What You Need to Know Before You Quit Social Media

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

From privacy violations to mental health concerns, there are 101 reasons to quit social media. I took the plunge a few months ago by deactivating my Facebook account, and I’ve generally been happy with my decision. But, there’s one thing that I wish I had been warned about beforehand: When you quit social media, it will take much more effort to maintain your relationships.

Over the past decade, social media has become our central hub for all of our relationships: friends, family members, and coworkers all form our social media networks. Many of us don’t even realize how much we have relied on these sites to preserve these connections.

We use social media to text and talk, to stay updated about life events, to plan parties, to share photos, and even to find new relationships.

When you leave social media, you regain your privacy and can improve your mental health, but you also risk severing connections to people you care about.

I’m reminded of a day about seven years ago, before I ever had a Facebook account. I was at my brother’s apartment and he invited me to tag along to the birthday party of a mutual friend. I wondered why I hadn’t been invited by the friend directly.

As I thought about it, I realized that this was a common occurrence with other mutual friends as well. I’d always get invited along with my brother, rather than hear about the parties directly. I felt embarrassed and self-conscious. Did these people that I thought of as my friends all secretly not like me that much?

No, my brother explained, it’s just that they had planned all of their events through Facebook. Whenever they hosted a party, they would simply create a Facebook event, then run through their list of Facebook friends and click “invite” for everyone in the area. They weren’t intentionally avoiding me; I was getting forgotten because I wasn’t on social media.

My brother put it succinctly:

I had resisted social media until then, but I finally gave in. My brother was right. As soon as I joined Facebook, I started getting all my invites directly.

There’s no going back to the way things were

Now that I’m back to being Facebook free, I’m remembering how hard it is to keep your connections strong without the crutch of social media.

I moved to a new city recently, so with or without social media I wouldn’t be going to many parties, but I have seen my relationships suffer in other areas. I’ve had a harder time keeping in contact with friends, and I’ve noticed that I’m getting most of the news about my extended family through my mother, rather than the family members themselves. I’ve also realized that I don’t even have current contact information for some of my friends.

It’s not that it’s impossible to maintain relationships without social media, it’s just that they take a lot more work. Before leaving Facebook, I should have spent more time planning how I would keep in touch with people after I was gone from the site. Even a step as simple as getting everyone’s current phone numbers would have been a good idea.

The biggest problem with leaving social media is that most of the people you know are probably still using it. You might be ready to leave Facebook behind for phone calls and letters, but your friends and family likely aren’t on the same page.

Remember the time before Facebook, when everyone would call each other with big news and invitations? Don’t expect to magically return to that style of communication simply because you’ve quit social media.

Your friends who continue to use Facebook will keep posting their big news on it, and they’ll keep using it to plan parties. Sometimes, they’ll forget that you’ve left social media, and you won’t hear their news at all. It’s not that they don’t care about you, it’s just that many of us are so accustomed to communicating through social media that we forget there are other ways.

When you quit social media, you’ll be the odd one out. Expect to take on an increased share of the effort required to stay in touch with friends and family. Otherwise, it’s easy to be forgotten.

So, should you quit social media? By all means, yes! Delete Twitter. Quit Instagram. Deactivate Facebook. But before you do, make sure you have a plan in place to maintain your relationships.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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