income. I’m definitely pondering the meaning of it all though and you’ve articulated how I think many of us are feeling.

    Not sure if you saw this post from a while back but it’s interesting! https://www.rowdykittens.com/blog/2018/3/why-im-breaking-up-with-social-media

    PS- I’d really like to keep in touch, will DM you my number

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      28 November 2018 / 3:05 pm

      Yes! I’m pretty sure we met on Twitter back in the olden days. 😀

      I haven’t seen that post but I’ll head over and have a read now, thank you!

      Let’s deffo keep in touch. Thank you, as always, for being so supportive.x.

  3. 28 November 2018 / 12:45 pm

    Elizabeth, I can’t tell you how much I relate to all of this. I tend to pretty much ignore Facebook and Twitter, because I’ve never really enjoyed them, but I’ve just published a post today about giving up on Instagram: I’d got to a point with it where I felt like I couldn’t post anything unless it was absolutely *perfect* – and nothing ever WAS, because I’d scroll through my feed and just feel like crap, because everyone else seems to know the secret of taking stunning photos day after day, and I can barely get one semi-decent one a week. My problem is that the issue also extends to my blog: I spent almost a month redesigning the site from the ground up, and never managing to get it looking exactly the way I wanted, which made me not want to publish anything new. It became such a Thing for me that I was just going round and round in circles, feeling totally stifled by this imagined pressure to be 100% perfect… Like you, I can’t afford to just stop blogging, because it’s my livelihood, so I’m just having to work through it, but I would like nothing better to just delete it and start again, to be honest. So I really admire you for doing this – will be interested to see how it all works out for you!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      28 November 2018 / 3:11 pm

      Thank you! It’s good to know I’m not the only one feeling the pressure. I’m hoping that by focusing purely on creativity, output and what feels good to me will help move away from that pressure. We’ll see!

  4. Rachael
    28 November 2018 / 4:34 pm

    Gosh this is so interesting – because it’s exactly where I am right now too. I could have written that entire post. I intend to focus on blogging and leave my accounts (mainly to keep the publishers happy!) and just put out what I want to put out and stop feeling like I have to be A Thing.

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      28 November 2018 / 7:48 pm

      It’s so good to hear I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thank you!

  5. 28 November 2018 / 4:58 pm

    I’ve been doing something similar, I’ve ruthlessly unfollowed a bunch of blogger groups on FB, and created a private Instagram account where I only follow my closest friends. Loving it so far. It’s good to untangle our identity and self worth from our work (the thing that makes us money) because it’s unhealthy. I’m focusing on building an identity outside of social media too, and I regularly delete my social apps on the weekend. Good luck! X

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      28 November 2018 / 7:49 pm

      That’s so good to hear. I think if I do return to social media I might actively uninstall apps at regular intervals to keep a healthy relationship with my phone.
      Thank you!
      x

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      30 November 2018 / 10:25 am

      Thank you Chichi and so glad to hear you’re feeling the same. 🙂

  6. 29 November 2018 / 12:15 am

    yes! something has gone very wrong! Our lives have been made into content so businesses can sell through us. I found this podcast really interesting on the same thing https://bethkirby.com/business-finance-for-creatives/ I think you might find it useful, Shanna struggles with some of the same issues: that our lives are now content. She also manages to run her successful business without the need for social media like IG. She was knocking herself out creating photos etc for IG but seeing little return so she mainly focuses on Pinterest to drive traffic. That might be helpful while your trying to navigate running a business without social media.

    It’s become so toxic! People pushing themselves to post regularly regardless of the quality, so many people doing the same thing, then there’s the people making a killing when they’ve bought their following/used bots. It almost seems like utopia in the early days! I’ve been concentrating more on Pinterest and I’m going to learn SEO so I don’t have to use social media so much. I’m in my 40s and it gets to me, I can’t imagine the damage it must be doing to teenagers and younger. I could go on! But I’ll stop here, just know you are absolutely not the only one feeling this way and I so hope it helps and you start creating what you want to do Trona xxxx

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      30 November 2018 / 10:28 am

      Thank you Trona! I’ll deffo check out the podcast episode you’ve recommend, it sounds like a similar place to where I’m at.
      As it happens most of my traffic comes to my blog via Google or Pinterest anyway so I’m happy to continue with that. It’s the community part that I miss from the early days and it seems that social media gets in the way of it with it’s cynical algorithms.
      And same, I can’t imagine how damaging it must be to be a teenager these days.
      x

  7. Louise Chambers
    29 November 2018 / 7:08 am

    I think this is a really good move to preserve your mental health and start investing in life fully, I think you may find a gap in your time, but then you can start your creative wishes and soon some of your time will be filled with nourishing activities for your wellbeing and soul.

    one book I really like is L’art de la simplicite – how to live more with less by Dominique Loreau – a life inspired by oriental philosophy

    Enjoy all of your available and healthy time

  8. 2 December 2018 / 1:26 pm

    I’m sick of Facebook, to be honest. I joined in 2007 when I was living in Japan. It was a great way to stay in touch with my younger siblings and friends from back home. Then when I was back in the UK I could stay in touch with folk I’d met in Japan.

    But now I have SO many friends on FB. People I don’t connect with because I’d added the after knowing them fleetingly. No one really knew how big it would get. Hence, I’ve neglected my FB artist page, meaning if I want to do art sales it’s hard for people to know about it, plus I haven’t been engaging with prospective customers. I still think FB is very handy, but I had a recent sweep and got rid of people I hardly know or who’ve displayed revolting attitudes (yes, each to their own – but some things are beyond the pale).

    And I really hate the (occasional) vitriolic conversations I’ve witnessed. This EU ref has brought out the worst in people, I feel. The weeks afterwards saw people I knew engaging in classism (from both sides!) and sheer nastiness. Plus the racism and sexism. Only this week I reported someone for anti-Semitic posts. To FB’s credit, his profile was removed. So I guess that was good. 🙂

    On the other hand I do like Instagram and use it regularly. I don’t post anything personal on either of my accounts, just my art on one and photos I like that I’ve taken. And I’d like to focus my energy on blogging and building that up – after all, it’s my own work.

    So good for you taking the step! 🙂

  9. 15 December 2018 / 8:27 am

    Really enjoyed reading this, thanks for sharing! The ups and downs of social media eh!

    Are you open to being interviewed on an up and coming podcast? Of course subject to a few questions we like to find out first…

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