When Social Media Stops Being Fun

My name is Sherina Harris, and I love Twitter. I first downloaded the app in 2015 as a way to promote my blog. Since then, I’ve changed the purpose of my account; I follow friends and use Twitter socially, but I also follow journalists and news organizations, using it in a more professional sense. I’d venture as far as to say that Twitter is my favourite social media app.

Last week, as you may have seen, I got my news exclusively from email newsletters. Typically, I get a lot of my news from Twitter—so for my experiment to work, I decided to delete the app for the week. In my post about the experiment, I focused more on the newsletters than on the fact that I deleted Twitter. I wanted to write about that today because, surprisingly, I didn’t miss Twitter nearly as much as I thought I would.

I realized during the week that one of the reasons I check Twitter so often is because I’m afraid I’m missing out on big news stories. But when I knew that I would find out about those stories through breaking news emails, I didn’t have the urge to check Twitter to see what the big news stories were. Now that my experiment is over, I’ve turned on my breaking news alerts from news apps, too—so I know that if something important happens, I’ll get those notifications, plus email alerts sent to my phone. This means I don’t feel like I have to constantly see what people on Twitter are talking about.  

As a journalist and blogger who writes about current events, going on Twitter feels less like a casual activity (like responding to Snapchats, for example) and more like “work.” On Twitter, I follow a lot of journalists and news organizations, so when I scroll through my feed I am constantly on the lookout for trending stories and new perspectives on old stories.

Almost subconsciously, I am taking note of how journalists are asking questions about the day’s news, and even things like the structure of people’s Twitter threads. I also do this when I read articles that people post—my brain is constantly analyzing the structure, use of quotes and everything else I’ve learned in journalism school. In this way, Twitter is a valuable learning tool for me as a young journalist. But it also means that scrolling through my Twitter feed is not exactly a relaxing experience.

During my week without the app, I realized that Twitter isn’t as great as I thought it was. I mean, I did call it my favourite app; but it was something that I often clicked on, almost without thinking, and scrolled through, getting caught up in everything and feeling like I needed to get to work on new articles and blog posts and ideas.

It took a week without Twitter to help me realize that it’s not necessarily as “fun” as I had thought—and that life can go on if I step away from it for a while. Although Twitter was the only app I deleted for my experiment, I think the same can be said of most other social networking apps.

Instagram, for example, can be a fun place to share photos—but it’s also a “highlight reel” where most people share the best moments of their lives. This can lead to a distorted view of people’s realities and might make you feel worse about your own life. Similarly, a 2013 study from the University of Michigan suggests that using Facebook made people feel sad and less satisfied with their lives. We think we’re having fun on social media, but this might not always be the case.

The thing about social media is that it can be almost addictive. You want to keep refreshing your feed—whether to avoid missing the next breaking news story (as is the case for me) or to make sure you’re caught up on your friend’s lives. But if you force yourself to take a break from social media, even just from one app, you might be surprised to realize that you weren’t enjoying it as much as you thought you were. And that’s a thought worth tweeting about. (Kidding.)

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5 thoughts on “When Social Media Stops Being Fun

  1. Hello Sherina! Just stumbled across your blog and looking forward to browsing through your work. I really enjoyed this post, which was the first I read. Last week, I unfollowed everyone on Facebook, which I remain on only as a blogger, as that’s how most of my small circle of readers seems to find me. But I had to admit that I was getting addicted to the dopamine hits of the news feed. When I mentioned this to a friend, he said, “Oh, did you know you can unfollow everyone and then the news feed goes away?” Sure enough, though you have to do it one person at a time because Facebook doesn’t want you to do this…it can indeed be done! Unfortunately, my monkey brain quickly figured out it could get its dopamine hits from Twitter…but I’m finding that less rewarding because even now that they’ve doubled the allowable length of a tweet, I still can’t have meaningful discussions there.

    But I stay on both of them (sans the FB news feed…it’s like Facebook circa 2005!) because of that blog, in which I’ll soon be starting a series on social media, which will rely on people’s addictions to drive them to my site, where I will try to talk to them about managing these addictions. If I succeed, there go my readers. It’s a weird world we live in.

    1. Hey Jessie, thanks so much for your thoughtful response! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I agree that social media can certainly feel “addictive” — I think that’s why taking occasional (or prolonged) breaks is so beneficial!

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