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"It Was Really Toxic": People Who've Quit Or Cut Back On Social Media Are Opening Up About How It Affected Them

If you've noticed fewer posts from your actual friends in your social media feeds lately, you're not imagining things. According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, fewer and fewer people are posting about their lives online.

Person lying on bed looking at smartphone screen in dimly lit room

Instead of updates from your college besties and posts from your wacky aunt, your feeds are now more likely to be full of sponsored posts, ads, recommendations from the almighty algorithm, and brand accounts.

Fiordaliso / Getty Images

For me, this all adds up to a feeling that social media isn't as fun as it used to be. Recently, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community who have quit using social media (or significantly cut back on their use) to share their reasons and what changed for them when they logged off. Here's what they had to say:

1."I used to be on Facebook and Instagram constantly. I was one of those awful people who spent time getting into pointless arguments in the comments section. It was legit causing anxiety, FOMO, and myriad other mental health issues. I got rid of FB completely two years ago, and now I only have a private Instagram page that I rarely post on."

Person using laptop receives multiple negative social media notifications indicating cyberbullying

2."I have scaled back social media use because I got tired of the constant advertising posts. I would search for an item on a shopping app for a second and then be bombarded with Facebook ads for said item! It was also creeping me out that I could have a 10-second conversation with my husband about something and then open social media to see ads stupidly similar, if not matching exactly what we'd just talked about."

"I used to go onto social media because there was a balance of updates from friends and family and actual news and current events in the world. When Facebook got rid of the news section, I quickly lost interest and scaled back my use of their app. I mostly see random posts from community groups rather than from human friends. I now read a global news app when I enjoy my morning coffee, rather than social media."

cindy_schneider16

3."I deleted Snapchat because I absolutely hated what it was doing to my mental health. Never been happier. I sort of miss the days before I had it when I didn’t think about those kinds of things. Constantly, every day, I would read people’s posts and get jealous and say I should be meeting those expectations; I should be doing that to be popular. It was really toxic as well because this boy in my grade kept harassing me, and I was just done. It will change your life, and you will feel so much happier, I pinky promise!"

famoustrash57

4."Earlier this year, I drastically cut back on how much I scrolled through social media, mainly because I felt that the things I loved to do were getting boring to me, and time that used to be dedicated to my interests was dedicated to scrolling. It was also beyond damaging to my mental health as I saw people with similar body types and issues to mine being absolutely torn apart in comments sections."

Young woman studying at home

5."Some people have said I’m not a real person since I don’t have Facebook or Instagram, or I’ve been in relationships and have been told that they don’t know what to say to their friends because they can’t show my profile. However, I am real. I’m right in front of you. In this moment. I feel free experiencing moments fully present. My camera roll is full of memories, just for me."

freshmule674

6."I permanently deleted all of my social media accounts over a year ago because I didn't like how I used social media or how it made me feel after I used it. I got rid of all the accounts at once. I am way more content now. I'm better at reaching out to people in my life and having fulfilling social interactions. I don't suffer FOMO because I don't know what people are doing without me. And I don't purchase as much because I don't see all the stuff other people have on social media."

"I feel like I've become a better wife, mom, friend, sister, and daughter since I left social media. I love really being there for others and being engaged and present. I also gained a new hobby as I made it my mission to learn how to bake — now I have something I can share with people in my life that I make for them to enjoy.

"I also now have a dumb phone. I can pretty much only use my phone as a tool to call and text. I like the 'friction' of not having access to anything/everything on my phone."

user924

7."I used to be, for lack of a better term, a social media addict. I had Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Threads, Bluesky, TikTok, and whatnot. My nights coming home after work were more often than not filled with endless hours of scrolling and reposting and tagging and liking. I was a prisoner of the various algorithms."

Man in bed using phone with another person asleep beside him, highlighting the impact of screen time on sleep

8."I was never one to post much or even lurk, but after escaping a seriously effed-up marriage, I deleted all accounts so that he wasn’t able to stalk or find me. I don’t miss any of it. I have friends who I think would literally implode if they got rid of their accounts and were not able to see what their ex (relationships and friends) or that cousin they had a falling out with years ago is up to."

—Brenda, 43

9."I used to share a lot about my life. Maybe more than the average person did — and not just life updates, either, but personal issues. Tough situations that maybe I shouldn't have opened the doors to for everyone. I was open about my divorce, drug use, alcohol abuse, and other things in a way that, while it was always posted about in a way looking for advice or support, let a lot of people into a dark side of my life."

"It wasn't a conscious decision to pull back. More so, it just started to happen, and soon I went from posting daily (not just about my issues, but posts in general) to now barely using social media at all. I think I realized that while support from people is always welcome, sometimes you have to be careful about who you allow support from. Because not everyone is going to have your best interests, and looking back, I realize that sometimes there may have been more damage done than good."I've now learned to trust my own advice and instincts and have a select few people with whom I know I can openly share stuff, and they will give me the advice and support that I need."

—Waderick, 34

10."I just couldn't take all of the purposeful misinformation and hate anymore, so in October 2019, I deactivated everything. Just in time, as all of that has gotten much worse since COVID-19. I kinda see the good stuff, as I still scroll Reddit and BuzzFeed. I can honestly say that I have had MUCH better mental health in the intervening years. You really aren't missing anything when you log off, since enough news media cover all the important stuff, so you don't have to subject yourself to the poison of social media directly."

Hand holding smartphone with "FAKE" label over a screen
Marcos Silva / Getty Images/iStockphoto

11."I worked in social media management for four years, and it absolutely wrecked my mental health. Upon switching industries, I deactivated my accounts, and I’ve never felt better. I compare myself less with others, and I’ve found I have stronger relationships with my friends because I am spending time with them to learn about what’s going on in their lives rather than relying on social media to keep me updated. I get to enjoy everything in real time instead of having the urge to record it for content. Zero regrets."

—M, 29

12."When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, I scaled back my posts on social media because I didn't want others to know too much about my health condition, for personal privacy reasons. Later, I became so sick and had so little energy that whatever energy I had, I dedicated to things that were meaningful to me, such as spending time with family. Suddenly, social media didn't seem as important."

"After I finished treatment, I was focused on my recovery, so I didn't go on social media as much. During that time period, I realized I wasn't missing out on much by not posting or checking my social media constantly. In addition, I stopped looking for validation from others and realized that just because I didn't post something doesn't mean it didn't happen or I wasn't special. When I stopped looking for such outside validation, it improved my mental health.

"To be honest, I still go on social media and post occasionally, but only if I feel like it."

xy8lu

13."I got on Facebook to keep up with my niece in another state. I rarely posted, but I made a post about gun control after the movie theater shooting. My brother attacked me, threatened me, and said he would cut me off if I continued to make 'political' posts. Instead, I closed my account and haven't spoken to him since. I loathe any social media and refuse to engage."

Close-up of a finger above a keyboard's delete key

—Suzanne, 68

Calvin Chan Wai Meng / Getty Images

14."I removed Facebook during the first Trump election. It was far too toxic. I removed Instagram because I spent too much time just scrolling through. I removed LinkedIn because the toxicity was hidden but would appear at the most random times. I removed TikTok because I felt I was wasting too much time just scrolling through it. While social media seemed like a good idea, we as humans just have to fuck things up and turn a good idea into a nightmare. I’m happy to be the weirdo who has no social media presence. I don’t miss it, and it surely does not miss me."

wickedghost77

15."I feel more connected with my own life. I have more moments when I sit with my thoughts instead of ramming scroll content in all of my quiet moments. I couldn’t delete the app — that felt too extreme — but I removed it from my home screen so that every time I opened my phone, it wasn’t the first thing my eyes ran to. And indeed, out of sight, out of mind."

"I found myself being more present throughout my day, and in no time I realized I only scrolled that app twice, versus 15 times. It seemed as if I had to make more of an intentional choice to dig up the app, so it wasn’t just muscle memory to 'open phone equals open app.' It’s been three months, and I haven’t put it back on the home screen yet. Not sure I will. I don’t want to be a scroll zombie craving mindless distraction. Time is, after all, our most precious gift."

—Dani, 32

16."I stopped in 2020. I just couldn’t deal with the negative garbage anymore. I also noticed that I was thinking about how I was going to post about my experiences all the time instead of just enjoying them. After I stopped posting, I realized how much better it was to just be in the moment. I have way less anxiety now that I’m not on social media anymore."

Hand holding a smartphone capturing a mountain and lake scene
Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

17."I was once a legitimate influencer in the autism community across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Instagram. After one of my videos went viral (hitting over 2 million views) and propelled my subscriber base to near that magic 100,000 mark, I went from social media as a hobby to nearly quitting my day job because YouTube earnings were outpacing my own salary."

"But while my popularity and royalties soared, my stressors and obsessions were jeopardizing my family and my soul. I nearly made a life-altering choice that would have devastated both. Long story short, cutting out all social media was part of a restorative confession that has helped me and my family heal.

"While I'm generally out of the loop now, I'm no longer in bondage to comparisons, opinions of strangers, or performative highlights. I've connected better with my family and my church, developed more real relationships with people I can trust, read towers of actual books, honed my chess and weightlifting skills, and pillowed my head without a shred of anxiety anymore as I live my days in better alignment with my faith and my self."

—Hunter, 37

18."I deleted the social media apps from my phone a few weeks ago. The comments on Instagram have become a toxic cesspool tearing down everyone who dares to look or behave slightly differently from what some random jerk online deems appropriate. I realized I was spending more time being angry looking at social media as opposed to it bringing me any joy. The rush of dopamine I would get seeing one good or funny post after a hundred bad/upsetting ones is by design and fueled my addiction."

tortillachips

19."I deleted both my Facebook and LinkedIn after finding out that someone was using my pics (but a different name) on a dating website. It just really freaked me out, and I deleted everything and never went back."

Person using a smartphone to unlock a laptop, implying a focus on technology for wellness or productivity
D3sign / Getty Images

20."My mother passed away. It was a long, drawn-out cancer battle that started during COVID. My parents were conservative Christians and heavily involved in their church, where there is little separation between doctrine, dogma, and politics. Being baby boomers, my parents and much of their church were heavy Facebook users. I started to scale back during COVID in general, as I couldn't deal with all the conspiracies and politics and lack of common sense. But I stuck around because it was one way to help support my mom."

"She was very sad at this time. I have two young children who she wasn't able to spend much time with because they could've easily gotten her sick during chemo. My mom would post constantly, updating her journey, to be met with outpourings of support and love from all her people.

"When we came to the end and she was sent home for hospice, I spent weeks with her and my father, helping to ease her last leg. The family decided to make a post asking for people to share their memories of my mom, and the posts became overwhelming. When she passed, her memorial service was so large that the church couldn't accommodate everyone who attended. We had to turn people away; she was so beloved in her community."Now, every time a post or memory shows up on FB, it just triggers me and brings back everything emotionally related to COVID and politics and her passing. I just couldn't do it anymore, and every time I poke my head back into FB, everything floods back in."

—Ryan, 42

21."A few years ago, a close friend went through some serious anxiety and depression, exacerbated by comparing herself with people on social media — even when they were mutual friends and we both knew it didn't reflect their real lives. When I saw the effect on her, I realized it was also affecting me, so I just stopped using it. Now I occasionally scroll Instagram to see cute animal videos and keep up with what my friends are doing, but that's all, and I don't think I'm missing out."

kkat22

Can you relate? Share your experiences with cutting back on social media or quitting altogether in the comments below.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.