Ditching social media for good?

Rob Pavacic

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I was truly active on social media. 4 years? Maybe it’s been 5.

It started with Myspace (can’t remember the year) and then Facebook in 2010 I think. I also had AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). Somehow I then managed to get a Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram, and a Twitter account (unused). After graduating from SUNY Binghamton in 2013 I created a LinkedIn account out of necessity.

Social media is a skill

The truth is, being active on social media was something I was never really good at. When I was younger though, it was really all anyone had. Everyone’s platform of choice for everyone my age was Facebook. If you didn’t have a Facebook profile, you might as well have lived on another planet.

In the beginning, it seemed fun and fairly simple. I was able to stay in touch with everyone I saw in school, after school without having to go over their house. However, for kids like me (introverts) who already found it difficult making new friends in person, I think social media may have exacerbated the issue.

Social media is all about building and maintaining your personal social network/s. However, if the connections are already weak in real-world, would they mirror that same weakness online? I’m not sure any amount of algorithms or network effects would encourage engagement enough to drastically change your own social circle.

The balance between social media and work

As I’ve grown older, social media became easier as I transitioned from one significant life event to the next. An example would be leaving high school for college, then transferring from one college to another college (then another college), and finally leaving college to pursue a ‘career’. Social media became easier because opportunity arose for my own network to both expand and contract on a large scale. In simple terms, meeting new people in active conversation become more and more frequent.

Quickly, it became evident that I was turning to social media more and more to mainly keep up with co-workers and colleagues, even more so than personal friends. The line in the sand for me was clients. While some colleagues were Facebook friends with clients, I made a point to only connect with them on LinkedIn.

Quitting Facebook and Instagram

I eventually became less and less active on Facebook and turned to Instagram instead. At the time I had been following this channel on Youtube called The NerdWriter who in this video covered my concerns with the evolution of social media really well. In particular, he references Instagram and Casey Neistat’s views of the platform at the time. Watching this again years later puts this video into perspective with how accurate it became years in the future.

Over time the allure of social media has definitely wore off. Having various jobs focused on SEO and its interplay with social media and being able to see behind that ‘marketing’ curtain has definitely played a role with my current perceptions. The psychological nature of the social media apparatus and how various features (likes, follows, subscribes) translates into biological responses in the form of dopamine. This video of Chamath Palihapitiya put it into perspective for me very quickly.

In 2017, I decided to shut down my profile on Facebook. This was around the time Facebook was going through their fair share of data privacy issues (ie. Cambridge Analytica). Having always been a fairly private person in the real world, I began to re-evaluate everything I did online starting with Facebook.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve deactivated and subsequently reactivated my Facebook from time-to-time. Mostly, it was to check in on old friends or to message someone. As time has moved on, this has become less and less frequent. There are two reasons that have stopped me in the past from fully deleting my profile was real:

  1. All of my posts, images and history is on Facebook. Their timeline feature was exactly that. Deleting my Facebook in some way at an emotional level feels like I’d deleting my own timeline. In the words of the fictional TVA, I would be ‘pruning’ it thereby erasing my recorded past.
  2. I would be decimating my own social network. But I guess deleting your network is just as bad as being inactive for months or years at a time. In the end they are sort of one and the same.

Turning to my website

For the longest time, I’ve had this idea that one day I could erase all of my social profiles and build out something on a website that’s entirely custom. It wouldn’t be subject to any algorithms or weighted rankings.

I think my website is now quickly becoming an amalgamation of my life in long-form posts. It could be designed in a way that removes the worst parts of social media. No likes. Just comments and discourse. A much more personal iteration of a blog.

The only problem I see is the lack of network effect with something like this. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit all thrive off of onsite engagement beyond just ‘comments’. In the end, it is clear that real world relationships are built atop connection through conversation, not just likes, follows, or swiping up/down/left/right. Social media does a great job at masking already weakened connections until the rubber meets the road. Their respective feedback loops keep network effects intact and their users coming back to their platforms despite how strong or weak pre-existing user connections are.

If I chose, I guess my site could feed into any one of these popular platforms automatically. Not sure if I want to go that far. Maintaining some distance between those platforms might be for the best.


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