My exit from Facebook and Instagram was for ethical and safety reasons: about women; about children; and about challenging the norm.
For some time I have listened to women of every age share how Facebook and Instagram stir up emotions of anxiety, depression, overwhelm, low self-worth, comparison, not feeling good enough, loss of self-confidence, lack, a failure.
Many women find that they get stuck in the space of comparing themselves and their lives with others – personally and in their business – and that freezes them into inaction. Many others are now labelling themselves as having social anxiety.
How come they keep scrolling then? How come they gather up the courage to delete the app from their phone, for a week or two, look up, breathe a little easier, start to find some fun and start to feel great, then get sucked back in?
How come they are soon back scrolling from their first visit to the loo in the morning until lights out at night?
I watched the 7.30 report (link below) featuring Task Force Argos, which, in collaboration with overseas police agencies, has rescued thousands of children from abusers in their war against online child exploitation. The documentary Children in the Pictures is worth watching to understand more.
Facebook is stated to employ 40,000 people globally to work on safety and security.
Facebook has spent $13 billion in this area since 2016.
Facebook are the most significant contributor to the National Centre for Missing and Exported Children. They have unveiled plans to expand end to end encryption for its main messaging service – preventing third parties and police from obtaining conversations that could become evidence in their investigations.
Doing the maths, employing 40,000 people globally to work on safety and security wouldn’t be 1 person to every pedophile now would it! It’s a very, very scary big problem and our kids are at risk. Very often it was shared that the children once caught up in the web, are shamed into not telling anyone. I know that silence often leads to tragedy.
In 2020, I watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma”. (LINK to YouTube trailer) where tech experts from Silicon Valley sound the alarm on the dangerous impact of social networking, which Big Tech use in an attempt to manipulate and influence. It set off my internal safety alarms that what is happening on social media isn’t right, that it’s gone way too fast, is beyond the majority of society’s understanding.
Yet it understands us all far too well. As a coach of women at that time, I sat with the idea of do I stick with my marketing plan and continue to post positive, inspiring, educational and entertaining material; or do I step away.
I stayed, because that’s what you do!
Since then, I observed the power of Facebook and Instagram governing who will be shown what post or what feed, based on what they know we do every hour we are on a screen. The couple of issues around privacy breaches that arose and were forgotten about.
As a small business, early on, I was an early adopter of Facebook and created a business page in 2008. At that time it was a novel new place to showcase the good news, for free. Now everything within Facebook and Instagram come at a cost. There are billions of advertising budget dollars being poured in by the likes of Amazon flooding feeds, intuitively knowing what you want next.
What was I doing there? Where were my clients coming from?
Interestingly, they have all come from word-of-mouth referrals, from networking events and mostly via my Google business listing. Maybe once or twice from Instagram.
I wondered am I contributing to the problem or can I do something different and see where that leads me?
In my earlier incarnation as an entrepreneur, I’d created, grown and sold a multimillion dollar business pre-social media, aside from the original community-spirited feel that Facebook had in 2008.
I asked myself what am I not seeing, doing or thinking like anymore, because part of each of my weeks I had to tend to my social media presence, at least 3 posts a week, with the right hashtags, at the right time, in all the right places?
I was at the tipping point of making a decision.
Social media, and my own focus on it, and the distraction it caused to me, as a woman, wife, mother, and as a business owner both during and outside of business hours, was making me annoyed.
It was also triggering my old feeling of lack of safety from my childhood experiences that I had come to understand better since writing my memoir.
Feeding the machine, that I didn’t fully understand, wasn’t in alignment with who I am now; and how I want to live my life; nor how I want to run my business.
That safety alert feeling: I don’t know who, at any given time, is scrolling, searching, and looking at my content. There were people I saw showing up as followers that I’d never choose to do business with, let alone have a coffee or a drink with, nor provide a response to their ‘how are you lovely’ messages.
The balance of safety and social vs sharing to keep up with the Joneses and creepiness are out of balance. It worried me that whilst I’m tuned in to that, how many other people, of all ages, are putting themselves at risk.
In any situation, only I can choose where to from here. No one else has that responsibility for us as adults. No one else can tell you to be a role model. Only we have the control or influence over our own personal choices and the way forward.
The words Susan you’ve got more creativity and resourcefulness to put to use elsewhere were running through my mind and getting me excited about quietening first, and then finding a new space, to see where I would find new pathways.
Then, watching the 7.30 report featuring ARGOS in early October 2021 (LINK to YouTube) and since then, watching The Children in the Pictures (LINK to SBS on Demand)
I decided to find and then hit the DELETE buttons.
On 20th October, after posting a 4-day final farewell post to my friends, family and followers, I deleted my personal and business accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
It wasn’t easy in my mind, which intrigued me. I had to contemplate every connection, the business groups that were worthwhile, events that I was now not going to see posted by those who communicate solely with posts and emojis. Let alone be invited to any events any more.
Then there were all those photos I’d put into albums of our trips, anniversaries, loved ones since past; weddings and family gatherings over the years that I enjoyed seeing pop up as memories – they’ll be gone too! How can I do it!!
They’re still on my phone and in the backup drive.
How would I keep consistent communication with those that matter, not just give a lazy tap on the screen, to check out the daily Instagram stories about what good stuff was going on… the fun stuff, never the normal stuff, of course.
The social media machine does not make it one simple-step out the door.
Facebook deactivate or delete.
If deactivating, you will still have messenger. You can keep your messenger and you can reactivate when you feel ready for more. Deactivating keeps us still in the system. So, to delete, completely eliminates the account and messenger. Facebook has a delete button in the settings section, and it was deleted immediately once pressed.
Instagram to the naked eye gives you the option to temporarily deactivate your account within the edit profile section. Not delete.
I deactivated the account. A login screen popped up. I thought is there a next step and clicked that. It told me ‘welcome back’. I attempted to deactivate again and received the message it is only possible to deactivate once in a 7 day period, try again in a few days.
I eventually found this very helpful article via Business Insider (LINK to article with the link to click into your own menu – so helpful – is here). It took me to the Instagram deletion menu.
I deleted my account.
To which, Instagram responded telling me that in 30 days time my account will be deleted permanently, in case I want to return.
I checked what was going to be visible to followers in that 30 day period via my husband’s instagram, and it showed a message I’d not yet posted anything, all my posts were gone; and it had changed my profile details back to one that was maybe a year or two years outdated and the follower count was a really different number to what it had been now.
Why? Who had it dialled the follower list back down to?
I wondered was it so I show interest if I chose to ask or look up the FAQ about that and they’d catch me in a loop of maybe not 100% certainty and keep at me? I left it as it was and haven’t been back since.
Pinterest – it was another cog in the wheel of distractions.
Having to remember to post there as well as Facebook and Instagram. How it remembers the last thing you searched for so you’re bombarded by that in future viewings. So that was a no-brainer. Pinterest has a delete account button. Effective immediately.
Since my deletion and the quiet space that has ensued, there was an interesting podcast episode on The Joe Rogan Experience: Episode #1736 – speaking with Tristan Harris, the former Google design ethicist, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology, talking about social media and ethics.
Another article posted on the abc.net.au/news website (LINK) about a woman, Kate, who had faced years of abuse on social media. She says it’s time platforms did something about it.
IS THAT REALLY THE PROBLEM?
Smart Phones and apps, the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, are man-made gadgetry. We have a choice how and whether we use them or not, don’t we?
Imagine a world where more people deleted Facebook and Instagram, and then more. What would that do to the quality of connection across our dinner tables, our family unit, wider circle of extended families and friendship circles, our communities, workplaces, country or the planet?
WHY ARE WE CONTINUING TO SCROLL?
Without even going Googling that question, I guarantee there are many psychological, and all kinds of other research, posts, videos and data, let alone some really intelligent conversations going on via podcasts, that do answer that question.
IT’S ABOUT ASKING BETTER QUESTIONS
One of my go-to mantras is see things as they are. To do that I know, as a coach, it’s always about asking better questions. Asking the better questions we are not wanting to answer, if we’re honest. Then waiting for the deeper buried, honest answer to come can be the tricky part too. For that it’s worth having a session on the 7 Whys I run through with all my clients in establishing what it is that they truly want. It never stops to amaze people what their true desire is beneath their first attempt at stating a goal.
Improvement is possible only through our capacity to reflect, with honesty, and to do that we all know there are better questions we need to ask.
Here are 20 questions to contemplate:
- What does staying on social media give you?
- What does the idea of deleting, not deactivating, your social media profiles raise for you? It might be a worthwhile exercise to drop a few lines of those thoughts or the list of concerns onto a piece of paper. (Note: I’d be happy to talk through that with you – you could use one of my free 30-minute discovery chats I offer via this booking button)
- What would you miss out on?
- How could you make sure you don’t miss out on an event, birthday etc?
- What would you find that’s nourishing, soul-satisfying, better connection instead?
- What value does clicking onto Instagram or Facebook add to the minutes of your day?
- How many times per day do you click onto them?
- How long do you spend in there?
- How often are you thinking about what’s being posted even when you’re not looking at the screen?
- As a business owner, how much time are you spending distracted by what to post next on social media, how’s your current post going, what are others posting… how much return-on-investment (ROI) are you getting for every second you spend contemplating social media as part of your business? You’d need to know the value of your hourly rate as the business owner to work that out.
- Where else would you do business if social media fell apart, got taken down, no longer existed?
- What principles or values do social media not meet for you personally?
- What does it give you – whether good or bad, it gives you something to keep going back?
- As a business owner, what other avenues do you use that gives you income already?
- Where did your current or past customers come to you from?
- How do you communicate most often: verbally, written sentences, memes, emojis?
- Do you believe you have social anxiety? What’s caused it?
- When was the last time you rang someone to wish them a happy birthday?
- What other avenues are fun ways to re-establish authentic connection with family, friends, community – both in your personal life or business?
- We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. If something is addictive – it’s worth questioning what it is giving you? What emotions are you numbing that you want to numb by scrolling?
Answering even 5 of those, what would be the chance now that you would investigate the impact of social media on your life? Would you comfortably go and tell your friends and family that you’re deleting your accounts and for what reasons you’re doing it?
For me, I might find that I’ve completely shot off both of my feet in business by exiting these platforms. Maybe short term, but that doesn’t scare me. I do know there are alternatives and far better ways to use my time to really do business. I also know that living authentic to my core values is more important than conforming or following the crowd.
I know for sure that I’ve won back quality thinking, planning, project, personal and valuable action time.
In deleting the apps from my phone I took the opportunity to restyle my phone screens to be only what I need: a phone, my banks, maps, camera which I no longer need to use to continuously think ‘what can I post’, oh, and the weather and rain apps. Now the only reason I’ve got to take my phone everywhere is to log in for Covid, if I’m heading indoors. It no longer gets packed for an early morning beach swim or coffee by the river.
Making the shift of mindset can start in all kinds of small ways.
I did this for me, for my own reasons, aware that by continuing to show up as a role model with my head buried in a screen, what message are we giving to our children? If mum or grandma is talking to people in there, it must be safe, right? When hashtags were my thing, one of my favourites had been #thekidsarewatching
Try to give yourself a higher level of boundaries that serve you better.
What can really happen? It helps you to get creative in how you’ll communicate with people that matter, how you’ll use your time differently. I’ve contacted those I love to say ‘hey I’d like to keep in contact one-to-one, if that’s OK with you?’.
This move or shift is in alignment with my work as a trainer and coach.
A choice between staying stuck in the victim centred drama triangle way of operating in life that is what social media really is at its core; or choosing better choices that are about me knowing there’s more, and being, doing and having what’s most important to me.
Leave behind operating from a reactive, anxiety-fuelled problem-centred way of living and thinking that social media keeps us trapped and activated within, that keeps us coming back for more.
Instead, walk towards the passion-fuelled, outcomes focused, magic-making creative and resourceful ways of living life, that are much more gratifying than playing and staying small, squinting into our smartphones.
I’d love to hear your thoughts or how you go with making the shift, should you be choosing to do so.
Please don’t hesitate to share this post or to reach out via the Contact form below and let me know.