What is it like to quit social media?

I completely dropped social media four years ago. Deleted Facebook. Deleted Twitter. Shut down the blog.

I was a power user. I cultivated an online presence. (It felt like) people wanted to hear what I had to say.

And then I decided to pull the plug. 100%, full stop.

I was ready for the fallout. I was ready for the text messages and phone calls. “What happened?” “Are you ok?”

Instead, what I got was silence.

It kind of reminded me of the scene in Bettlejuice, after the Maitlands try to frighten the Deetzes at the dinner party by having them sing and dance to “The Banana Boat Song.” Afterwards, they’re just looking out the window, waiting for the Deetzes to come rushing out.

“Any second now.”

With the exception of a handful of emails over the course of the first year, most folks didn’t seem to notice.

For the most part, pulling the plug meant more time, less distraction, and less frustration. Sure, there were opportunities I may have missed, people I failed to meet, and certainly interesting things I didn’t read as a result. But honestly, I enjoyed the break. Most people will admit that they feel locked into it at this point and they can’t escape.

Pulling the plug and taking some time allows us to reset the relationship.

The truth is, when it comes to social media and whether you’re on it or not, nobody really cares. The thing people notice most about social media is their own presence in it – not the lack of someone else’s.

It’s not going away, but you can choose how you participate.

By the way, if you’re curious about why I pulled the plug in the first place, sign up for my newsletter. I lay it out.

Facebook is America Online in the 1990s (in some parts of the world)

Last week, I heard two different variations of a theme making the claim that Facebook is the internet in differnet parts of the world.

Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa, during a discussion on the weaponization of social media in the Philippines:

[in the Philippines] “Facebook is the internet.”

Source: Lawfare podcast

She went on to talk about how 100% of Filipinos are on Facebook.

And then from author and broadcaster Nina Schick during a similarly themed podcast.

“Facebook became the internet in Burma.”

Source: Making Sense podcast

This could just mean that this idea – that Facebook is the internet for other parts of the world is a meme or talking point, but it clicked with me as something that could be true.

It is important to think about the different contexts in which “the internet” exists across different regions/cultures. The internet that I experience is different than the one that you experience, and more so than the one that people living across the globe experience.

This idea made me think about dialing up to America Online in the 1990s. Logging in, being greeted by “You’ve Got Mail” and then choosing a domain to explore – News, Arts & Entertainment, Games – that was “the internet” for me and many others during that time in the United States. Yes, there was a wider “world wide web” that you could go and explore if you were brave and knew how to navigate it, but it was much more comfortable to explore the walled garden of America Online. 

How much time does a user spend on Facebook versus exploring the wider internet? Especially in a place where “Facebook is the internet?”