Why I’m Leaving Social Media

I recently made the decision to get off all social media. I made a quiet announcement without much explanation on Facebook, hoping to get the contact info of those who’d like to stay in touch. In the process, I got so many questions about why I’m getting off that I decided to write them down and share them on my website. I hope this will be helpful to you in some way.

I remember the first time I joined a social media platform: it was 2008. I was watching a television special to fight cancer, and the organizers offered special content on Facebook only. I decided to join.

I remember the first time I thought Wow, social media is really catching on, when I heard a television news segment interviewing some otherwise unknown guy because he’d gotten over a thousand (or maybe it was 10,000 or 50,000) new followers on Twitter in one evening.

I remember the early days of using Facebook when we were all outraged because our photos were showing up in our friends ads, or because, a little later, we’d search for something on Amazon and then see an ad on Facebook or because we’d have an in-person conversation in our house then see related ads on Facebook because the Messenger app was listening to us.

Over the years, I’ve become more and more frustrated and confused by social media. Like you, I’ve felt that Twitter and Facebook contain a lot of negativity and anger. The algorithms that show me content that the platforms think I want to see is bothersome at best and probably should worry me even more than it does. I’ve been disgusted at the way Facebook has been careless with privacy and data, and then I’ve been disgusted at myself as I just keep feeding the machine with my personal information, stories, photos, and preferences.

I’ve also grown tired of constantly being sold to with ads and boosted posts and friends whose books and artwork and products I’m really proud of, but when you add it all up, it makes you feel like more of a consumer than a person. But then, as a writer, I hear regularly that my success is contingent upon my use of social media. I need more followers, more friends, more engagement, more likes, more comments, more views, more live videos, and ultimately, it’s also about more selling. I’m selling something too!

None of this is new, of course, and for years, I’ve remained on social media because the positives out-weighed the negatives. I stayed in touch with people. I was in the know. I shone my light in dark places. I redeemed social media with my presence. But what was social media doing to me?

In the last few years, several studies have been conducted to determine the effects of frequent social media use, particularly on smartphones, and our overall use of technology and screen use in general. More and more, researchers are attributing distraction, decreased attention, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and even sluggish frontal lobe activity to our use of technology. But honestly, I don’t need the studies to tell me what I’ve experienced in my own life. After a few minutes on Facebook, I’m agitated, discouraged, sometimes jealous, often feeling inadequate. My brain begins to speed up, move from topic to topic. I began frantic searches, scrolling faster, pulse rising. When I post an update or a photo, something similar happens. I return to the app again and again, looking for feedback, wondering why Friend A or Family Member B hasn’t responded. And this frenzy that’s been stirred up by social media carries over into my conversations, my work day, my family life, and more. As a writer, sustained sessions of reading and writing are critical to my success. As I see it, my decreasing ability to focus is a much greater risk to my career than waning social media followers.

Also, I value quiet reflection, slow responses, in depth conversations … all things social media is designed against. In fact, social media is not a neutral platform. Using game theory and neuroscience, social media engineers have designed these platforms specifically to keep people moving quickly from post to post while remaining on the apps themselves as long as possible. Add to that the baked-in business model of ads and boosted posts (which make it difficult to detect what’s organic and what’s paid), it behooves apps like Facebook and Twitter to keep me scrolling and scrolling and scrolling for as many hours each day as possible so that they can charge advertisers more for each impression, each image of an ad that whisks by me as I scan through the content.

The way I relate to others and act like a friend also has changed. I used to reach out to people more, follow up on events I knew were going on, ask to see photos from vacations and weddings. Often, a person would come to mind, and I’d call or send a card just to check in. Once most of my friends turned to social media, I started relying on my social feeds to give me the information I needed. Now, instead of checking in on someone, I’d check their latest updates. Or I wouldn’t even think of them at all because any number of my other 1,500 Facebook friends, or one of the 852 people I follow on Instagram, many I don’t even know, would come flashing before me, garnering all the concern and interest I might normally have passed on to those closest to me. Or worse, I might have stumbled on some Facebook kerfuffle about politics or social issues and left with no energy to reach out to anyone at all.

All these issues and more created a strong need for me to begin regulating how and how much I used social media. I started by removing apps from my phone and using them only from my laptop. I’d try checking social media only at certain times of the day or remaining on only for a set amount of time. I’d schedule posts, using third party apps so I never had to log on directly. Or I’d download other apps that would block me from certain sites and set limits for my use.

After about a year of that nonsense, I started to really think about social media, why I’m on it, how it feels more and more like a negative but had become too big to fail for me personally and professionally. I felt like I was being held hostage by these apps who needed my content (and others) to survive but were offering me less and less in return. In fact, the tables had almost turned. It wasn’t just about how I was using social media but how it was using me.

Social media, with its data collection and algorithms, gives us a front row seat into how technology is changing. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more and more ubiquitous, machines need access to human activity to monitor in order to learn efficiencies and become useful in business, security, financial, medical, and other environments. While many unbelievable advances are coming our way, so is the need for more and more consideration about our use of and engagement with technology. (I promise I’m not trying to sound a doomsday alarm here–but you try watching a few seasons of Person of Interest and not get a little creeped out by AI.)

Here’s the bottom line, and the point of all this rambling about social media: the effort I’ve taken to protect myself from the negative effects of social media now outweigh the benefits of it, both personally and professionally. For this reason, I’m extricating myself from all platforms that are primarily social media. I’m not trying to be anti-social. I’m not trying to be anti-technology. I understand that there are many apps and platforms that have social elements to them, which I’ll likely continue using. I know this means I could be denied professional opportunities. I know it will make it harder to keep in touch with people, including professional groups I belong to. But if I know all of these things and am still doing it, I hope that tells you that I made this big decision only after a lot of thought.

In general, social media (not all users but social media as its designed) thrives on qualities I think are most contrary to living a deep, spiritual life in relationship with God and others. I want to be attentive to the Spirit and others; social media wants me to be attentive to it. I believe being bored and unoccupied leads to epiphany, meditation, even creativity; social media wants to keep me constantly preoccupied. I think comparison, excessive sharing about oneself, and studying the details of others lives leads to envy and dissatisfaction; social media encourages people to share and look more and more and more. I want to be reflective and contemplative in my approach to social issues, spiritual matters, difficult subjects, and suffering; social media pushes me toward quick responses and knee-jerk reactions. I think sometimes the quiet, unpopular, or even unnoticed thoughts and advice provide the greatest wisdom; social media shows me only what the crowd thinks is good. I like sustained dialogue and not settling for easy answers; social media pushes me to surface-level treatment of life’s greatest issues. And I want to be a good listener, to offer care and compassion to others, to be led by the Spirit to reach out and pray; social media presents posts to me based on who’s most popular, who paid for ads, or who are saying what the app thinks I want to hear. I can’t attend to so many concerns at once, and also attend to my family, my community, and my God; social media wants me to have as many friends and followers as possible, then to like, comment, and move on.

I’m not trying to start a revolution, other than a quiet one to take back the space in my soul I used to make available to the things I value most. If you’re on social media, I hope you’ll use it well. If you’re not, I’d love to hear why. And either way, I hope we can stay in touch.

UPDATE: In case you’re reading this post in 2020 or later, you may notice that I am not back on Instagram. Here is a post explaining that partial reentry into the world of social media: Thinking Again: Yes, That’s Me on Instagram Again. You may also be interested in another post I wrote about my relationship to digital technology from 2019 called Elephant Culture, Giving Up Social Media, and What’s over the Horizon. This is an ongoing topic of thought for me, so watch for future posts as well.


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • reply Thinking Again: Yes, That's Me on Instagram Again - Charity Singleton Craig ,

    […] is why a few days ago, after 15 months of being off social media, I decided to start a new Instagram account. I won’t go into all the details about why I did it, […]

    • reply Ben Maynard ,

      Your site was hacked, I don’t know if your contact form is sending. I tried to send all the details there but I will comment here in case since I can’t find an email address on this site.

      I got an email claiming to be from bluehost that gave me an address to click to resolve an email issue.


      As you can see this is a crafted URL that is actually a subdomain on your DNS. I would get your hosting provided and or web developer to take a look. This implies your entire account has been hacked since they were able to add a DNS entry.

      • reply Ben Maynard ,

        Note don’t click on that URL and enter your account details since it is obviously not a place you want your account details going.

      • reply Elephant Culture, Giving Up Social Media, and What's over the Horizon - Charity Singleton Craig ,

        […] I’d been wondering for months whether social media might be the culprit and began to seriously consider whether my writing career could withstand a permanent withdrawal. I did Google searches on both “authors who don’t use social media” and “how to use social media as an author.” I attended a weekend retreat called “Attending to God in an Age of Distraction,” just months after I paid for an online course called “Instagram with Intention.” I prayed, I journaled, I had conversations, and then I decided. I had listened and heard what was over the horizon. I was leaving social media. […]

        • reply Karen Harper ,

          YAY YOU!

          I did the same for like reasons 6 months ago. No regrets! Facebook notifications on my phone were driving me insane. I have my life back and more quality of life restored since abandoning social media. Actually I must admit my paring down phase included unsubscribing from your blog post. I just had to reduce inputs…better that a large chunk never passed in front of my eyes.

          Please report your findings after having been off SM for some time. For me, not only has this diverted my energies back into the relationships and endeavors that really matter to me and where I can make a difference, but it also got the old creative cauldron bubbling with things that amount to so much more than anything on SM. SM may not cause writer’s block but it sure drove me into shallow waters where I felt I was writing drivel.

          I would also voice a loud amen to your sense that SM undermines a life of faith and discipleship. At least it does for me. I do resonate with what you are saying to others…it’s a personal decision…to each his/her own.

          Every January I decide on my word for the year. This year it has been “essential”. All year I have been examining things in my life and asking myself: Is this essential? I needed to make better choices because life is limited. SM may be an asset for others; for me it was a big time liability.

          Love the (what…wisteria?) pix embedded above. It’s like cool, calm intervals breaking up the hot stuff!

          Thanks for taking a stand and sharing your reasons. Selfishly, I am glad to see others starve the beast.

          [I am acquainted with you from a writers workshop at Plainfield Llibrary.]

          • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Thanks so much for your comment, Karen. Interestingly, I’m finding lots of people agreeing with my decision and very few people pushing back. Maybe because they are having their own doubts, or possibly because I’ve set this up as a decision I’ve already made. I suspect that a lot of us are having misgivings, though, even as we continue to use it. I’m happy to hear how making this decision improved relationships and helped spark your creativity, two things that are really important to me. Perhaps the most important, though, is the benefit I anticipate to my life as a disciple of Jesus. I’ll definitely let you know how things go. Thanks again!

          • reply Diedra Robinette ,

            Charity, Thank you for your transparency in speaking the truth about social media. I was so inspired until I go to the bottom of the page and see that your Facebook page is still active requesting we share the post?? Isn’t that sending a mixed message? Well at least for me it did.

            • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

              Deidra — It was so great to read your comment. I’m sorry to send a mixed message … that was actually more of a technical issue that me attempting to straddle two paradigms. There’s a button deep in the settings of my website that determines whether those share buttons show up or not, and since this process of leaving social media is still ongoing, I just hadn’t stumbled on the need to make that change yet. Based on your comment, it’s done now.

              However, your comment points to the complexity of trying to extract oneself from social media. It’s amazing how embedded I am in those platforms, and I’m guessing that’s true for lots of people. What you saw at the bottom of the post were simply “sharing” buttons, not my active Facebook page. That’s been deleted. Though I do still have a skeleton, private Facebook account that’s been stripped down to everything but my interaction with one professional writing group. It’s a group I applied to be part of and pay annual membership dues, and the only way members communicate with each other is through a Facebook group. So I’m hanging on to that one function on FB for right now until I can work out with the group’s leadership how to maintain my involvement without being on social media.

              Also, though, as I want to make perfectly clear: I’m not against all social media in all cases. It’s a reality of our culture, and in some cases, it’s actually a great way for people to interact and be informed. I think some people maintain healthy boundaries with their time and their sharing. So while I don’t intend to offer “share” buttons on my posts and now don’t (thanks to you), I wouldn’t be opposed to or offended by someone sharing my blog post on their own social media account if they wanted to. In other words, I see this as a personal decision each person has to make.

              I also feel like I should point out that there are social elements to a lot of what we do online. There are comment features, like buttons, paid advertising, algorithms, etc. on a lot of websites I visit and applications I use. The ones I am trying to protect myself from are the ones with limited networks, ads you can’t control even with a paid option, algorithms that limit what you see based on assumed ideals, and maybe a few other criteria. In other words, I’m avoiding the more obvious social media platforms. But this is something that’s going to require a lot of thought and attention for years to come. I think there will always be aspects to technology that we need to think carefully about and respond according to our conscience.

              Thanks again for your comment!

            • reply Barry Steward ,

              Hey Charity, Right on and good for you! I’m still on TH but I seldom actually get on my page. I think the last time I spent longer than five minutes on there was almost two months ago. I do not Tweet or Instagram, and will continue not to do so. I won’t get into all the in and outs of my decision making on this topic; it is sufficient to say that I share many of the same concerns you have so eloquently voiced, as well as a few of my own.
              Would love to hear from you. My number hasn’t changed, although my address has. Maybe I’ll give you a holler!

              • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

                Thanks, cousin! It’s great to hear from you. And thanks for sharing your own practices regarding social media, and hopefully we can catch up sometime!

              • reply Jamr Rodkey ,

                I have a lot to think about social media ….you have so many valid points ! Thanks for sharing 💕

                • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

                  You’re welcome, Jane. I’ve been thinking about this for several years now, and pretty intentionally for the past few months. Hope all these thoughts don’t overwhelm you. But I am glad they gave you something to think about. Would love to hear where you end up as you consider these for yourself.

                • reply Diana Trautwein ,

                  Well said and cause for concern. But blogging is not social media, is that right? What else is not? There are some contacts through FB and IG that I don’t have anywhere else and the thought of losing those is sad, sad, sad. But . . . maybe. I’m thinkin’ on it.

                  • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

                    Hi Diana — It’s so great to hear from you. You’ve asked a really interesting question … and it’s good to define exactly what I’m talking about when I say “social media.” You know, blogging definitely has a social element to it … that’s what we’re doing right here in the comments section. If you take the broad definition from Wikipedia (“interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks”) then really many of the ways we engage online are social media. But when I talk about social media above, I specifically am referring to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In the interest of full disclosure, I currently maintain a skeleton profile on FB (I’ve removed all friends, pages, groups but 1, etc.) because of a professional group I participate in (see my comment above to Diedra), and I’ll also maintain a skeleton profile on LinkedIn that will serve as an online resume (I’ve removed all connections, pages, groups, etc. there, too). I also have a client whose Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts I manage, which require me to maintain access. I’m not going to impose my decision on them, and am willing to still serve as their social media manager. Right now, I’m also still on Goodreads, which is actually a social media that I didn’t think of until yesterday. I’ve rarely used it, and I’m still deciding whether to continue with at least an author page, since my books are listed on Goodreads.

                    So yes, this is an evolving, ongoing decision that I’ve had to apply to a number of platforms and apps. Like you, I have some people I’m not connected with other than on social media. I guess when I want to contact them next, I’ll have to figure out how to do it the old fashioned way … like through email or their website! 🙂

                    Thanks for your comment.

                  • reply Glynn ,

                    Charity, I understand your decision. I had spent years at work watching anger, outrage, and fake news before we called it fake news pour through Twitter and Facebook and aimed squarely at my company. I was personally threatened, as were scores of people who worked for the company; one individual had a bounty placed on his head, dead or alive, and his home address published on Twitter. Twitter decided that didn’t violate their terms of service., that is, until Twitter’s founder started receiving death threats.

                    With the 2016 election, it took another turn. The anger and outrage wouldn’t stop. I saw sides to people that made me realize I really didn’t know them. And these were people I’d worked with, met face-to-face, and had even prayed and worshipped with, including some from The High Calling. My Facebook newsfeed became a stream of anger, hate, outrage, and foul language. I solved the immediate problem by unfollowing some 45 of the worst offenders (I kept them as friends, and then would periodically go and check their postings and pray for them).

                    Social media facilitated all of this, and still does, but it’s not the cause. That lies deeper, in the kind of society we’re becoming. And I use the term “society” loosely — the fracturing that’s happening makes me wonder if we have a common society or culture left. I’ve considered leaving social media as well; for now, I’m staying, refusing to be drawn into political fights, and trying to share the good, the true, the positive, the fun, and the beautiful. I’ll have to see how long this lasts.

                    • reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

                      Glynn — WOW. I knew some of this, but not all of it. I would have left long ago if that had happened in my life. Those parts have bothered me for a very long time, too. I like technology. I like my smartphone and laptop. I like Netflix and Amazon Prime. But as you say, these are not the sole problem … and these technologies make it easier for our dark sides to emerge. And I’m just pointing the finger at myself mostly. My soul, mind, and spirit aren’t strong enough or pure enough or resilient enough for social media. It’s going to be a strange new world out there without social media. We’ll see how it goes!

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