Should you delete social media? That’s the wrong question.

Is this better than scrolling through Instagram?

When I was 21, I asked the wrong question: Should I delete social media?

I had plenty of reasons; rescue my attention, stop social comparison, connect with people more deeply, blah, blah, blah. You know, the usual.

And so, after some contemplation, learning about the attention economy, and getting angry enough at social media, I deleted Twitter in 2017, and spent three years blissfully disconnected from it all.

Then, I got hooked on reddit.

I didn’t even have an account. I reasoned that if I didn’t have an account, then it didn’t count. I spent hours lurking Reddit, mostly, and ironically, on subreddits like /r/nosurf and /r/digitalminimalism.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Although an anonymous forum is very different from the likes of Instagram or Facebook, the reason behind my pathological and compulsive internet use remained: The alternatives sucked.

All the time, attention, and focus I saved when my Twitter feed vanished left me hungry. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was bored. To be truthful, I was boring. Or maybe, I didn’t know any better. Potato, potato.


If you spend hours a day on social media, then the problem is as much Instagram’s lovely addictive mechanisms as it is, well, there are no better alternatives. More accurately, the alternatives require so. much. more. effort.

If you think quitting social media will automatically translate to, let’s say, connecting with people deeply, well, I got years of days spent on Reddit to tell you about.

Relationships online are easy.

I can spend 1.5 seconds watching a Story on Instagram and signal that I care about someone— Instagram will say, hey this person watched your Story, or I can even send an emoji reaction. A few seconds, in the comfort of my bed, probably watching a show in the background, and I’m connected. Thank you, Instagram.

Try a phone call: it’s always kind of a drag at first: ‘Hey, girl…’ ‘Ugh, the rain…’ And, by the end, ‘You know, marriage is just hard…’

Try hanging out in person. The effort it takes to pick a time, a place, then force yourself not to cancel last minute because it’s Saturday and you’d rather not leave the house, and oh, the initial small talk; but the small talk needs to happen for the big talk. Who wants to get to the restaurant and the first thing they hear is, “Gosh, I sometimes can’t stand my wife.” Whoa, the menu looks good, what are you ordering?

On social media, you can wake up and start your day with, ‘I can’t stand people sometimes *insert eye roll emoji here.* Just like that, and it takes almost zero effort.

I wonder if people in the far past of no internet felt just as much discomfort with real life connection? Compared to what?


Blaming the tool(s) is scapegoating.

It’s easy to say ‘ugh, everyone is on social media and won’t talk to me,’ than to text someone to hangout, then do everything it takes to make it happen.

Think about it, everyone wants to be connected, so what’s the hold up?

Effort.

Who doesn’t want to connect deeply with people? Who doesn’t want to word-vomit on their friend about life problems? It’s, at the very least, cheaper than therapy. But it takes effort; to pick up the phone, to pay enough attention, to handle the lulls in the conversation, to say goodbye.

Real life is hard. Social media is easy.

So, instead of, should I quit social media?, the question should be, what effort am I willing to make?


I say all that to say, my Instagram was schedule for deletion this month, and I was scheduled to write Why I Deleted Social Media.

Instead, I realized I’ve learned to love the effort real life requires.

I prefer picking up the phone and calling to hear grandma’s voice, or the endorphins of a long walk, or the laughter of reminiscing about being young and stupid with friends, or finishing up a cross-stitch of a ladybug (also, my friend patiently explaining how-to cross-stich over WhatsApp) over being on Instagram.

Are those things better than scrolling through Instagram? That’s still the wrong question. The question should be: is this what I want to spend my time doing? Yes, because it feels better.

Do you think I’d rather scroll through Instagram for hours than those alternative? Nope. And I can still post my ladybug cross-stitch on Instagram if I want to.

Until next time…

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Published by Mehret Biruk

(re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world.