Much attention is given to adolescents and the amount of time they spend on social media, but what about adults?
It turns out that people between the ages of 16 and 64 spend significant amounts of time on social media, as well. According to a recent survey, the daily average in the United States is 123 minutes — a surprisingly large chunk of time when you consider that it is equivalent to one-quarter of a conventional work day.
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Social media refers to a broad range of communication platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and more. Social media can be entertaining and convenient for getting in touch with others, but it is not entirely benign.
Why People Are Deleting Social Media
These technologies (some more than others) are
- designed to be addictive, keeping users coming back for more
- responsive to users’ preferences, curating feeds to reflect what individuals want to see
- notorious for collecting personal data, a practice referred to as “surveillance capitalism”
These are just a few of the reasons why some people are choosing to delete their social media accounts and embrace a life beyond the screen. Indeed, it is becoming more common to move toward more private, targeted, and conscious communication with friends and family members.
Some parents are recognizing unhealthy relationships with social media in themselves after observing a technology addiction in their child.
There are real benefits to be had from choosing this unconventional yet rewarding path.
You Will Be Happier
Studies have shown time and again that social media can impede happiness. Users frequently come away from these apps with a sense of dissatisfaction with their own life.
Particularly on visual apps like Instagram and TikTok, it’s easy to compare oneself to others and feel inferior, despite knowing that the images are highly curated to project a perfect, idealized existence. (In other words, people don’t post pictures of themselves at their worst.)
Social media fuels a preexisting human tendency to assume that other people have a richer, more vibrant social life than we do.
Because these apps are so addictive, it’s easy to lose track of time. Often, people emerge from a virtual rabbit hole and experience what’s been called “the 30-Minute Ick Factor.”
Amanda Baughan, a graduate student specializing in human-computer interaction at the University of Washington, told Scientific American, “When [people] realize how much time they have spent, they have this sense of disgust and disappointment in themselves. Research has shown that people are dissatisfied with this habitual social media use. A lot of people frame it as meaningless, unproductive, or addictive.”
You Will Be More Focused
Part of social media’s appeal is that it provides instant distraction whenever there is a lull in the day. Studies confirm that social media is commonly used to fill empty time slots, such as whenever a person feels bored or needs to recharge mentally between tasks. This is far from ideal.
When it comes to performing cognitive tasks, those lulls that seem like “down times” are in fact opportunities for problem-solving and connection-making. They are a critical part of the work process, and if we allow ourselves immediately to shift mental energy toward scrolling on social media, we risk losing the trains of thought that can result in truly excellent work.
It’s said to take 20 minutes to refocus on a task after being pulled away from it. This fragmenting of attention has been called “time confetti” by journalist Brigid Shulte, describing the many seconds and minutes that are lost to unproductive and unsatisfying multitasking as we flit between our devices and real life.
Boredom — which social media tries to eradicate — is a profoundly fertile state, one that famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said is a prerequisite for creative, original work. Even Albert Einstein said that the daydreaming mind has a unique ability to link thoughts and generate fresh ideas.
Nothing kills daydreaming faster than social media, which is why deleting apps and the temptation they represent might be the best thing you ever do for your own productivity and artistic endeavors. You’ll have no choice but to let your mind wander.
You Will Set an Example for Your Kids
Parental example is the most effective tool with which to teach children how to live in the world. Without consistent modeling, it is impossible to convey a trusted message.
When it comes to social media usage, it makes sense for parents to model the same kind of restraint that they wish to see in their children — not only in terms of how it is used (think etiquette, discretion, and the kinds of posts being made), but also in terms of how much time is spent on the platforms.
If you delete your own social media presence, you will convey to your child that it’s possible to have a satisfying, informed, and socially engaged lifestyle without it, and your child may be more inclined to do the same.
You will also teach them that the number of likes, views, or comments received on a post should not correlate to one’s sense of self-worth or success. At the very least, you’ll be able to call out a child’s excessive social media usage and ask them to reduce it significantly without being hypocritical.
You Can Prioritize Relationships
If the two hours squandered each day on social media apps were spent instead on face-to-face interactions with close friends and family members, many people would feel much happier.
We know that people are feeling lonelier than ever, despite having larger social networks online. But those “connections” cannot possibly replace the physiological benefits that come from having real, tangible friends with whom to talk and make eye contact.
Scientists suggest that we only need between three and six close friends, depending on our personality. And a close friendship takes around 200 hours to develop, which means it’s a long-term investment that relies both on quality and quantity of time.
A problem with online friendships, too, is that they often lack the sincerity that in-person friendships have. An online friend can “ghost” another person as soon as the conversation gets difficult; they are not forced to respond immediately to the facial expressions or emotions conveyed by the other. In person, you cannot escape without being exceedingly rude — but that’s not a bad thing. It provides real support to the person in need of it.
By deleting social media, you will no longer be privy to friends’ regular life updates and will thus be more inclined to reach out to the people you truly care about in order to find out about their lives. You may find, too, that those catch-up conversations are far more interesting when all the information is fresh.
You May Become Less Materialistic
Social media, particularly visual-driven apps like Instagram and TikTok, does a wonderful job at making us feel terrible about our clothes, hair, makeup, meal choices, home décor, vacation destinations, baby gear, and pretty much everything.
Many “influencers” are successful precisely because they glamorize existences that, if we’re being honest, are unaffordable to the average viewer. It is a guaranteed way to make people want more, more, more, in order to feel like they’re measuring up.
You won’t miss what you don’t know. By deleting social media and refusing to expose yourself to the lifestyle creep that is inherent in so many posts, you are sparing yourself the temptation to upscale your look, your wardrobe, your home, your devices.
This will save you money, not to mention reduce demand for superfluous upgrades that overstretch the Earth’s resources.
Your Sleep May Improve
Social media (and smartphones in general) are notorious for disrupting healthy sleep patterns. Nearly one-quarter of adults check their phone during the night. And one survey of university students and hospital staff found that 70% of respondents check social media after getting into bed. (Fifteen percent of those spent an hour or more doing so.)
This isn’t great, since the blue light emitted from smartphone screens suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone that causes sleepiness. Not only that, but if you stay on it for a significant amount of time, that eats into your sleeping time, which, for most people, is already limited and extremely important.
Furthermore, if you feel agitated by what you see, whether it’s insecurity caused by comparing yourself to others or distress at negative global news, this could also contribute to compromised quality of sleep. It’s better not to check social media before bed — and best not to have it at all.
You’ll Form Your Own Opinions
Social media loves a herd mentality, with the most-liked and most-watched posts “going viral” and spreading furthest around the Internet.
With the added echo chamber effect of algorithms showing users content that they’re predisposed to like and that reinforces their worldviews rather than challenges it, it can be hard sometimes to feel as though you’re truly informing yourself and shaping your own opinion on a matter.
The Internet is a noisy place, but you don’t have to settle for that. Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism, asked in a recent New Yorker piece, “Why do we trust the wisdom of crowds to identify what’s interesting?” Get off social media, and it becomes easier to think for yourself.
Away from the flurry of “hot takes” and impassioned rants, you have the mental time and space to think deeply and critically about issues that matter to you. You can spend time reading books, reading longer-form essays and articles that offer nuance and balanced opinions, and listening to full-length podcasts.
Some people feel they can balance social media in a way that is healthy and rewarding, but for many, deleting their social media presence altogether is a refreshing act of rebellion against the status quo that offers tremendous liberation.
More on Enhancing Your Real Life Interactions
If deleting social media sounds appealing, here’s some inspiration to scratch the initial itch for scrolling.