How do you know if someone has left a social network? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
I used to use social media, a lot. I’d check it as soon as I woke up and right before I went to sleep. I wouldn’t go anywhere without checking in and I’d constantly post updates and pictures throughout the day. If I was ‘offline’ for more than an hour, I would be worried I’d miss something. I was the guy who’d relentlessly share holiday snaps every day of being away (completely highlighting the fact my house was empty) and I’d also kindly share images of every meal I ate.
Unlike others, I didn’t land upon minimalism as a result of a personal tragedy or a sudden realization I had too much stuff. My journey into minimalism started with me initially addressing my Digital presence. I’ve always had a slight OCD tendency to try and keep aesthetically pleasing social media profiles. I’d go through previous posts deleting those that didn’t fit in with the ‘style’ of my images. I’d re-post certain ones that I feel didn’t get as many ‘likes’ as I thought it should, or I’d hide and delete status updates that were not in line with the way I felt I’d like my personality to appear. I’ve done that for as long as I can remember which really makes me question why I posted those things in the first place. Why didn’t that picture of my glass of Pinot complete with witty caption clear 20 likes? Why did I post that status about football that nobody really cared about and why did I get into an argument with a 12 year old on Twitter over the dab?
What kick-started my digital clear-out was the news my wife and I would be soon welcoming a baby into our lives. New parent paranoia kicked in almost instantly when it came to my media usage and history of life-logging.
How do I protect my social media content? Who will be able to see pictures of my child? How did I obtain over 500 friends without meeting at least 50% of them?!
I decided that the self-indulgent side of my personality needed a reality check and that it was time to readdress. No longer would I post pictures displaying every angle and possession in my home, nor would I ‘check in’ at every location I visited, mapping out my movements for all to see, and I certainly wasn’t going to be one of those parents that uploaded photos of their babies covered in food all over the web. I’d decided on that mantra, and going forward wouldn’t be a problem. What I did have to contend with however, was 10 years’ worth of excessive posting.
My 4,000 post Instagram account went first. I felt a total sense of liberation. Facebook soon followed, which prompted responses of “you’ll never get rid, you’ll be back in a week” and “how are we going to see pictures of your baby if you delete your social media?” which only further justified to myself why I was doing it. Mandy from a totally different office at work who I'd never met in person doesn’t need to see pictures of my child. It was a long process of false dawns, finding myself logging on and off again, getting no value whatsoever from the endless scrolling, but finding I was doing it out of habit. I eventually stuck with it and, despite the urges to let everyone know I’ve not disappeared, I’ve remained logged off and feel so much lighter for it.
The declutter mind-set has now seeped into other areas of my life that, without me realizing, I was unhappy with. I’ve started eating better and drinking less. I spend less money on material goods and I find real value from the things I do purchase, because now I do it with intent. I make time for my wife, son and friends more (one of them was sure I’d joined a cult) and I find it so much better having no distractions drawing my attention away. There are a lot of people I’ve lost contact with, but I’ve realized that the people who are most important to me are the ones that still find time to contact me and hang out. After all, I still have an iPhone and live in 2018—I'm not asking for pen friends.
I’m not completely damning social media; it does have its benefits. My mother lives at the other end of the country, and I’m sure she’s not as happy with my logged off stance as she doesn’t get to see me often. I just feel there’s so many split second moments in my son’s life going forward that I feel I would have missed if I hadn’t made this change—I’m glad I realized in time. I’ve learned to put my phone down and look up more.