Due to the popularity of my last post, I received loads of questions about how to maintain a social life without social media. Many commenters were defensive – saying that they needed social media to maintain some kind of connection with those they don’t see very often. My intent with this post is not to prove those people wrong, but to propose an alternative. This is far from one-size-fits-all, but if you’re interested in extricating youself from social media – you may find this helpful.
I have about 10 close friends. I felt guilty about this in my last post, and honestly still do. The number seems small in comparison to how many digital friends/followers most people have. Kind of peculiar considering that 10 friends is a healthy number for me, but I don’t really have a frame of reference because you don’t typically tell other people how many IRL friends you have in numerical terms.
So how do I know I have enough friends if I have no frame of reference? I feel socially fulfilled. I don’t really need to explain, or question more deeply than that. I just feel like I’m not wanting for more social stimulation. I’m suspicious that I wouldn’t have developed this tentative confidence about my number of friends if I hadn’t left social media. One of the things that shatters confidence in any domain is contstantly comparing your ‘success’ in something to that of others.
Okay – so you’ve dropped social media, went through your dark period of withdrawal and came out the other side with some IRL human friends – how are you supposed to keep in touch with them without Facebook Messenger? More importantly, what if they travel somewhere and you don’t know about it instantly?
First off, you’ll stop caring so much. You’ll stop caring about the minutae in other peoples’ lives and it’ll feel blissful. You’ll have loads of extra time and attention to direct at things that give back to you instead of take from you, such as family, real friends, hobbies, career, et al. Secondly you’ll remember that you are very resourceful, and you will create your own frameworks for communicating with the people that are truly important in your life.
I can’t give any prescriptions here, but what works for me involves some tech. Maybe this seems hypocritical, but I’ve never said that I’m a luddite – I simply choose to choose what tech I allow into my life. What I find most helpful in actively facilitating friendships is to make time for face-to-face interaction, and to use phone/FaceTime when the former is not possible.
Face-to-face interaction is obviously preferable. You’re actually in a location sharing experience with someone else. It’s a very high-fidelity communication method. I find that men typically have a hard time just hanging out and talking and usually need to have some kind of activity as an excuse to get together. I like to suggest eating a new restaurant, or watching sports or a movie.
About half of my friends live at various locations across the country and face-to-face interaction isn’t feasible. A phone call is good here, but FaceTime or the like is better. Don’t underestimate how limited speech is in communicating with someone. Having at least some visual really helps, and with decent internet speeds, video chat is finally pretty usable, although latency is still a significant issue.
I’m a very busy person with a full time job, and lots of obligations outside of it. Due to this, sometimes I have phone calls during the weeknights, but I usually relagate them to the weekends; specifically Saturday for in-person hangs, and Sunday for phone calls. This isn’t rigorously organized but just feels like a good pace for me and has kind of fallen into a rhythm over time.
I don’t like to put time-pressure on any of these interaction insofar as I’m able to do that. If I hang out with someone we may plan an activity, but I also set aside time afterwards so we can talk about the activity. For phone calls/videochats, I don’t plan the length of the call but it usually sits between 1 and 3 hours long. I prefer to chat with an earbud headset so I can lounge on the couch or walk outside while chatting.
This is what works for me, and I hope it’s a helpful glimpse into how friendships may be actively maintained in the absence of social media. Ultimately if you’re going to quit social media, you should plan out some alternatives. Quitting something outright, especially something that has you hooked by your dopamine receptors, tends to be somewhat difficult. Having an ideal or goal to strive for, not only makes progress more likely, but also helps you measure your progress towards your ideal.