How quitting Facebook improved my wellbeing
There’s no doubt about it. The last 12 months have been extremely strange. Here, Ellie explains why social media seemed to make just that little bit worse, why she’s gone almost cold turkey and how you can, too.
Social media has played a pretty significant role over the last year compared to most, in ways we may have never even imagined.
As we continue to battle a global pandemic, for some, it’s been their only solace during weeks of isolation and a way to socialise with friends at a time when we couldn’t meet up face-to-face.
But, for others, it’s become a place of fear and anxiety, where all the terror in the world has tessellated into one never-ending newsfeed of doom (interspersed with Grandma’s slightly inappropriate geriatric-life-related memes).
For me, it was somewhere in the middle.
On the one hand, I was so grateful to have some way of talking to friends and family who, as it became increasingly clear, I probably wouldn’t see for a good year. On the other hand? Seeing new chaos, pain and people arguing every day had started to take its toll.
It wasn’t making me feel good and this was, essentially, the result of ‘doom scrolling’ – consuming large amounts of negative content without pause.
Putting wellbeing first
When I got home for Christmas, having finished all the essays and assessments I had due in 2020, I decided it was time for a change. I was going to cut out Facebook.
There was a slight advantage to the timing of this decision as, with uni out of the way for another term, I knew I wouldn’t be looking for distractions every five minutes while pretending to write an essay.
There was also going to be more to do at home: a family member to chat to about the latest Netflix series, a brother to play (and beat) at Mario Kart, or maybe even a mince pie that needed my undivided attention.
Nonetheless, I knew there would still be moments when I woke up in the morning before I mustered the courage to actually leave my bed, or moments during dull films that I’d want to kill by aimlessly scrolling through Facebook.
But ‘no more’ I told myself, and bravely closed the app for the last time.
Dealing with temptation
It did take a bit of willpower to steer clear of that enticing and self-destructive little blue ‘f’ on my home screen at first. But, as the days passed, the more I realised how much I didn’t need it.
I left birthday notifications on so that I wouldn’t forget the birthdays of a few extended family members, and I allowed myself to keep using the Messenger app so I didn’t cut myself off from my friends entirely.
But there was no more doom scrolling. No more aimlessly scanning Facebook, getting bogged down in people’s arguments or endlessly reading about bad news.
While I don’t think it’s necessarily right to be ignorant of the world’s problems (I still had news headlines set up on my phone), it was a relief not to be permanently thinking about the carnival of horror that was so much of this last year.
Finding peace in the turmoil
Since dropping Facebook, I’ve found I’m much calmer and less on edge than I was a few weeks ago. Yes, I’m also going to be a bit behind on the latest trends and memes, but I’m very much okay with that.
There will be time to catch up if I want to and, now we’re back to classes, I’m trying not to go back to my old Facebook habits, even when I’m looking for distractions from essays.
It’s been quite a grounding experience and has helped me to take better control of the information I’m absorbing, as well as notice the real world around me more.
I won’t boycott social media altogether. Like I say, I use it to talk to friends and family, and, on things like Instagram, I make sure to only follow pages that inspire me to climb more mountains and create more art, anyway.
How to take your own time back
My experience has been hugely beneficial for my mental wellbeing, and it could be for yours, too. So, if you’ve been feeling a little on edge every time you use social media, just try spending less time on there.
If deleting all of your apps is daunting, though, don’t go cold turkey and get rid of all of them. Maybe start with the one you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through the most.
For example, you can uninstall Facebook, but keep Messenger like I did, and you can even find apps that allow you to block social media if you’re struggling to stay off (but still need the birthday notifications to avoid disappointing friends and family).
Social media definitely has its benefits, but I think we might all start feeling better if we spent a little less time scrolling and a little more time on the things that make us feel good.