12 Oct 2019
Over a year and a half ago, I deactivated my Facebook account, and a bit later I set my Instagram account’s privacy to Private. I figured I should write something about this.
Facebook and Instagram were negatively affecting my mental health.
There were two reasons for this: the algorithm-driven news feed, and the attractiveness of having an infinite source of content.
An algorithm-driven news feed meant that Facebook and Instagram were selectively choosing what appears on my feed.
It was very bad at it.
Important posts and updates by friends went unseen, while obviously false articles and images shared by distant acquaintances were shown. “But I posted it on Facebook” became a frequent response whenever I missed out on something. It was infuriating.
There was also the temptation of the app icon. Having an infinite source of content was attractive, and not in a good way. I found myself subconsciously launching those apps every time I had a downtime, just to be annoyed by the news feed even more.
In a sense, the algorithm did what it was supposed to do: increase view times and retention rate, reduce bounce rates, and encourage frequent use. It was just at the price of my mental health.
Cutting down on Social Media was a good decision, but it has downsides.
One downside is that you do lose contact with some friends. When everyone is on Facebook, actively opting to not use does mean actively opting to connect less with friends, and as an introvert it means that maintaining a friendship will take more effort.
Still, I’d say it was worth it. I feel more in control of how much I’m letting social media affect my mental health.
Twitter isn’t that bad.
I remained on Twitter throughout this time. I felt I was in control, and that I was able to curate my feed.
With “show latest tweets” enabled, it gave me a chronological timeline instead of selectively hiding posts. I could mute or unfollow anyone I didn’t want to see. I could turn off retweets if I still wanted to see their updates without seeing things they re-share. I had options.
On Instagram, I set up a private alternate account, and I only followed people I’m friends with. At the very least, I wasn’t missing out on posts from friends simply because there weren’t as many posts to show.
So, what now?
I’m writing this because I’ve decided to start using my Instagram account again. I feel like what I’ve learnt about social media would mean that I’m more in control this time.
I’m making some changes though:
I’ve disabled most push notifications.
Notifications distract and invite you to open the app (and once you do that, you’ll distract yourself even more).
I’m not obligating myself to post anything.
I used to feel a need to post regularly or even daily, but I’m not going to do that any more.
I’m not obligating myself to read anything.
Similarly, I’m not going to scroll down through my news feed and through stories until I’ve seen everything there is to be seen. Inbox Zero is for emails, not social media.
I’ll mostly be on Twitter.
I’ve been on Twitter for more than a decade, and it’s still the platform I feel most comfortable on.
I’m also going to posts anything I post on Instagram to Twitter too. Personally, I feel that you shouldn’t have to choose social networks: you should be able to use whichever platform you want to, but alas this is not the case.
That’s all there is to it. I’ll see you around on the Internet.