No Social Media
Among my circle of friends, I’m known as the anti social media guy.
It started 5 years ago, when I made a public announcement that I was quitting.
As you can see, people were devastated.
What led me to this brave decision?
Well, I had been toying with the idea for a while.
I was becoming increasingly convinced that social media was the cigarette of our generation.
Cigarette of our Generation
Think about the arc of cigarettes.
When first introduced, they took the world by storm. People smoked everywhere, from homes to restaurants to flights. Everyone loved it.
Why wouldn’t they? It was an addictive substance that was marketed brilliantly. Not only was it enjoyable, but you looked cool doing it.
Until we understood the adverse effects, that is. Today, there’s finally a stigma around cigarettes.
This didn’t happen overnight, though. It was a long journey. It took us decades to change public perception on smoking.
We’re in a similar transition period for social media.
Initially, it was all the rage. Everyone was on the latest app - MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok.
Now, we’re finally realizing the consequences. Instead of destroying our lungs, it’s ruining our mental health and tearing our society apart.
The scary part is that it’s happening at a much larger scale - billions of people are affected, not millions.
Why I Quit
I was already noticing its impact on my own life.
One, it was a time sink. I spent countless hours on my screens, mindlessly scrolling. After, I was always left with a sense of regret that I wasted my time. This was a sign that it didn’t enrich me - it was just an easy escape.
Two, it was creating cognitive dissonance. The life I was living on social media wasn’t representative of my “real” life. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t the whole story either.
This is known as the highlight reel problem. People only share their greatest achievements, not their deepest struggles. When that’s all you’re consuming (and portraying), it paints an unrealistic picture of what life is truly like. As a result, it becomes difficult to reconcile your daily life with the idealized one.
Three, it wasn’t helping me nurture my relationships. Wasn’t that its entire purpose? Instead of having conversations, I was passively consuming others’ lives through a feed. Sure, there was the occasional like or comment. But does that really count?
A real relationship requires an open dialog, which I didn’t have with most people. What we were left with was a mutually parasocial relationship - we were effectively strangers who kept up to date with each other’s lives.
So, I quit altogether… until earlier this year.
For reasons I shan’t get into, I rediscovered Snapchat recently. And I fell in love.
A little bit about me: once I’ve bought into an idea, I feel compelled to convince everyone around me on its merits. I mean, how else are you supposed to make the world a better place?
So, in my usual fashion, I became an advocate for the app. I campaigned to get my friends to start using it again.
As you can expect, they immediately ragged on my sudden 180.
“You’re on social media? And you’re telling us to get on it? Is everything ok?”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard a version of the above.
To be fair, it did seem like a big shift.
On the surface, Snapchat is indistinguishable from all the other apps I denounced.
But if you look deeper, it’s in a league of its own. The subtle details that set it apart may seem trivial, but they address all the issues I was facing above.
I’d go so far as to say it’s the only real social media platform out there.
I see the skepticism on your face right now. My friends made the same expression.
So, let me back up my claim.
Why I’m On Snapchat
If you aren’t familiar with it, Snapchat helps you send disappearing pictures to your friends.
It’s a simple idea, but executed well. Here’s why it’s the perfect recipe for “true” social media.
One, it’s an effective communication tool. Unlike other platforms, it’s a utility - not an escape. It doesn’t suck you in and shove content down your throat. I’m looking at you, Instagram.
Though Snapchat also has recommended content, it’s not the primary use case. You can tell their priorities from how the app is designed.
Snapchat is about communication. By default, it opens up to a camera so you can share a moment with friends and move on. This gets the job done and saves time.
Meanwhile, Instagram is all about consumption. By default, it opens up to an algorithmic feed. Their goal is for you to doom-scroll for hours, not engage with your friends.
Two, Snapchat is authentic. Disappearing messages reduce the friction in communication. Since they don’t live forever, you can be less polished. You don’t have to curate yourself to the same extent.
As a result, it feels more like a natural conversation than a performance. You can actually be yourself. This makes the highlight reel problem much less severe.
Three, it’s personal. At its core, it’s a communication app. Instead of publicly posting your content, you’re sending it to individual people.
This is a subtle choice that makes a world of a difference. It transforms it from passive consumption to active communication.
Instagram is an example of the former. On it, you’re following others’ journey from the sidelines. You may have the illusion of connection, but without direct communication you’re really just bystanders in each other’s lives.
Snapchat enables this direct communication. When you receive a Snap, you know someone thought of you while sending it. That’s an important personal touch. It means that they value your individual relationship and want to nurture it.
And isn’t that the whole point of social media?
This post took redacted minutes to write.
P.S: You can find more of my thoughts on Twitter @_suketk.