At the end of 2018, I deactivated my Facebook account, and then fully deleted it in 2020. That was a big deal to me since I lurked on it a lot and occasionally posted on it. It was also one of only ways I sorta kept in touch with distant people from my past, e.g., high school classmates and far-away relatives. Losing the ease of those connections felt sad at first, but perhaps not more than a month later I came to terms with it.
I still had lingering social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Blind, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Quora, but I was never anywhere nearly as into them as I was Facebook. Regardless, with the exception of LinkedIn, I kept them around so that I could more easily lurk on them a few times a year without running into those "Log in to the app!" modals. For Instagram specifically, it was my last means of maintaining far-away connections similar to Facebook, but with a lot less drama. For LinkedIn, I had an additional professional motivation to keep that account around, but as a result I have found myself lurking on there a lot more than a few times a year.
What I did
I recently finished Cal Newport's Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Among other things, it inspired me to take the plunge and delete my accounts from Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Quora. Yay! I saved what I wanted from my Twitter account and my Instagram account (privately) before deleting them. There was nothing useful to save from my Quora one.
I kept Blind is at is somewhat professionally useful, albeit toxic.
Even more professionally useful is LinkedIn. However, given that I still lurked on it a lot more than was valuable, I decided to log out of it on my phone browser. To further discourage lurking from my remaining accounts, I deleted my Blind mobile app and signed out of that and Reddit on my phone browser.
Why I did it
Beyond inspiring me into wanting to engage in deep work and a more intentional life, Deep Work elucidated some addicting and toxic characteristics about social media that made me icky. They made me icky because I know that I fell for them myself.
One icky thing was this social expectation that connections had to like and/or comment on each other's content, no matter how low quality the content is.
I'll pay attention to what you say if you pay attention to what I say--regardless of its value.... This agreement gives everyone a simulacrum of importance without requiring much effort in return.
Another was the principle of allowing these sites to regularly access my time, attention, and personal data prevented me from doing so many other worthwhile things. That led to the reminder that these sites are no more than advertisement platforms with us as the products.
Finally, Newport quotes another author, Michael Lewis:
"It's amazing how overly accessible people are. There's a lot of communication in my life that's not enriching, it's impoverishing.
The benefits, such as maintaining those far-away connections, monitoring (honestly) people's lives for important events or gossip, and finding like-minded people all without much effort, do not outweigh the cons for me.
none are important enough to what really matters to you in (your social life) to justify giving it your time and attention.
Newport does not argue that everyone should quit social media (even though that's his clickbaity chapter title) if the benefits are valuable to you. He gives examples of folks who need the platforms to advertise their work (though also counterargues that the time spent advertising could instead be pivoted to... more deep work :) ).
To assess whether you should quit social media, Newport proposes that you take a break for 30 days and then answer these two questions:
(1) Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
(2) Did people care that I wasn't using this service?
My answer to both these questions was a resounding "no", without needing to take a "break" as I already don't use social media that much to begin with.
In summary, I still have LinkedIn and Blind accounts. I don't think I can get rid of LinkedIn for as long as I am a working professional, but I can probably depart from Blind when I get to a point where I fully don't care about engaging in the tech rat race. As much as I wish to not admit it, I still care to some degree.
As leaving Facebook was so beneficial for me in terms of getting rid of distractions and toxicity in my life, I am very optimistic the same will be true for the above departures. I'm glad, 4 years since I left Facebook, that I haven't been nearly as dependent or addicted to social media, so the gains or room for improvement will be less compared to before. Nonetheless, I still lost time to these lingering accounts, and I don't want that anymore. "spring cleaning", including the digital space, is always a refreshing reset.