Something Even Better | A Coaching Podcast

Six reasons to quit social media in 2022, and maybe even FOREVER (gasp!)

November 29, 2021 Stacie Mitchell Season 3 Episode 5
Something Even Better | A Coaching Podcast
Six reasons to quit social media in 2022, and maybe even FOREVER (gasp!)
Show Notes Transcript

In this week’s episode, Stacie deep dives into the research behind why 2022 is the best time to quit social media, maybe even forever. And even if you're not ready to full-on quit, this might convince you to cut back!

She digs into 6 main reasons it’s time to quit:

  • Social media is unethical. Full stop.
  • We all want more time, yet we won’t give up something that takes up a ton of it: social media.
  • It’s destroying our mental health and we don’t even know the longer term consequences.
  • When you quit social media, you increase your ability to focus, create, and deeply learn new concepts.
  • When you quit social media, you can focus on creating and maintaining your real-life relationships and community.
  • Consider what you want your legacy to be for your life.

You can find tons of resources and the studies cited over and over on the blog. 

Sign up for January’s How to Break Up With Your Phone Book Club before December 19th! Only 10 spots available! 

I don’t sleep next to my phone.

I bet some of you feel anxious just thinking about NOT having your phone next to you at all times. I’ve even read memes joking that people who don’t sleep with their phones nearby just don’t care what happens to their loved ones, like we’re all just supposed to sleep next to our dinging phones with one eye open, just in case we’re needed at 2 am.

I’m not emergency services though, and neither are you. And my friends and family can wait until I wake up in the morning for me to read their messages and memes.

I have an alarm clock on my night table that I’ve had for probably close to 20 years now. Around 8 or 9 pm every night, I put my phone away in my office and don’t touch it again until I’m taking my dog out for a walk in the morning.

But even though I’ve kept my night time and sleep sacred, something shifted when I started a business and started marketing it on social media. I found myself reaching for my phone more and more often. I noticed I couldn’t focus very long anymore. Even during movies, I’d be looking for a hit of dopamine by checking my likes or DMs. 

I struggled to focus on my work and felt my creativity slipping away. I began reading less, even listening to music less. I got bored more easily. When I’d think of something important I needed my phone for, I’d find myself opening social media instead and wondering what the heck happened. It was like my phone had turned me into a zombie, blindly reaching for my phone and not even knowing why. 

It’s like sleepwalking through life, not being present to what’s actually going on around you, and only focused on the world that’s unfolding within that tiny screen.

I even started to be harsher with myself and my appearance, I began to notice I didn’t have perfect skin texture and I had fine lines -- which no one else seemed to have. Not because it was the actual truth, but because everyone uses filters and it started to warp my reality. 

I feel super weird saying all of this, because quote “I’m not one of THOSE people” - the ones that get obsessed with likes or their appearance or who try too hard to impress people online or who get sucked into compare and despair.

Except: we ALL are those people on some level. These apps have been researched and designed to hold our attention and to make us come back for more, because when they hold our attention, they can better sell to us and learn more about us. That’s what they were created for, not for actually helping us communicate and stay in touch.

They prey on our brain’s weaknesses - our need to be liked and accepted, our love for dopamine and its addictive quality that keeps us coming back.

And that’s why I’m taking a break from social media in January. And maybe even...forever.

And that’s why today we’re digging into my top six reasons to quit social media and why I believe it’s so important.

Social media is unethical. Full stop.

Social media apps are created to be addictive and prey upon human weakness. These companies know they’re creating addictive features and do it on purpose because they’re selling your attention. 

They purposefully create dopamine loops -- like a slot machine -- that keeps us coming back for more and more over time. 

Notice how often you check your phone. That happens because your phone is like your own personal slot machine - will there be a reward? Will you “win” with a new like or new notification?

They’re also making you work for free. If you’re a creator on any social media platform, you’re working for free with no guarantee of any payoff and no ownership of your platform or followers . They could shut you down tomorrow and unless you know someone that works there, you’re basically screwed. It happens every single day.

I recently finished watching Season 2 of Evil, and in one episode, Kristen is having dreams about cheating on her husband. And ads start popping up with sites to have an affair - even though she never searched for it. And she very carefully asks her colleague Ben why she might be getting ads for something she definitely never searched for. He replies that online companies are increasingly good at predicting behaviors that seemingly have nothing in common with each other. 

This is my own example, but when you’re a 40 year old married woman, which they probably know from all the data they have on you, and you start searching for sexier underwear, they can start connecting that data with all kinds of possibilities. And how creepy is that?

And if you’ve ever had one of those moments where you and a friend mentioned a ski trip, and suddenly you start seeing ads everywhere for the ski resort, let me tell you why. 

Facebook and Instagram are tracking us a lot more closely than you think. And while they promise they’re not listening to us, what they’re actually doing is still super creepy. According to several articles on the subject, Facebook compiles and cross-references loads of data on you based on where your phone has been, who you’ve been with, what you’ve been searching for and buying, what you post, the hashtags you use, the locations you tag...you name it, they use it to try to figure out what ads to serve you and how to predict your behavior.

In fact, Jaron Lanier, an American computer scientist who founded the first company to sell VR goggles and wired gloves, has a book on Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and his first argument is: You are losing your free will. 

And I do wonder if it’s true: Facebook’s algorithm is constantly mining your data to understand exactly what you need to see at that moment to make you take an action, like buying something or staying on the app longer. They can use all this data they have at their fingertips to figure out how to keep you hooked and buying.

I’m just going to get real with you all, Facebook does not care about your privacy or your free will. If the Cambridge Analytica scandal taught us anything, it’s that. And in case you’ve been under a rock, Cambridge Analytica mined the data of 87 million Facebook profiles without their consent for the purposes of political advertising, specifically in the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Facebook was fined 5 billion dollars by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019. And yet, I still have a Facebook profile, which makes me feel a bit ashamed honestly.

I get more worried about Metaverse and virtual reality and all of us sitting at home like a scene from Ready Player One -- which you all should read if you haven’t already. 

I don’t want to experience life from a screen, I want to experience the real thing.

Okay, my second reason to quit social media:
We all want more time, yet we won’t give up something that takes up a ton of it: social media.

The average American spends 3.5 hours on their phone every single day. 

That’s almost 25 hours a week. 53 days a year. You could write a whole book, take up daily meditation, take a class, take a walk, take a nap!!!!

That’s a heckuva lot of time for something that has been proven over and over and over again that it’s REALLY bad for us - both as individuals and as a society.

Reason number three to quit social media:
It’s destroying our mental health and we don’t even know the longer term consequences:

The evidence continues to grow that social media is linked to depression. In many studies now, there is a correlation between how much time we spend on social media and our reported levels of depression. 

Social media use may also increase our perceived social isolation, especially in young adults, which basically means you feel lonely and like you don’t have support. I think there may be some FOMO in this too. It makes me think of Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?” which I’ll admit I’ve felt while scrolling social media.

In fact, a 2018 study showed that social media IS linked to FOMO, and another study linked FOMO to compulsive social media use and fatigue that could lead to increased anxiety and depression. There’s also some evidence that passively using social media -- scrolling but never interacting or posting yourself -- could be linked to increased social anxiety. Not to mention that there are studies that link screen time to higher anxiety, period. 

Recently, I read an article that doctors globally are seeing an increase in sudden-onset Tourettes-like tics in teenage girls. An August 2021 study shows us that sudden onset of unexplained tics now accounts for 35% of tic disorders -- it used to be about 1%. But what’s weird, the tics these doctors are seeing all seem really similar, which gave them the clue that it wasn’t actually Tourette Syndrome. Instead, these tic-like attacks are actually thought to be a movement disorder brought on by stress and by spending too much time on social media where they’re seeing tics displayed, especially on TikTok.

Unsurprisingly, there’s also research that higher social media use is linked with lower self-esteem. I would say I have pretty high self esteem but if you remember back to the introduction, even I sometimes struggle with comparing myself to the images I see on Instagram. 

While I’ve gotten past comparing myself to actresses or models, it’s all too easy to see a friend using a filter and even just subconsciously think I’m not nearly as pretty as they are. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen ever in real life, but in real life, I can see the full human being in front of me, without any filters or poses or anything else.

Okay, on to reason number four...
When you quit social media, you increase your ability to focus, create, and deeply learn new concepts:

If you’ve noticed that you just can’t focus as much as you used to be able to, it might be because of all of your time spent on social media.

Social media and other digital distractions have the ability to literally change our brains. Its use can change the way we process memory and has been linked to memory deficits. And in a 2019 study, Americans were found to check their phones an average of 96 times a day, that’s once every 10 minutes. Think about that: being interrupted every 10 minutes. And the way that social media is designed basically trains our brains to be looking for new, shiny objects to distract us, and can even affect our ability to pay attention.

And I could be wrong, but I suspect that our ability to deeply focus will soon become one of the most coveted skill sets on the planet. If most of us are on social media losing hours a day to scrolling, what happens to the people who opt out and use that time to really learn something new, or write, or study, or even just nap? Will they stand out as the calmest, smartest of all of us? Will they be the ones to drive innovation? 

One of my favorite authors Cal Newport seems to think so. And in his book Deep Work, he says, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” And I happen to agree with him.

Something that’s kept me from wanting to leave social media is the idea that I’ll stop learning new things, which is a totally ridiculous concept. That’s why we have books, and courses, and blogs, and podcasts. And when I stop pretending that I’m really learning -- when what I’m actually doing is consuming whatever is put in front of me by an algorithm, I can choose what I want to learn and have both the time and focus to not just learn but to apply new concepts. I get worried about being “out of touch” but what if being on social media is keeping me from truly understanding the world around me.

Reason number five to quit social media...
When you quit social media, you can focus on creating and maintaining your real-life relationships and community.

I used to spend way less time on my phone. Before I had a business, I was on social media a little, but not all the time. After I started my business, it started to feel constant. If I wasn’t on Instagram, I was thinking about what to post on Instagram. 

And most of my spare moments were spent scrolling on Instagram or watching Stories. So much so, that my husband started to complain, which is super embarrassing to admit.

He’d even say I wouldn’t listen to him or respond when he asked me a question, which as someone who wants to be a good partner and friend was really upsetting to me. And yet...I kept doing it.

It’s so common that researchers have actually named it phubbing: snubbing someone for your phone. One study even found that more than 17% of people phub others at least four times a day.

I’m going to ask you a really important question: How many times do you miss what your family or friends say because you’re too focused on your phone? 

I’m embarrassed by how quickly I’ll reply to my Instagram DMs when I really need to take a minute and call my sister or my parents or my friends. This isn’t the kind of person I want to be.

Could you use just some of the time you spend on your phone to do the things that actually increase your quality of life like get outside more, volunteer, spend time with friends or family where you’re fully present? These kind of activities are way more likely to lead to more happiness and contentment than staring at your phone.

And the sixth and final reason to quit social media...
Consider what you want your legacy to be for your life.

Do you want loved ones to say, “she sure had a pretty Instagram feed?” Or “they always shared the best memes?” I’m going to say, probably not, but...maybe that second one? Ha!

For the past few years, I’ve used the Cultivate What Matters planner, and every year there’s a question that’s something like, “What will you wish you had done with your life when you’re 80?” And I know for a fact that I’ll wish I’d spent more time enjoying my actual life and the present moment, instead of always looking at a screen.

There’s also quite a bit of research that is connecting higher levels of narcissism to increased social media use. There’s been a pretty strong connection seen with grandiose narcissism - an unrealistic sense of superiority - that increases with the time spent on social media, the number of posts and tweets, and how often you post selfies. 

And I’m just going to come right out and say it: I don’t want to be a narcissist - that doesn’t usually make for strong, connected relationships. Now, the research is complex, so I want to be clear that if you’re posting a ton on social media, that doesn’t automatically make you a narcissist. But the idea that I become more and more self-serving and self-centered, even just by a tiny fraction of a percent, with the time I spend on social media...it just doesn’t sit well.

And something else that goes under this reason about legacy: when you lessen your addiction to your phone, you also protect others because you’re not tempted to text and drive. 90% of drivers admit to using their phone behind the wheel, and it’s dangerous. You are literally putting your own life and others’ lives at risk so you can check your phone. An accident CAN happen - even to you, yes, YOU - so please just stop.

And let me finish with this:

Every day you use social media, you’re selling your attention -- and your information -- for free to social media platforms. How else do you think they know exactly what ads to show you at exactly the right time? 

And if you’re a creator, you’re literally working for these platforms for free.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to break free from the tiny little screen that steals away my presence, my peace, and my time.

And even though I spend less time on my phone than the average American (I’m still at a shameful ~15 hours a week! UGH!), I feel so much of my time slipping away from me each day. 

I find myself numbing out every night to the glow of the Instagram scroll and then wondering why I’m not creating more, reading more, or even just relaxing more.

This isn’t what I signed up for when I created my first Facebook profile back in 2004, back when it was only available to college students and 7 years before I had a smartphone.

I just wanted to connect with my friends, and pretend I was smart by saying that my favorite books were smart people books, ha!

But truly: Think about what you most want for your ONE life. What’s the legacy you want to leave behind? And when you find your answer, just consider: maybe it’s time to quit social media forever? 

But even if NOT forever, I think there are plenty of reasons to quit social media for a while, even if it’s just a few hours of being phone-free every day. 

Podcast - not for blog:

And now an opportunity: 

I’ve decided to host a book club for the month of January for How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. I’ll also be taking January completely off from social media. 

Now, before you all stop the podcast because that is way too anxiety provoking to consider. Hear me out. 

You don’t have to spend your January completely off of social media if you don’t want to, even if you join the book club. This isn’t a challenge with super strict rules. I’ll send along my recommendations to help you lessen your use of your phone and social media, whether you want to go cold turkey or you just want to moderate how much you’re on your phone. In fact, there’s research that shows that just constraining your use can be really helpful. 

So if you’ve been nodding along with me throughout this episode, I want you to join us. I’m capping the book club to 10 people, and it costs $15 to join. You’ll get a weekly email with my own experiences, additional resources and tools, and journal prompts to help you apply the book to your life. 

And on January 30th, at 3:30 pm Eastern, we’ll meet via Zoom and have a good, old fashioned book club discussion. I’ll bring the agenda and the discussion prompts, you bring your favorite blanket and a drink. 

If you want in, you can head over to staciemitchell.com and click on the announcement bar at the top of the website for the book club. Or you can find the link in the show notes. The deadline to join is December 19th, if there are still spots available.

I’d love to help support you and give you back your time and your peace in the new year. 

And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a couple of your friends. This is honestly the absolute best way to help me add more listeners, and I really appreciate it. 

And if you want links to all the studies cited here, go to staciemitchell.com/blog to read this as a blog post there.

Thanks again for listening and happy holidays!