Stilling the Waters: How Quitting Social Media Saved My Life

I still remember creating my Facebook account during my sophomore year of college. It was a timely and convenient way to make new friends and keep up with an increasingly distributed social circle. In the intervening years, Twitter became an indispensable way of keeping up with global news and trends, and Instagram served as a wonderful guilty pleasure. I was hooked.

Social media served me well when I moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2012. I had been self-employed for a couple years and was fully embracing the nomadic lifestyle—my work was online and my clients didn’t know or care where I lived. For the most part, social media allowed me to feel like I was still “connected” to everything familiar.

But my perspective has shifted dramatically over the past year. You see, in January of 2015 I launched this magazine in response to the growing concerns I had around racism in America and the shameful ways in which black men were and are portrayed in the media.

Social media made it easy to find the activists, writers, journalists, and organizations whose work I sought to amplify, but in following and connecting with them, I had inadvertently curated endless streams of black suffering and trauma for myself. Devastating news was being funneled into my brain and spirit 24/7—the first thing I saw when I woke up, and the last thing I saw when winding down at night.

It was unhealthy. The more deeply entrenched I became with the echo chamber of outrage and PTSD that is Black Twitter, the more bleak things appeared. It was nearly a year ago that I recognized the situation for what it was: depression, fueled by my social media habits.

So I quit. Everything. Every handle and hashtag.

And after a few weeks, the fog started to lift. I replaced the auto-playing videos of police violence with important documentaries. I replaced mindless Twitter scrolling with quality articles from curated newsletters. I replaced consuming the latest viral hot-take with the important books that I had been meaning to read.

The change has allowed me to think more clearly about how I want to show up in the world, and this has unlocked creative insights that previously seemed out of reach. My business has taken off, I’m writing and speaking more frequently, and my mental and emotional health have never been better.

It’s hard to overstate how consequential eliminating social media has been for me, but you don’t have to take my word for it. A growing body of evidence is extolling the benefits of pulling the plug. If you’ve done the same and it’s worked out for you, I’d love to hear about your experience.

But you’ll need to send me an email about it.

This article originally appeared in my friend Lisa Nicole Bell’s newsletter. Lisa also had me on her popular podcast, Behind the Brilliance, back in May.

By willie jackson

willie jackson is an inclusion strategist who empowers thoughtful organizations and the leaders who run them.