Off the Grid

Off the Grid

by Alannah Hurley

Recently, I did what some would call unfathomable, what some wish they could do, and what some have already done – I quit social media. At first it was hard not having that constant entertainment at my fingertips, but it also felt as though a burden had been lifted. I’m not as anxious, distracted or worried as I was before. I’m not constantly checking up on everyone else’s life but my own. Instead of scrolling through social media, I send printed photos of our family to my grandma and mom, and I pay more attention to my husband and daughter. I read more books, write in my journal, and make time for engaging activities and well-cooked meals. It’s only been 2 weeks since I quit. It’s astounding how much time I was truly wasting on social media. How much time are you wasting?

The average time that users cumulatively spend on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger each day, is nearing an hour. “That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours). It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes). It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).”

According to Cal Newport, computer scientist and author of the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, social media is a form of entertainment that can be harmful to a person’s success and well-being. Cal believes that more people should quit social media because it is not a fundamental technology and it is not necessary to sustaining, or even bettering life. The benefits do not outweigh the risks. He claims that social media is purposefully addictive and can often cause a person to feel inadequate and anxious. He also mentions that by checking social media multiple times a day, a person can permanently damage their ability to concentrate because it fragments their attention so frequently.

Social media can also put people at risk for home and privacy invasions. “According to a study out of the United Kingdom from Credit Sesame, approximately 78 percent of ex-burglars use Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook to identify properties with absent homeowners. This includes people that use location-enabled status updates or pictures to identify when they are at work or on an extended vacation.” Facebook is also constantly data-mining personal and/or private information for their own benefits and gains. Data-mining, “is being used to power everything from advertisements to news feeds to active manipulation of users’ emotions. The difference is that only Facebook itself can conduct societal-scale research using its data, such as how parents and children interact or how women communicate online or how emotion spreads.” Regardless of how or where it is being used, personal data is being taken because people are freely giving out their information by uploading it to social media.

Social media can cause a person to miss out on moments that matter most. “One of the costs, is that we lose out on enjoying some of the most enjoyable moments of our lives. When we’re at a graduation, at a wedding, at a birthday, these little celebrations that are meaningful to ourselves and to others, we put something between us and participating. It’s often a phone. We think about it as if we were a viewer from afar, rather than jumping in with both feet and being part of it. We give up that experience.”

I know that I have cheapened many experiences in my life already, because I was too busy with social media to allow myself to fully experience a moment. I quit social media because I don’t want to look back at my life 20 years from now and not be able to comprehend just how many hours I wasted. When I look back, I want my memories to be so rich with experience that it brings me to tears. I want to have memories where I took the time to smile at a friend or a stranger when I passed by, instead of looking down at my phone. I want memories of my children and I jumping on a trampoline and baking cookies instead of having memories filled with worries about the perfect picture or post. I want a life free from the distractions of unimportant objects or entertainment so that I have more time to focus on what matters most. My family.

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