Updated: Nov 28, 2021
I make a full-time living as a freelance copywriter and ghostwriter, creating content that’s published and shared almost exclusively on the web. Since I started freelancing over five years ago, social media has been directly responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for my little writing business. Facebook groups, tweets, LinkedIn posts—these are some of the best tools I’ve ever used for growing my online business and reaching more people as a writer.
I stepped away from social media anyway.
In December 2020, I published a see-ya-in-a-year style farewell article to my followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. I haven’t logged back in since. In fact, I plan to stay logged out at least through the end of 2021. Maybe much longer.
Life without social media
Many factors brought me to this point. For years I’ve felt somewhat addicted to these platforms, so a break seemed healthy. I also wanted to experience a year of my adult life without the constant background hum of social media. I created my first social media account as a freshman in high school, after all, and a few weeks ago I celebrated my twenty-ninth birthday. That means since fourteen years old, I’ve never experienced a full year of my life without social media. I had to know what life was like absent of the Like button.
The final straw was the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election. I can’t remember feeling so much anxiety and anger about anything, ever. Even when things calmed down (a little) following the election, my anxiety continued. In part, I gave up social media to escape the noise of elections, news, and hot takes.
The first few weeks away from social media were relaxing. Things felt noticeably still. I could breathe again. I could be bored again, in a good way. Hot takes from strangers and trending headlines were replaced by the soft, introverted voice in my head. I could sit with the patter of my keyboard instead of the chatter of the internet.
In the first month, the quiet was palpable and I talked about it with everyone. Then I stopped noticing that anything was missing at all. I became acclimated to life without profile updates, notifications, and food pics. Things became normal.
Benefits (and drawbacks) of staying off social media
The average person spent 1,300 hours in 2020 scrolling social media. Admittedly, since I've been off social media, I don’t suddenly feel like someone handed me 1,300 hours of additional time. Maybe I read more now. Or maybe I work more. I still browse other things on the web, like stock trends, and still make time to noodle my way through news sites every day. I’m more active, making time for tennis and my latest discovery: adventure racing. If I'm honest, the difference is subtle. But any one of these activities sounds better to me than scrolling social media feeds.
Still, there are downsides. Without social media, I lost multiple easy avenues for attracting new writing clients. My fastest feedback loop for vetting ideas for articles is now gone. I gave up the easiest promotional tools for talking about my latest articles. I have to work harder to grow my email list.
But all things considered, the list of cons is much shorter than the list of pros. Giving up social media sounded like a big deal before I actually did it. I’d considered the decision for at least two years before finally following through with it. My biggest fear was that the writing business would sink immediately. It didn’t. In fact, it’s grown.
Running an online business without social media
For online business owners and writers, social media is a means to an audience and income. I’ve had to think outside the box to find both this year. Fortunately, my writing business exists heavily on referrals and people finding me on Google. Not every business owner has those privileges. To reach a greater readership, I’ve started writing for publications more than I used to. It’s more challenging than clicking around Facebook groups or posting a tweet. But as a writer, the experience has also been more fulfilling.
I hate social media. I also sort of love it. That’s perhaps the biggest irony about these platforms. Because when I talk to my friends, the love-hate nature of social media seems nearly universal. No one is just a pure fan of these platforms like they may be pure fans of other media like books and podcasts. It’s the (almost) necessary evil. Social media is the devil who promises to lightly entertain you when you’re bored.
I haven’t decided if I’ll return to social media in four months. The fact that I’ve made it this far with only a few roadbumps is a good sign that I could probably continue without these platforms indefinitely. But there’s something to be said for taking advantage of low-hanging fruit, of which social media offers an abundance. Social media is probably the easiest way for online entrepreneurs to find customers and for writers to connect with readers. It’s where people congregate, share stories, and find recommendations for new books and businesses.
Now that I mention it, who in their right mind isn’t on social media these days?
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