Remember when everybody was talking about quiet-quitting? And then everybody else was like, "Wait, 'quiet-quitting'? Don't you mean simply having work-life boundaries?" Yeah, good times.
Last year I took a big step back from social media, which in retrospect is a form of quiet-quitting. The reasons are threefold: 1) Personal: Creating "content" adds value to Meta and gives little value back to me, 2) Ethical: Meta, for fear of losing value, manufactures a cost of quitting its services, and 3) Economical: Despite that cost of quitting, I have gained much more than I've lost. I'll close with Resolution: Toward a more mindful social networking.
Personal: Creating "content" adds value to Meta and gives little value back to me
Social media is only as valuable as the value its users bring to it. In the case of Instagram, it derives much of its value from the free labor of so-called "content creators," as is the case for all user-generated content platforms. Somewhere in the late 2000s or early 2010s, there was a covert shift from "social networking" to what is now called "social media," wherein every individual was made into an unpaid broadcaster of media. As for me, I'm no longer interested in creating so much "content" for this platform while a billionaire uses my labor to rake in ad revenue and data-mine my friends and followers. This is but one of many ethical failings of Meta et al.
Ethical: Meta, for fear of losing value, manufactures a cost of quitting its services
Meta litigates against upstarts, just as Twitter whittles away its API support, in a trend some call the enshittification of social media, all with the intent of preventing users from leaving to greener pastures. This then allows these companies to abuse users, because "as bad as they've made things for you, you'd have to endure worse if you left," what Cory Doctorow calls a "switching cost." That cost, however real or imagined, may be losing some amenities, a sense of community, or in my case, freelance income. And yet, I've found the cost of quitting is worth it.
Economical: Despite that cost of quitting, I have gained much more than I've lost
I used to believe that being active on Instagram was crucial to having success as a freelancer. If I compare 2022 (my least active year on IG) to 2021, admittedly my revenue went down ~$200, but this is not nearly enough of a dent for me to consider a causation. What I gained was a healthier mind, which is worth a lot more than $200/year. I spent my newfound mental energy working on projects that matter to me, that pay me back in some way, not creating content because I thought I had to. Instead of spending time and energy developing parasocial connections with my friends and peers, I can spend that time on truly fulfilling social connections with them.
Resolution: Toward a more mindful social networking
Social networking existed before Facebook. It existed before the internet.[1-1] Each of us has a living network of relationships. Instagram is just a facsimile of that. With all this being said, I still find some use out of Instagram. It's still worth me while for me to have a profile and post on occasion, but I'll be doing the bare minimum, which is why I'm using the term quiet-quitting. I've come to see Instagram like a kind of waiting room for my work and social life; it's like a gate to more effective ways of connecting. If you want to keep in closer contact with me, I've got a phone number, email, and email newsletter, so let's really connect! :)
Tech moguls like Zuckerberg have manufactured our dependence on their products. But it's not the products themselves that I find valuable. The thing that truly makes social media valuable is the people who use it (sociologists and economists call this phenomenon "network effects")[2-1], and the people are out there, with or without Meta. I, for one, am walking, touching grass, voting with my feet (and my finger), and shaking the dust from my sandals.