Unplugged, or why I quit social media

My routine has been the same for several years now: wake up, turn off my alarm and browse through Facebook while my mind’s fog dissipates and I mentally prepare for the day ahead.

When Facebook first started to get popular (and I remember when this happened, I’m almost 29 years old after all), that was a perfectly acceptable way to spend the first few minutes of your morning. After all, ads weren’t a huge part of the early Facebook, so it was mostly just informative posts about what your friends were up to that day and if anything sad, exciting or happy had happened to them, which was why I enjoyed social media in the first place.

And then, somewhere along the way, things began to change.

Suddenly, I was adding people to my ‘friends list’ I had only met once or twice. Shortly after that, I was allowing follows from people I had only heard of but never actually met.

Then the ads started to come, ads that were suspiciously specific to my tastes and personal views, which genuinely freaked me out because the only way Facebook could have gotten that information is if Amazon and/or Google were allowing them access to my search preferences.

Then it continued to get even worse. People on my ‘”friends list” began posting intentionally false statements or articles they had located on the Internet, articles that served as satire but were often misconstrued as truth because of their appearance.

Certain people began to leave negative comments on other pages that expressed views different from theirs, and since we were “friends,” that comment linked back to me, giving me a view of someone that, it turns out, I didn’t know as well as I thought I did.

After a few years, Facebook and other social media outlets had become a hateful, disingenuous pool of people verbally attacking one another and providing themselves with soapboxes on matters they had very little knowledge of.

I began to become angry every single time I would open up the application on my cell phone. Some celebrity had done this, some sports hero had fallen from the graces for doing this; it all became too much. But for some reason, I couldn’t just turn away from it. Like a horrifying car accident on the side of the road as I drove by, I simply had to steal a peek.

I found that browsing social media had become a large part of my life. Whenever I was bored, I would simply open up Facebook and wallow in the horrifying nature of human beings for a few minutes, then move on with a shake of my head.

What disgusted me more than anything was that fact that, while browsing Facebook, I knew there were better things I could be checking with my cell phone at that time. I knew I had the National Public Radio (NPR) application, the Associated Press (AP) application and the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) application as well. I could easily shutdown Facebook, open up one of those applications and begin getting my news directly from the source; enriching my life instead of making myself angry.

So then, one recent morning, it finally occurred to me that I didn’t have to put up with this sort of nonsense. All this time I wasted making myself angry on Facebook, I could be reading a new book or getting ahead of my homework. Honestly, I could have been doing anything else in the world: something that might actually make me happy. So, I unplugged.

I woke up one morning and began turning every application off. I started with Twitter, then Instagram, then Snapchat and then finally, to cap it all off, Facebook. I turned every account off, deleted the applications and put my phone down on the counter beside my bed, a weight off my shoulders and some time on my hands.

From that point on, I began to use different applications on my phone when I was bored, NPR and AP mostly. Anytime I found myself bored and needing to waste a few minutes, I’d open one of those applications and get my news from, you know, a real news source.

Days into my endeavor and I can genuinely say I don’t miss social media at all. I don’t miss my old morning routine of checking Facebook or Instagram, and I certainly don’t miss getting myself worked out over trivial matters. I picked up a new book,  I knocked out my homework a couple days in advance and I began talking to more people around me.

I had another moment that made me feel even better about my decision as well. One morning I went outside to let my puppy use the yard, and while waiting for her to finish her business, I went to open up my phone and check my social media accounts, only to remember I didn’t have them. So I put the phone in my pocket and did something I haven’t done in a long time: observed.

I looked up and down the street I live on and just noticed everything around me. I noticed the cars parked outside the houses, the quiet in the air in the early morning hours and the coolness of the breeze that graced that morning. It was truly a feeling of finally becoming “unplugged.”

So noting my accomplishment above, I’d like to propose a challenge to the student body: unplug yourself for a few days. Lets go ahead and say three days, turn off your social media applications for three days and see how you feel about it. Maybe you’ll have an experience like mine, or maybe you’ll hate it. Either way, give it a chance. You never know what you might notice once you’re unplugged.

Matt Eidson is the Opinion Editor of The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]