I deleted my social media accounts. I still have friends, I promise.

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This month’s post is written by David Lawless, a financial planner in Houston, TX. You can contact him via email at dryanlawless (at) gmail (dot) com.

Two big disclaimers for your consideration before I dive in:

  1. This applies to how I used/consumed/interacted with social media. When I say, “Twitter was a waste of time,” I mean that Twitter was a waste of time for me. Don’t yell at your computer or email Blake and say, “Actuallyyyyyyy I use Twitter for keeping up-to-date on current events and follow my favorite pastors. It’s so good for me and everything David says here is wrong.” Just look at your computer and say, “This worked for David. That’s great. I can live my own life and do things different. That’s okay. I’m so happy for David and glad he did a thing that he feels makes his life better. I’m going to follow what I feel is the Lord’s calling and conviction in my life and David’s might look different and also I need to stop talking to my computer and using run on sentences when I do so.” I hope this might challenge you to ask some questions about how you use/consume/interact with social media. Deleting all social media may not be the answer for you, and that’s super great. We can still be friends.
  2. This isn’t that hard. You can definitely do this. Not everyone needs to, but if you feel like it is something you should do--then you definitely can. There are so many insanely hard things we have to deal with in this life, and deleting social media accounts is not one of them. This is not a Christian or holy or Biblical thing to do. This is what I felt the Lord was telling me to do because he knew it was best for me.

Alright, let’s do this.

Based on the title, I think you can figure this out. But what did I do, exactly?

It’s very similar to the title, but--for clarification--I deleted all of my social media accounts other than my Myspace and Xanga accounts because I couldn’t find them (I really hope you can't find them either). This included Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.

Was it hard to actually get them all deleted?

Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram were pretty easy from a logistical perspective. They’ll send you about 150 emails asking if you want to join back up. Twitter and Instagram also are set up so that if you just log back into your account in the first 60ish days, everything will pop back up. It will be like you never left, so you have to watch out for that temptation. Facebook was wicked smart and had multiple different sites link to their own as a means for logging in and identity verification (like Venmo and Spotify), so deleting that one was the toughest. After I de-linked the other sites from Facebook and set up new accounts, it was pretty quick.

Post-deletion, how has it been with friends? How could I possibly have any since I deleted my only means of keeping in touch with any of them?

I guess if this were actually the case, it would be extremely tough.

But this isn’t what happens when you delete your social media accounts. I have the same friends I had before. None of them cut me off because I didn’t have an Instagram account. I call people to update them more often. I catch up with people when I see them, and I get to hear about all the fun events they posted about. It has deepened my conversations because I wouldn’t have any idea what is going on in their lives if we didn’t actually talk. They get to tell me all about their lives and experience me actively listening and caring. As for important events, whenever I hear about a birthday or an anniversary or anything that needs celebrating for others, I add it to my Google Calendar.

So I don’t have friends and I am going to be lonely forever. Backing up for a second, why did I do all this in the first place?

About two years ago, I wrestled internally with the fact that the things I said were priorities in my life and how I actually spent my time were misaligned.

I spent too much time doing things I didn’t want to do and, ultimately, weren’t beneficial to me. I wanted to make a change. I made a couple lists to help sort this out. My first list was of my priorities. Everything I valued and wanted to be a priority in my life went here including God, my wife, my family, friends, evangelizing, volunteering, work, sleep, working out, reading, and a bunch of other things. Once I created that list, I ordered the list starting with what I thought was most important to least important.

I then made a list of how I spent my time, ordered from most amount of time to least. I used my calendar and spent a few days paying close attention to how I spent my time to make sure the list was accurate. I didn’t worry about getting it down to the minute. I just wanted a good baseline of information to review. I then compared the two lists.

As you might imagine, there were gaps. I had been allocating too much time to watching Netflix, scrolling on social media, paying attention to sports, and being on my phone. I had been allocating too little time to investing in the people around me, reading, volunteering, and spending quality time with my wife. This led me to start working through action steps on how to better align these priorities.

One of the main action steps I took was to delete all of my social media accounts. There were other even better steps I took for my overall health in relationships like asking better questions to those around me and spending more intentional time with my wife. But deleting social media has been great.

What did I originally use my social media accounts for, and did I do anything to replace them?

Facebook. At some point in college, I think Facebook was useful for me. I don’t remember why, exactly. Toward the end of my Facebook’s life, I used the site to scroll through and inevitably get annoyed at people's opinions about anything and everything. It brought me down. Not many people my age I’m close with still use Facebook frequently enough to call it a tool for keeping up with them. It was nice to have Facebook link to other sites to sign in quickly, but signing in with Google is usually just as quick.

Twitter. This one was a big time suck for me. Twitter was my source for world news, sports news, amusement, and (early on) posting inside jokes with friends. While the content was generally not an issue, Twitter greatly feeds my desire to be in-the-know and-up-to-date on everything.

I could spend hours on there just scrolling. This came down to a time issue. I spent time scrolling when I needed to be more present around people or doing something that was more productive and beneficial for me in the long run. Now, once a day, I check Vox or CNN for news, ESPN for sports, and Wall Street Journal for anything business related. It takes me about three minutes to scan headlines and see if I need to flag anything to read later. I save a ton of time here, and my desire to be in-the-know has vastly decreased. If something is important enough, it usually makes its way around to me somehow. The only caveat here is that during Hurricane Harvey, I did re-download Twitter and create an account to follow weather and Red Cross updates. I am from Houston and served in the area at the time.

Twitter’s ability to report news real time and from multiple sources is unmatched in our current time, and it is really quite incredible. That being said, anyone can say anything on Twitter without being fact checked.

Instagram. This one can be tricky.  My initial rationalization for keeping it was to stay up-to-date with important events in my family and friends’ lives. I used to think I’d see something on Instagram and actually text or call someone from the feed and catch up. While there is nothing wrong with this motivation, my use of Instagram didn’t really end up serving this purpose.

Instagram became a source of discontentment and another way I wasted time. Wasting time scrolling through friends’ photos and wishing I was somewhere else became my reality. People can use this well if they set guidelines for how often and in what ways they use it, but at the time, I thought the best idea was to go ahead and get rid of Instagram. As for catching up with friends, it happens like it always had. I ask about things when I see them, or I get texted the photos I need of my nephew or friends going on adventures.

What positive effects have I seen this change have on my life?

I didn’t spend an obscene amount of time on social media before I deleted the accounts, but pretty much every second spent on it was a waste for me. Now that my social media accounts are gone, I have seen three major benefits.

  1. I'm more present in conversations than I used to be. There’s no pulling away from conversations to scroll through Twitter or Instagram. Because I don’t have a tool to see or hear about what is going on, I’m required to be more intentional in reaching out to people through calling, time together, and letters. I keep a mini-schedule in my journal of people I want to connect with. Each time I write or call one of them, I add the date and any prayer requests they had to my journal. The intentionality and effort behind doing this feels so much more real and genuine than connecting with them on social media. When I talk with people, I want them to feel like I am listening and that I care.
  2. I have more time on my hands to do things I care about and value. I have replaced the time I spent on social media with reading books and articles, spending time with friends and family, and having more intentional conversations. I have read more books since deleting social media about a year ago than in the last 10 years combined.
  3. I’m more content and less frustrated. Discontentment and annoyance are two of the main things I allowed social media to infect me with. We definitely need to fight against the power of sin, including discontentment and annoyance, because we can feel them with or without social media. Reducing the amount of time I spent being exposed to things that tempt me into discontentment or anger has been helpful in my relationship with the Lord, my family, and my friends. I can live more fully in the moment and love exactly what I’m doing.

What are the downsides I’ve noticed? Because the other day the Taco Bell Twitter account informed the world of a day they were giving out free tacos for a few hours because a road team won an NBA Finals game. Seems like I’m missing out on very important information. Do I hate tacos? Do I hate free things?

First, the order of things I love in this whole entire world outside of God, my family, my friends, HOPE International, YoungLife, and Laity Lodge Youth Camp goes like this:

  1. Free Taco Bell
  2. Regular Taco Bell
  3. Mountain Dew Baja Blast from Taco Bell
  4. Other Miscellaneous Free Things
  5. Taco Bell (again, just for good measure)
  6. Camping (when I know we will eat Taco Bell afterwards)

As for downsides, I haven’t really experienced any. I got fake yelled at twice because my friend wanted to tag me in a funny Instagram photo, but they ended up texting me the photo instead. One time, I didn’t know that Paul George got traded until four days after the trade. Some guys looked at me like I was crazy, but I survived that one as well. I store all my photos in Google Photos, so if an event happens that I attend and someone else takes a picture, I just ask them to text me so I can save it. The date and location are automatically logged.

So, I deleted media social media accounts. Was there anything I felt I wanted to change by doing this but didn’t?

Deleting your social media accounts will not make you a productive and disciplined person. We live in a world with endless entertainment options. If you want to absorb mindless entertainment, you don’t need social media to do it. On the days or weeks when I let my guard down, I can get lost in sites like ESPN, Wikipedia, Reddit, or kill entire seasons on Netflix or Hulu. Finding ways to waste time is easy, and it’s what the lazy version of me wants. I frequently need to re-up on my promise of intentionally using my time well.

I have found two simple tactics to help keep me on the right track. I told quite a few people about what I was doing for accountability, and I deleted any apps off my phone I could use to mindlessly waste time. If there is easy access, I’m much more likely to be distracted. I also knew that if I told a few mentors and friends who wouldn’t let me lie about what I was trying to do, they would keep me accountable.  

What are my overall thoughts on this adventure for other people who are looking to use their time better?

As I wrote in the disclaimer at the beginning, this move is what made sense for me. It may not be the right answer for you. The process of going through my priorities and ensuring I’m spending my time on things that matter was hugely beneficial and I recommend it. Each of us have things that are pulling us out of the real world and away from the real people around us. We need to be asking ourselves what those things are and see if we can get rid of them. Social media will suck your time and your emotions if you let it, but there are healthy ways to use it. To have a good relationship with social media, protect your time, protect your heart, and use it well. If you don’t or can’t, then you might want to consider getting rid of it.

Photo by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash