It isn’t uncommon for individuals — and even some large corporations like Lush — to announce their departure from social media. And with all the news about Facebook (and Instagram by proxy) in recent years, it really isn’t shocking. The act of boycotting companies and industries is a tale as old as time with many folks believing in its power, no matter how large the opposing entity. But others may wonder how it can make any difference with a force as large and powerful as social media.
So, why do people do it? Does it actually make a difference? If it does, what’s next? Let’s take a walk through the process of minimizing one’s digital footprint.
Why do people leave social media?
A huge reason for leaving certain social platforms, as mentioned above, stems from Facebook’s sketchy past. With every polarizing period of time — from the election to the pandemic — Facebook was accused of spreading misinformation. On a more personal level, many folks suddenly became worried about their privacy.
It might be safe to say we’ve all experienced this concern on some level. You mention to your friends that you’ve been thinking about changing the brand of dog food you buy. You open Instagram and instantly see an ad for a new dog food company. Convenient? Sure. Creepy? Definitely. No one likes the idea of being monitored without their explicit permission.
⚪️ I don’t like this ad
⚪️ Why am I seeing this ad?
🔘 This ad overheard my conversations
— bakerman (@ryanbakerman) October 28, 2018
Mental health is also often cited as a popular reason for leaving social media — with many looking at it like they’re kicking an addiction. For some, the reasons are far beyond just themselves. Many have the goal of encouraging others to be more present and genuine alongside them. Plenty of people notice the negative effects of social media on their loved ones and want to take a stand on their behalf. Regardless of the reason, digital detoxes have become very popular.
“There is now overwhelming evidence we are being put at risk when using social media,” says Mark Constantine OBE, Co-Founder of Lush Cosmetics. “I’m not willing to expose my customers to this harm, so it’s time to take it out of the mix.” The company has recently decided to deactivate their Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok until they feel mental health and overall user safety is finally prioritized on those platforms.
Lush is widely known as a skincare company that focuses on ethically-sourced products and donations to social causes, so their stance on social media isn’t too surprising. Jack Constantine, CDO of Lush, says, “social media platforms have . . . algorithms designed to keep people scrolling and stop them from switching off and relaxing.”
But is quitting social media effective?
Facebook has since begun rolling out initiatives to stop the spread of misinformation on its platform, as well as claiming that it does not listen to your conversations in order to feed you personalized ads. It’s possible that the company wouldn’t have gone so far as to address these issues if they weren’t losing users over it.
As far as mental health goes, plenty of influencers and everyday users alike have taken quite a few strides to turn their digital presence into a safer space. When the Instagram versus reality trend was born, people openly shattered the false images they once proudly shared. People claimed to feel a sense of relief after they could finally admit that their lives weren’t as perfect as they seemed.
It seems many folks realized something needed to give. For certain influencers who make their living on social media, it’s not an easy feat to simply quit. Campaigns like the above seek to fix the issue without completely abandoning ship. And who’s to say this wasn’t sparked by the mass exodus of other users? It makes sense that content creators would want to improve their work environment in a way that keeps their audience around.
All in all, it’s hard to give a concrete answer as to whether or not boycotting social media was the main reason for these changes. What we do know is that the folks who run these platforms as well as the individuals who plan to never leave must be listening to others’ complaints. I’d say it’s safe to assume that leaving — and doing so with clear reasoning — can definitely make a difference.
So, what does the future of social media look like?
As Facebook transitions into its future as Meta, the company certainly has a lot of changes in store. Plenty of folks are not convinced that they will continue addressing privacy concerns with these changes. But as more and more users drop out, I would hope that the company would take a step back like it has in the past to consider what users want in order to feel safer online.
I personally believe individuals and companies standing up to these all-powerful social platforms can create good. The change may be slow, but I’ve seen a positive shift in the type of posts on my feed in recent years. One can argue that the powers behind these platforms will always seek to exploit, but remember that users have a lot more power than they think.
Take a break from Instagram when you need to, delete your entire Facebook account if you really want, or keep live tweeting your daily life. No matter how intimidating any of these options are, try to remember that your actions do have an impact — even if it’s just on yourself.