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E - Everyone

Why I disappeared from all social media permanently.

by Traves

DISCLAIMER – This is not lifestyle advice, just an honest account. I won’t tell others how to live their lives.

Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 

I’ll get back to this quote at the end, but keep it in mind.

Along with deleting my Facebook, Instagram, Deviantart (I used to draw), Reddit, and all other social media, I’ve gone a step further and deleted all other news apps and accounts — Medium app, Inshorts, Wikipedia among others. That is, I’ve sworn off all news websites, reading the newspaper (I was one of those teenagers who read the newspaper everyday) and any other source of information that I did not actively search for. The only exceptions are e-mail and Whatsapp (and YWS of course), but the reason is that a simple cost-benefit analysis told me deleting those would be detrimental.

If I could summarize the answer to the title of this article in a few words, I would. But there are a lot of reasons, each helping with the decision to quit. Here they are —

1.I am dumb as hell

This was the hardest to accept. An F in an exam in my second year of undergrad studies led me to introspect on what went wrong and where. (For someone who scored comfortably above 90% marks all throughout school and thought he would never fail at academics, that was a nice mental version of a sucker punch from Rocky). So I unpeeled the layers of lies that had been fed to me, either by myself or the world around me — I reconstructed the slippery slope up to where I started sliding. This was tough, because there was no place to hide, not even in my head, and about the age of 11 was where I stopped. That was when I had made my Facebook account.

Here is one example of how out of hands things were already getting back then. I skipped my grandma’s funeral to harvest my Farmville crops in time. I went to the town where she had died hundreds of kilometres away, and went back home on realizing there was no internet there. She and I had been close too, she had taken amazing care of me and my sisters at a time when my mother was struggling with many other problems I did not care about, so that was a significantly terrible thing to do even as a child. And then, like the dumb kid I was (and still am), I stayed on Facebook for eight more years. I let it give me instant gratification and escape for up to 8 hours a day, and a healthy amount of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

I got hooked onto the dopamine hits from getting 70 FB notifications a day, of sad stories I could sympathise with, bad people I could demonize, and puppies I could call kawaii, Pepes I could steal and repost, and weirdos I could validate with my own and feel validated in turn.

2. I am very dumb

I thought I could do it all. Have a healthy general awareness, loads of hobbies, and keep a good GPA in a tough CS degree while increasing technical acumen (thankfully my awkwardness kept me from adding romantic interests to that list, I wasn’t that dumb.) The last few years of my life told me that that experiment was a no-go.

Here’s where news and social media come in. I used to read a lot even as a kid, from magazines to newspapers to books, I devoured all except my textbooks. I started consuming a lot of political content as my own freedom and lack of direction increased. Initially via memes, and then videos, blogs and articles, I went down the rabbit hole. All that content was part of a vicious feedback loop on social media that sucked me in, and wasted whole days — I couldn’t just read the news for 15 minutes and be done. I had to share it, add my opinion, point out flaws, reply to comments and feed into the mental image of who everyone thought I was. And I felt worse at the end of it. I didn’t persevere with any of the constructive things that were a part of me. I didn’t do any significant amount of what Cal Newport calls deep work (highly recommended reading). I had instead destroyed my attention span, reducing it from three hours to about 15 minutes.

I had this privileged life, and I was wasting opportunities that not a lot of people in my country get. I was so disgusted with my state of affairs that I remember saying to a concerned and intelligent friend, “So what if a brutal murder and rape happened a few miles away? It didn’t happen to me or anyone I cared about. I cannot do anything significant about it. I would only end up worse with no one else helped.”

So when I got the F, I pressed F to pay respect to all my social media and news accounts, and removed them. Consequently, when I appeared for the exam the second time 2 months after I failed, I scored higher than anyone in my year though I hadn’t spent a lot of time studying. I just did it with a bit more time and focus.

I agree that this disconnection with the news might often leave me clueless. So what if my ignorance is revealed when I don’t know someone famous or important? I don’t need to play that part.

3. I am kind of stupid  

I do not truly know of the things I talk about, and that is wrong on a deeper level than keeping up appearances. It is different from the first reason because that was about how social media heightened my low EQ and sociopathic tendencies, whereas this one is simply a lack of understanding of the subtlety of intellectual discussion. I was told I was smart and had a good awareness of a wide range of topics, which turned out to be a lie. The superficial understanding these media give, was dangerous because I wasn’t stretching and straining my brain-muscles, just attaining shallow understanding on all manner of things.

I’ll take the example of a recent phenomenon — Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. I instantly became a fan when I first came across him online as he seemed to say all the right things. The one intellectual with spine, I called him. Then, as a flood of opinion pieces and liberal friends (all of them online, of course) pointed out flaws, I took a balanced position. He says some right things of course; he’s a smart man and an academic. But when confronted, he tries to get out by a lot of meaningless talk, hiding his true motives whatever they may be. This seemed to make sense. But then I re-watched a video clip of him answering a linguist, one in which I had initially dismissed him as trying to dance around the actual question. But this time, I had read a tiny book called Very short Introduction to Objectivity, and I was shocked. What I’d taken to be a word-salad excuse was actually a reply trying to clarify the differences between judgement, and the truth. This time I had a tiny inkling of the impossible complexity of these ideas that philosophers had debated throughout the centuries. They could not be given a clear/concise answer to unless the question elaborated what it asked for, and left no other possible answers open. Peterson still had his flaws, but my own flaws had been revealed to me, by myself.

I simply could not keep inhaling all this information, all these words and images, when I was so obviously out of my depth. And that applied to the whole of my online presence, and large chunks of my real life. So I decided to gain real understanding, one at a time.

If you have read this far, I assume you found some part interesting, so I suggest an experiment for you, inspired from Pascal’s quote. Think of any of the hard-but-rewarding things you want to do, and how much focused time would be required to have some significant progress (like reaching a checkpoint in a video game). When you’re relaxed and fresh, try to do that small amount of outlined work in a single go. If you do it in the time you thought you would, while not being distracted by your phone or others, then congratulations, you have the amount of focus required to do the hard-but-good things in the smallest manageable chunks. If you could not, then you realize that you could not do even the smallest part of what you thought you would have to do, at your current capacity (or your current player level, if you will). And that will be your cue to gain more XP and level up, before reality kicks in and makes you.

Have a chilled out day, because that’s just like, my opinion, man. 

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10 Reviews

Points: 19
Reviews: 10

Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:23 pm
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Aranya wrote a review...

Hello Traves!

I am an active follower of yours, and have been following your pieces for a long time. And from my experience I very well know the fact that you're not the kind of person who wishes to loot the public attention around or wishes to stay drowning in self importance, neither you're hungry of people's praise. I believe the reason you jotted down this account is either to relieve your mind from the heavy weight or to share it coz you love to write. Whatever may be the reason it's nice to have such an account in the current domain.

I won't be reviewing it or go through it with a critical scan, I'd rather just comply by whatever you said.

As somebody famously said,

"If you don't read the newspaper you're uninformed, if you read it you're misinformed."

I am a kind of socially awkward/underconfident person when it comes to social media forums. It takes me a hell lot of courage to lift my fingers and hit on English alphabets on screen. I am constantly scared of the fact what implications my word can have on me as well as others. Or how they can be misunderstood.

The reason for it is, I once wrote about something murderous, that was being carried out in my country by little groups of miscreants that had subscribed to the ruling party and was drawing support from it. I had to suffer heavy backlash by its online trollers. Since then I refrain myself to write any remotely political content or even write anything.

I respect your decision and I wish you bestof luck, for you may achieve the endeavour you made sacrifices for.

Traves says...

Your kind words are much appreciated

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209 Reviews

Points: 3041
Reviews: 209

Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:43 am
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EverLight wrote a review...

Most media is garbage I am glad you didn't get farther in the hole you dug for yourself. Who needs knews anyway? Media never has anything positive to say and as I see it that is why you quit all social media. You you were overloaded with, garbage and you couldn't concentrait. I am glad you made a wise choice.

Traves says...

I couldn't concentrate because of the nature of social media and internet news to grab and fragment my attention as much as it could. It isn't inherently bad. People who love to quiz, bureaucrats (aspiring and real ones) , politicians and analysts etc. all need access to news. But even for them, online news is bad, and these kinds of people usually have their own streamlined forms of media.

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Points: 946
Reviews: 31

Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:25 am
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shusher wrote a review...

Hey, I really appreciate the advice and the essay as a whole. I've been telling my friends about your challenge and all who have reported of the results were unsuccessful to avoid picking up their phone.

Yet, with all things negative there are positive effects. What are the benefits of frequent social media viewing, and is it at all possible that such a thing could be considered healthy?

Traves says...

I'm happy y'all tried the challenge.
There are benefits of course, such as knowing more about friends you actually care about, and I met a few people online who are pretty cool. Other than that there are communities and groups for every little thing, and if that's what you need , like a Facebook group of artists and you're just starting out they can give tips and stuff. There are many.
Instagram models earn thousands of dollars from their posts.
The point is not that there are not benefits, it's just that in many cases, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. You have to analyse and be true to yourself what is needed.
Check this out ... new-skill/

And if you can, do read deep work by Cal Newport. He explains all this very well.

Random avatar
shusher says...

Wow! Thank you so much! I"ll take a look at all this today.

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12 Reviews

Points: 219
Reviews: 12

Thu Jul 12, 2018 4:18 pm
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ayushinav says...

Wow sir,
I just had some points that I could not really agree with you. You deleted your social media because of information overload.
You were not able to cope up with too many things simultaneously (GPA, GK n other goals) but you did not mention anywhere that you were involved in useless activities, like posting selfies. You were kind of grabbing information, okay too much information, and that affected your studies. But isn't it that you have not realised that you like GK stuffs more than Gpa?
Don't you think you are shifting your dreams as a back up plan? For some reason, maybe to get a secured life, you are giving up what you like. Okay, not in a scattered way but still you can take in general knowledge.

Traves says...

The thing is, there are many ways to do useless things at any given moment, and just one or two right things to do. Posting selfies is just one of the useless things. And that too depends on the situation. If you're an instagram model then selfies with products earn you money.

And as for "giving up on dreams" , I didn't have many.
Also if you believe in "follow your passion " or "follow your dreams" then I advise you to read "so good they can't ignore you" by Cal Newport.

(And don't call me 'sir' atleast online)

Traves says...

The thing is, there are many ways to do useless things at any given moment, and just one or two right things to do. Posting selfies is just one of the useless things. And that too depends on the situation. If you're an instagram model then selfies with products earn you money.

And as for "giving up on dreams" , I didn't have many.
Also if you believe in "follow your passion " or "follow your dreams" then I advise you to read "so good they can't ignore you" by Cal Newport.

(And don't call me 'sir' atleast online)

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21 Reviews

Points: 0
Reviews: 21

Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:09 pm
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Relaxistence88 wrote a review...

Hello there! I'm Relaxistence88, not much a review this time...

I kinda find your topic of writing is interesting. This is so relateable for the youngsters nowadays. Once they logged in to social media, they got distracted and many have developed the habit of checking their accounts multiple times during the day, even when they are at school/work. Time spent on personal accounts is time that is not spent on work tasks. It is also time not spent interacting with colleagues and developing quality study/work relationships. I also have seen a lot of parents these days are spoiling their children by buying them sophisticated gadgets, as a reward (having a good grades, got accepted in Uni/school, etc). They have becoming more addictive to high-tech gadgets, social media, and mobile games.

FYI, I had a Wi-Fi at home. During school holidays, my youngest cousins and nephews are often to visit my home, bringing their smartphones...only to use the Wi-Fi so they can play Mobile Legends. They're still kids! Elementary student...can you imagine. And I was reacting like "What?" I keep scratching my head in confusion "What happened to these generation?"

Anyway, thank you for writing this and sharing it with us :) I hope to see more of your works.

Traves says...

Yes as technology advances, things are becoming much more addictive as the pace of lifestyle increases there was a well researched article by a professor on this phenomenon I'll share when I find it .

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1069 Reviews

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Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:26 am
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Mea wrote a review...

Hey there! I thought I'd drop by and review this interesting essay tonight.

Although I've never spent much of my time on traditional social media, I've spent far, far too much of my time thinking about how to stop wasting time browsing Reddit, Pinterest, or just random blogs, and most especially how to cut out toxic and negative Internet stuff (read: anything about politics, ever) despite it all being really addictive. So I was interested to hear your thoughts on a similar struggle, and I wasn't disappointed!

The Ideas:
I agreed with pretty much everything you talked about when it comes to the negative aspects of the Internet and social media. I wasn't as much of a fan of your second-to-last paragraph - while I think it's not necessarily a bad idea to try to measure how addicted you are to your phone, etc., I think you're going a little bit too far. Just because someone while sitting and doing nothing, feels the urge to pick up their phone (especially if they don't actually do it), that doesn't mean they have absolutely no hope of being able to achieve their big dreams. It's not about never being tempted to do the thing, it's about building up the stamina and good habits to be able to choose not do it and to do something better instead. Just because some people don't have a great attention span doesn't mean they can't learn ways to wean themselves off it or plan around it, and I think your challenge makes the essay end on an unnecessarily negative tone.

So when I got the F, I pressed F to pay respect to all my social media and news accounts, and removed them.

This was hands-down my favorite joke in this essay. Clearly I've spent too much time on Reddit as well. :P

The Essay Itself:
You start out your essay by saying that it can be summarized in one sentence: You left social media because of information overload. If I'm honest, I almost stopped reading right there, because I am *very* familiar with information overload as a reason to get rid of social media - it's one of my own motivations as well, and if that was all there was to it, I wasn't interested.

But I did keep reading, and I'm glad, because the details turned out to be interesting and the essay as a whole was written very entertainingly. I think "information overload" is inadequate to sum up your reasons, and probably an unnecessary statement for the beginning of the essay.

My biggest advice, however, is to cut, cut cut. While your style flows well and there's a lot of interesting stuff in here, you've organized this in a list with bullet points, and so the really long paragraphs are a huge detractor because it often feels like you're rambling and losing your point. Bullet points are supposed to be short and sweet - if you want to be detailed, use normal paragraphs.

I also thought that although it was funny that your first two headings mean essentially the same thing, though you develop them kind of differently, that funniness was lost by having the third heading be "I'm ignorant," which feels different enough from "I'm stupid/dumb" that it loses the cohesion. I also thought that third section was the one you could cut the most - your point about your limited understanding of what you claimed to know was mostly made by the end of your first bullet point.

I think that's most of my critique! I hope to see more from you sometime, as this was quite an enjoyable read. Good luck, and keep writing!

Traves says...

Thanks @Mea ! this is probably the best review I've ever got.
I just re- edited the whole thing , this is the final draft imo. Could you please read it again sometime and see if it's any better?

1. Initially the three headings were "I am dumb as hell","I am very dumb" and " I am dumb" but I thought that didn't carry the weight of the third point so I changed it.

The main problem with my writing as i've repeatedly been told and found out for myself, is that folks don't get what I'm trying to say, so I reduced this from 1700 words to 1500 words.

Mea says...

Great, I'm glad I could help! Looking at this again, I definitely like this version more. The paragraph format is more readable and overall I can tell you've gone through and cleaned things up to be more focused. And I like the new third heading.

I think the main point where you're still in danger of people not getting what you're trying to say is the Jordan Peterson point. I feel a lot of people will have a knee-jerk reaction to the mention of Jordan Peterson based on what they know of him, and that will make it harder to make your overall point of how you had to reevaluate your conclusions and think more deeply. That paragraph just doesn't flow quite as well, and so your point could be easily obscured and leave people to just think that his advice changed your life or something when really it was your act of looking deeper that made an impact.

Traves says...

Thanks for re-reading!
I'm still keeping Peterson's point in because that event was a big shock to me, if people have a knee jerk reaction that would be ironic because that entire paragraph is about not having preconceptions and trying to understand what the person is trying to say (beyond empathetic listening, this is like grtting on that technical level at which you can truly comprehend before judging)

I understand how it might be a bit controversial but honestly I'm glad ypu understood that it was my act of looking deeper. Hopefully the others will too.

Mea says...

Yeah, I don't really want you to get rid of that point either. There might be some parts of it you could re-word so the paragraph feels like it builds more towards the overall point of looking deeper rather than on the object-level example of Peterson, and maybe that would help, though I definitely agree it would be ironic if someone walked away from the paragraph with only the knee-jerk reaction.

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17 Reviews

Points: 131
Reviews: 17

Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:24 pm
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wordwing says...

Honestly, I stopped using facebook a long time ago. It was overloadoed with memes and selfies and petty stuff but I just kept swiping even though knew I'd be disappointed every time. I did the same with reddit and now I only use messenger to message people from my school(mostly about school related stuff, but we have a laugh ocassionally). I feel better. Honestly, facebook is hot garbage and I recommend using messenger instead.

Traves says...

Nah if i had an account at all I wouldn't be able to stop. Not for long. And I use WhatsApp instead because on it your circle is automatically smaller

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7 Reviews

Points: 2
Reviews: 7

Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:09 pm
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LMAuthor312 wrote a review...

I am in awe at your decision to cut out all social media in your life. Really. This may seem like a simple or ludicrous feeling to some, but social media is something I seriously have problems with myself. Part of me wishes I could cut it all off and live a life free from the influence of others in that manner. Another part of me holds on to my Facebook and Instagram because how else will I interact with others? I'm a single mom who works all the time and has no time to be actually talking to people. At least I think that's the excuse I give myself. I applaud your bravery because that's truly what it is. You're a much more courageous person than I.

Good read

Traves says...

You're a single mom and I'm a college undergrad with no responsibilities other than to myself and quite a lot of physical avenues to socialize, so I don't think I'm more courageous than you. The decision is much easier for me.

Traves says...

If you would take my suggestion, I'd ask you to try and read "deep work" and "so good they can't ignore you" by Cal Newport. These books really helped me with the decision.

I support the shrek message.
— MiniGem26