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.
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.
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.
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.
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.