Last Fall, I deleted all the content on my social media platforms.
I was inspired by this blog post from Corbett Barr, founder, and CEO of Fizzle.co. In the post, Barr wrote that he was deleting all his social media content, and many of his blog posts, videos, podcasts, and more.
Barr wrote, “I’m going to consolidate my online life and define a new vision for my next decade on the Internet.” In a follow-up post, Barr noted:
It’s not natural for every thought or scribble you’ve produced to exist publicly for everyone to see for all time. I don’t think we’ve come to terms with that yet, nor do we know how it is affecting all of us.
Who we are today will most likely not be who we are tomorrow. Think about all the celebrities and politicians posting heartfelt apologies for embarrassing, old content they shared online.
Corbett Barr’s post went on to note, in bold letters:
I’m a huge fan of digital media, but we should all be consuming and producing it more intentionally, in a way that serves us, as opposed to us serving it.
A colossal waste of time
I was a late arrival to the social media frenzy. For years most of my friends already embraced Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I created a website for my artwork and writing but resisted joining Facebook and all the other social media platforms. They seemed like a major waste of time, sure to pull me away from my creative work.
I completely understand social media as a method of promotion and digesting information, but it just seems like a colossal waste of time to me, and there’s a million other ways I’d rather waste my time. — Jason Mantzoukas
However, artists and creators I knew argued that social media was a must for sharing creative work, gaining exposure, and growing an audience. I relented and opened a Facebook account.
Then I dabbled with Instagram and Pinterest. I posted images of my artwork, with links to my articles. I learned about hashtags, dutifully followed other people, and left comments. It was exhausting.
All of this social media effort drove some traffic to my website, and I met other writers and artists. But overall, I found the endless commenting and posting unfulfilling. I saw it as a necessary evil.
By the time I read Corbett Barr’s post about deleting all his social media content, I was already tired of social media. I scrolled through all my old content and realized how discursive, incohesive, and aesthetically disjointed it was.
I started thinking about digital content much like furniture in a house. Over time, you find your tastes change. You get the urge to redecorate. Out with the old, in with the new.
I ended up following Corbett Barr’s lead and I deleted all my social media content. I reached out to Corbett and he shared a few links for how to mass delete old posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s also possible to save your old posts to a file before deleting everything.
I kept my various social media profiles, leaving a single post of myself with the message that I deleted all my content to “prepare for new writing and artwork in 2021.” I guess I was hedging my bets, afraid to completely sever from social media.
Here’s what the post looked like on my Instagram page:
It was strangely liberating to see my nearly blank social media accounts. Kind of like when you declutter your house. It’s a clean slate. A new start. You’re free to reinvent yourself.
Predictably, traffic to my website declined over time, but without much consequence. I was still cross-posting essays on both my website (JohnPWeiss.com) and my blog at Medium.com (JohnPWeiss.Medium.com).
My blog at Medium.com consistently brings traffic to my website and helped me grow an audience of over 46K followers. My success on Medium.com eclipsed all my social media channels combined. Why even have a social media presence?
Over the months that I swore off social media, I read a lot more books, honed my writing and artistic skills, and interacted more with family and friends. I read Cal Newport’s popular books “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism,” which underscored my view that social media was a waste of time.
Where we want to be cautious . . . is when the sound of a voice or a cup of coffee with a friend is replaced with ‘likes’ on a post. — Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
Everything was going along swimmingly, but a few cracks started forming in my new “banish social media” mentality.
Every once in a while, I swung by Instagram and Facebook to peek at what some of my favorite artists and writers were up to. I find that many artist websites are infrequently updated, whereas their social media accounts are more active.
While I didn’t miss posting and commenting on social media, I did miss some of the connections with fellow creatives. I missed the inspiration I got from seeing great artwork, writing, and photography on Instagram.
In this world second thoughts, it seems, are best. — Euripides
As the new year unfolded, I considered returning to social media, but in a more unified, focused, intentional way. Which is kind of what Corbett Barr advocated in his posts.
In May of this year, I started posting new content on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Every few days, from my desktop computer, I create a post to share across my social media accounts. Usually a photo or cartoon of mine with an inspirational quote, reflection, or brief commentary.
Most of my content images are in black and white, as I prefer the uniform look on my social media accounts (although occasionally I post a color cartoon or image).
For now, it’s all an experiment, to see if I enjoy the sharing and engagement. A friend suggested I get on Twitter, which is better for writers. We’ll see.
Once I have dabbled for a while, I will decide whether to delete everything or keep what works the best. And by “what works the best,” I mean what I most enjoy and what best shares my work with others.
The point is to become more intentional and to use social media sparingly, in order to devote most of my time for deep, creative work.
I know that daily posting, commenting like crazy, and following others helps build your following and likes, but to what end? Perhaps it drives more traffic to your website, but the cost is endless time on social media.
It’s a chicken-and-egg situation
The author Mark Manson wrote a compelling article titled “Social Media Isn’t the Problem, We Are.” In the article, Manson debunks many of the arguments against social media. For example, this observation about social media and depression:
The problem with studies like this is that it’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Is it that social media causes kids to feel more depressed? Or is it that really depressed kids are more likely to use social media?
Social media can bring out the best or worst in us. If you’re narcissistic, social media is like a splendid mirror to admire yourself and post all your gym shots.
Similarly, if you’re a kind person, social media can help promote your messages of hope and encouragement. Whatever we bring to the table, social media can amplify.
Manson argues that for most of us, social media hasn’t changed our lives that much. An excerpt from his article:
But really, ask yourself, how much has your in-the-flesh life actually changed since you’ve been active on Facebook or YouTube? With the exception of watching less TV or going to fewer movies, probably not much.
Manson’s article also examines “the silent majority” of people in society who fall in the middle, versus the shrill, hyperventilating folks with conspiracy theories and extreme beliefs on the fringes of society.
It’s the vainglorious, most shocking, and extremists screaming the loudest who get most of the attention on social media, not the middle-of-the-road content creators.
We’ve always had extremists in society, but social media amplifies their voices and encourages them to congregate in echo chambers of group identity and unchallenged views.
Throwing water balloons at a porcupine
I don’t know if Mark Manson is right or wrong, but either way, I still find myself on the fence with social media. I hate all the ads, political agendas, and marketing being pushed on social media. Yuck.
Pushing a company agenda on social media is like throwing water balloons at a porcupine. — Erik Qualman
For now, I’ll be experimenting with social media, with three personal ground rules.
Share passion, not marketing. I plan to share writing, ideas, cartoons, and images that I’m passionate about. I don’t want to be a marketer, with endless links, pop-ups, and silly courses.
Have fun or delete it. I want to have fun on social media, which means enjoying content that inspires or motivates me with my own creative work. If a social media account doesn’t provide that, delete it.
Simplify. I’ll likely whittle down my social media presence to one account, once I figure out which one best suits my creative work. Different platforms support different strengths. YouTube is great for video people. Instagram is ideal for artists and photographers. Twitter works for writers. Pick the platform that best supports what you do.
Deleting all my social media content and starting over has given me a fresh start. I’m free now to put more thought into what I want to share. Elegance over noise. Whispers over shouting.
I’m more interested in depth than shock content, gimmicks, and clickbait superficiality. If that means less traffic, fine. Who wants those kinds of followers, anyway?
Think about your own social media content. Does it reflect who you are and who you want to be? Does it bring out the best in you or the worst? Will you be proud of your content in ten years?
It’s never too late to start over as Corbett Barr did. You can up your game, redefine yourself, and aim for a higher level of creative content.
Doing so will uplift you. The silent majority of regular folks online will applaud your efforts to bring more class, refinement, and grace to the current social media morass of noise, narcissism, and marketing madness.
Give it a try. Free yourself by deleting some or all of your old content. Feel free to borrow my social media ground rules listed above. Together we can bring more elegance to social media, and have more fun along the way.
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint, and write about life lessons. To follow along, check out my free Saturday Newsletter here.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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Illustrations by John P. Weiss