I’m writing this so people I’ve met through social media get an answer to the inevitable, “Hey…where’d Jesse go?” question. But I’d love to know if you’ve had similar thoughts to mine! Please feel free to stay in touch via email at [email protected].
At its heart, this is a personal finance article. Because our main resource in life is not money; it’s time. And I want to reclaim my time. So let’s dive into my reasons for quitting social media.
Social media wastes too much time. It’s true for creators and consumers alike. I’ve sent ~19,300 Tweets from my blog’s Twitter account. Since social media reared its head in the mid-2000s, no doubt I’ve spent thousands of hours on it.
To what end? Yes, there’s been some good. I’ve met fantastic people, shared with them, and learned from them. But it’s like saying, “I’ve met some golden souls at the crack house. Great folks with plenty of worldly wisdom.”
That’s not a good reason to smoke crack, guys.
According to Statista, the global average usage is 2.5 hours per person per day. That can’t be good for humanity. I no longer want a part of it.
Social media is addictive (by design). If you haven’t seen Netflix’s The Social Dilemma, it’s worth your time. The documentary shows how social media “nurtures addiction to maximize profit” by “manipulate[ing] people’s views, emotions, and behavior.”
Addiction. Hey – another crack analogy! Manipulation. This is the underpinning of social media. I don’t want to subject myself to it anymore.
Social media hacks dopamine. This is how social media addicts us. It hacks the dopamine system in our brains to the point that not using social media seems boring. In other words, it changes our humanity.
I can’t sit silent and read a book for 10 minutes without a thought seeping into my head, “Hey – maybe you should check your phone?” I’m ashamed of that. I feel like a kid who can’t control his compulsion to eat the marshmallow. My attention span is gone. And I’m not alone.
That hunt for dopamine – more likes, more Followers, etc. – compels us to do dumb stuff.
I’m writing this as we return from our honeymoon in Vietnam and Thailand, so this is fresh on my mind. We witnessed an appalling number of tourists in Southeast Asia doing shitty things for social media photos. Sneaking cameras into forbidden Buddhist temples. Blocking long waiting lines to ensure a perfect photo background. Recording contrived videos made to look candid and spontaneous.
Sometimes unethical, sometimes immoral, and usually plain stupid. This is how we act because we’re addicted to magical internet points. I can’t make them stop. But I can choose to not partake myself.
Social media interrupts deeper work. Clearly, social media wastes time. But like a train leaving the station, I need time to get up to speed into “flow state” or “deep work.” Every social media visit makes it harder to work hard.
Social media is a rat race. I know creators who spend 8+ hours a day on social media (mainly interacting with other accounts, as a means of getting noticed). Some even hire assistants to help. The more your accounts grow, the more time is required to continue growing. The faster you spin your hamster wheel, the harder you must work to maintain it.
The filters for expertise are far too noisy. Who adjudicates expertise anyway? Social media is making that question harder to answer. The main reason is that the metric of merit of social media is follower count, which can easily be hacked.
I’ve been asked questions like, “But what’s the real difference between Roth and Traditional accounts?” by self-proclaimed “money experts” with 50,000+ followers. How can an expert not know that answer?
Real life demands we show our expertise. But on social media, all you need to do is talk about it until others believe you.
Social media is low-quality and repetitive. Originality is shockingly rare. But, again, that’s by design. Because even slightly complex messages fail to provide the quick hit of dopamine that keeps users coming back. The system rewards simplicity.
My most-liked Tweet ever reads:
Sure, it’s a good message. But it’s been said a billion different ways before, like saying, “Use the bathroom? Wash your hands. It’s a good idea.” Not exactly earth-shattering.
In fact, many content creators deliberately repeat the same simple messages over and over and over. They intentionally kowtow to the dumbest common denominator. Again, that style of content captures the most eyeballs from the most users.
Social media promotes audience capture. “Audience capture” is a self-enforcing feedback loop where an audience rewards a creator for a particular message, thus encouraging the creator to repeat that message.
One of the more mundane and grotesque examples is YouTuber Nick Perry, aka Nikocado Avocado. Perry’s first foray into YouTube saw him sharing his two passions: playing the violin and promoting veganism. But there wasn’t a big audience for vegan violinists.
Desperate for more viewers, Perry betrayed his passions and began recording videos where he eats disgusting amounts of food while chatting into the camera. That’s it. That’s the content. One man, his camera, and gluttony. As Perry grew more popular, his audience requested more videos with larger piles of greasier food.
Perry now has 3.4M followers. He’s also gained over 200 pounds. I would post a picture of Perry eating, but not only is the food grotesque, so is the fact that Perry changed his entire personhood to pursue Internet fame.
I write The Best Interest for my enjoyment. I love that many thousands of you enjoy it too. Win-win. But, no offense, readers, I never want to be captured by you. Quitting social media helps that end.
Social media encourages the worst in us. Social media platforms know that anger is the most engaging emotion. Nothing attracts eyeballs like a fight. This is the root of echo chambers and political divide. And boy do the advertising dollars follow.
But sometimes even benign conversations turn sour thanks to social media’s tentacles.
I was chatting with a phenomenal personal finance creator over the summer. When the conversation turned towards working together, she said, “You’re a great writer and I enjoy your podcast appearances, but I hope you understand – I don’t think my audience wants to see another straight white guy talking to them about money.”
I can attest – being denied an opportunity because of race/gender/creed etc. does not feel good. I’m opposed to it. I hope you are too.
I’m not even citing the more egregious problems with social media, like:
- Misinformation and propaganda
- Echo chambers for hate and grift
- Severe mental health crises in teens
- And I’m sure I’m missing a few more…
I do wonder, “Will this decision hurt The Best Interest?” I’m scared of that. As anthropologists say, “social death is worse than physical death.” And in the modern age, leaving social media feels like a self-imposed exile. Am I choosing social death?! Ahhh!!
But I think the site will be ok. And I’m excited about the positives of this decision.
Stay happy and healthy, you guys. And again, don’t hesitate to stay in touch via email: [email protected].
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Great article!!! I hope leaving social media leads you to great success!
Cheers Jeremy 🙂
Hope all is well with you!
I’m with you, but I’m not trying to make any money blogging either. I have no Facebook, I don’t Tweet, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or Ticktok. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see my meals and I really don’t want everyone to know where I am when I’m out of town. Have your own life, it’s way better than living vicariously through the glammed up lives of others.
You’re doing right I think, Steve! 🙂
I will miss you, especially your reddit posts!
I love this, Jesse. Thanks so much for sharing your reasoning with us. Proud to know you.