Jim Duffy: Why I gave up social media forever - and you should too

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I noted with interest last week that Simon Cowell of X Factor fame is feeling much better having rid himself of his smartphone. No more browsing Facebook and all the other channels available to kept him occupied. All I can say Simon is - Welcome to the club!

This week marks my third complete month with no Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other form of social media that used to suck up my time and interfere with the neurotransmitters in my head. How does it feel? Liberating. The best bit is it is not as hard as you think it might be, albeit with some work.

The week before Facebook became the story and Zuckerberg went front hero to zero, I had decided to delete my Facebook account. It was poignant that week to note that Facebook was now under the microscope for its business practices, its data collection and its potential harm. Global media was reporting and still is that Facebook was not such a wonderful tech platform, but was in need of some forensic examination of how it operated and weaved itself into our lives and psyche. Did it indeed liberate us, extolling the tech virtue of catholicity or was it actually a huge constraint on our time, our attention span and our mental well being? Regardless, I had decided I was trailblazing and would pioneer my own trek into a new world where social media would be banished.

I let my Facebook “Friends” know that I was leaving. After all, one does not simply walk out on people. I did not wish to divorce myself from people who had liked my posts and accepted my offers of “friendship”. I was surprised that once I had penned my plenary post and published it, the response was massively positive. Not so much that they would no longer have to endure Duffy as a Facebook buddy, but that they acknowledged why I was coming off the platform and my reasoning for it. With over 100 likes and comments, I was off. I hit the delete account button and six years of building my contacts was over. No fanfare. No epitaph. No gold watch. Just peace and quiet and nowhere to post pictures of my Vizsla.

Then for the next step in my digital detox. I was set to switch off my LinkedIn account which to be honest was a big step. I had spent a great deal of time building this network and it meant a great deal to me. But, like all heirlooms it had to go if I was to get clean and sober. Again, I let all my connections know I was exiting and again the overwhelming responses was supportive, positive and a few replies were very touching. Of course there are always one or two felons who like to take a swing and yes they did. Funny, they never called me ever to let me know they resented me or even deleted their connection with me. But, as a breathed my last digital breath on this networking platform they were happy to have one last acerbic rant. God bless them.... who would they now vent their pitiful frustration at via their QWERTY keyboard?

To complete my digital transcendental voyage, it was only Twitter now that had to go. Ah Twitter.... that 140 character communication tool that for some reason many users have chosen to use to vent, criticise, accuse, denounce, disapprove, abuse, slander, vilify, lambast and defame others. I would have no problem at all hitting the delete account button on this. In fact, as I looked at my account, I hadn’t tweeted for weeks, so it was obviously on its way out anyway. And with one click on the keyboard, I was now in full detox mode with all my primary social media accounts closed. So how does it feel and would I recommend it?

My rationale for implementing this sea change in how I run my life was simple. I wanted to be in the moment and not stuck on a smartphone or tablet, posting, tweeting or uploading. I wanted to test how it would feel to not be able to see what family and friends were doing, what meals they were eating and what memes they thought I’d like to see. I wanted to challenge the tech companies’ propositions on the usefulness of these sites and whether they actually added real value to me. The results have been interesting over the last three months.

I miss some of my Facebook friends and LinkedIn chums. For many who posted relevant material that made me think or laugh, there is a slight void that has yet to be replaced. As I went “cold turkey” right away, I did suffer from the shakes, the jitters and at times the loneliness of not having “friends” to peruse and “like” and a network to comment on my posts. But, I kept telling myself that this is part of the rehab process. Switching off chemicals in the brain like dopamine causes small imbalances that I needed to manage. So, Facebook deletion most definitely had consequences. I still think about perhaps creating a small account for family and close friends. But, I know this is a slippery slope. That said, I get some Facebook action via my partner by proxy as she browses and lets me know occasionally what is going on. At the start of month four, I am defining getting over it for good. The good news, like all addictions, is that time is a great healer and one always has to think about why one gave up the addiction.

I know how Simon Cowell feels now. It feels like a new dimension has revealed itself. Getting here has been an interesting journey, but totally worth it. Would I recommend it to you? Unreservedly and without hesitation as I now feel no emotional attachment to my iPhone. It’s now just a gadget to make calls and texts and no longer a pipe for big tech to fuel my sensory addictions.