I needed a break, but came back.

I’ve been slowly reducing social media from my life over the past two years. It started with dropping off Twitter entirely during the 2020 election because I just couldn’t handle all the venom being spit both directions. I retreated to the relative safety of Facebook and Instagram. It didn’t take long for my Facebook feed to wear on me next because once I had a heightened sense of awareness of the issue, I realized that mostly it had become a place for people to create their own little platform to complain about whatever thing it was they didn’t like that day without the challenge of actually having to do something about it in real life. As a person who works for an environmental non-profit that tries very hard to do real, in-the-water work to improve our region’s water quality, it was frustrating to see everyone get their own bully pulpit from which to cast stones but not use that same platform to show off when they actually did something; that would be too hard. To be fair, I had lots of fantastic, well meaning, engaged friends on Facebook (and in real life too), but it seemed to me that I was being fed nothing but the anger and the bad news. So sometime in the fall of 2021, I deleted Facebook from my phone and quit cold turkey.

Ahhh, now it was just me and my friend Instagram. It’s seemed so nice to just see cool pictures and family updates, and I just settled in to the endless scrolling of Instagram. I’d post occasionally some of the best pics (like the one above of my daughter and I hiking at the headwaters of the Catawba River); but if I’m honest I mostly posted to get the dopamine hit from all of the “likes” I knew I’d get if I posted a pic that would make everyone else thing think – I’d love to be there! Mostly, I’d just mindlessly scroll, hit the LOVE button every now and then to give my friends their dopamine hit, and follow the occasional ad down a rabbit hole of something the algorithm thought I should buy based on my likes. I’d follow all sorts of random people and places and used Instagram to stay up to date on what was going on in my community, favorite bars and restaurants, and friends. About a month ago I decided to purge my Instagram account of a bunch of people and places I’d been following that didn’t seem relevant anymore. That was freeing, but then my feed changed. All of a sudden Instagram needed to fill that empty space with something and an onslaught of ads filled my feed. It was a little overwhelming and seemed irrelevant. I got on there less and less because I just got bored with it.

Two weeks ago, I quit Instagram too. It was a Sunday morning, I had a pile of books on the table next to the chair in our den that I hadn’t read a word of and found myself mindlessly scrolling again, looking at ads for hammocks, daily planners, wallets, and travel services. It didn’t seem like I was using my time very well. I deleted the app from my phone and read the rest of the day. It was invigorating and freeing. I felt noble. I missed it a little bit the next day when I had a break between projects and needed a mental distraction. It was weird to actually watch commercials during a break in whatever game I was watching the next night. And it did feel like I lost touch with my own organization a little bit, even though I theoretically know everything we’re doing most of the time. But mostly it was good. I’ve read two books over the past two weekends. I don’t scroll on my phone aimlessly past my bedtime at night. I have journaled more. But if I’m honest with myself, I miss Instagram. I’m not going back to Facebook or Twitter, but Instagram does bring me some joy and pleasure so I’m going to admit that I see some value there. It shows me cool stuff going on around me and with my friends. It is a place I can celebrate with people I do really like but don’t get to see often enough. It is a place for me to share some of the cool things our family and my work team does. And yes, I do like the dopamine hit.

So I’ve decided to come back. I’m going to try to not get frustrated with the ads. I’m going to curate my follows a little closer going forward. And I’m going to make my first post back one about writing this blog and encouraging you to read this one and other musings here on morningrunguys.com. And I’m going to try to skip the mindless nighttime scrolling and keep the weekend reading up. But I’m still looking forward to the dopamine hits! I’ll see you on the ‘gram!!

John