Should people quit social media altogether?

Forbes ran a recent opinion piece, “Three Reasons You Should Quit Social Media in 2013” that advocates quitting social media cold turkey.  While I understand the sentiment behind the piece, I’m not sure that the argument for abdication is as strong as the title suggests.  Let me explain why:

The argument for quitting social media

In the piece, three reasons are given for shuttering all social media accounts:

  • Social media is harmful to self-esteem
  • Social media is annoying
  • Social media not a good substitute for offline relationships

By this criteria we must accept their conclusion that overall self-esteem has diminished in the past few years and that we are more agitated after visiting a social network than before.  There isn’t a whole lot of evidence supporting or refuting either point.  The argument that our self-esteem diminishes by comparing ourselves to Facebook friends probably could be used for real-life interactions as well and a lot of people that I know agitate me every time I’m with them, too.

There is evidence that offline relationships are of higher quality than online relationships, however they aren’t mutually exclusive.

So, while these aren’t iron-clad reasons that demonize social networks, on any given day I might agree with some of them more than others.  So it might be worthwhile to examine the advantages to participating social networks.

A bad rap?

Does anyone remember  It was a pay service to put you in contact with all of your high school friends. It was essentially a pay-to-play Facebook with nowhere near the features.  The reason that they were moderately successful was that people wanted to reconnect with friends they had lost touch with.  There wasn’t any talk of diminished self-esteem or annoyance, even though the majority of interactions happened over email.  In fact I’m hard pressed to recall anyone I know physically meeting as a result of re-connection on  (Classmates still exists, a fact that I find as curious as the persistence of Angie’s List)

So, the self-esteem issue must correlate with the frequency of online messages?  But if we agree with the bellwether of unimpeachable  information (Wikipedia) and define self-esteem as “a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth,” then isn’t an increased frequency of posts indicative of higher self-esteem?  More posts would seem to indicate that a person feels that their posts have value to people.

Until social media came along, connecting with people over email wasn’t construed as inadequate, though the connection is just as tenuous as in social media.  And by measurable indications (posts), self-esteem is actually enhanced on social media.

Could it be that social media gets a raw deal because of its newness?

What is social media?

Social media (as people use it) is heavy on the media and light on the social.  By all accounts, people on Facebook and Twitter are consuming and publishing far more than they are conversing.  Mark Cuban recently likened Facebook to television viewing, and though they’re somewhat different they have a lot of consumptive behaviors in common.  Facebook seems to have acknowledged this somewhat by morphing their advertising from targeting social connections to interruption marketing.  And many studies have concluded that the time spent on social networks is time previously spent watching television (or concurrent).

Should people stop watching television?  Maybe.  But should social media be held to a different standard than television?  Probably not.  In fact, I would argue that there is a higher value to consume social content than typical media.  But we don’t really know.

What we do know is that social media is taking up an increasing amount of people’s leisure time, so there must be something to it.  There may be a compelling reason to quit, but my guess is that it has little to do with self-esteem, agitation or wanting more fulfilling interactions.  If people quit social media, my guess is that they have other things to accomplish.

What do you think?  Are you ready to retire from social media?

Photo Credit


Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • ☠CPirateTV☠

    Maybe not cold turkey even though I no longer support facebook, but it definitely calls for re-evaluation in 2013

  • Brian D. Hawkins

    Hi Jim, It’s an interesting question but an impossible one to answer for anyone but ourselves. I bet for every study or argument against social media we can find one for it. I guess it depends on how we, as individuals, deal with and enjoy it.

    I would like to point out that the author of that article used the word “I” 11 times in the first paragraph. Perhaps that’s why her break from social media fit so well. Just sayin’ lol

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Brian – your point is completely accurate. Someone can espouse the benefits of quitting social all they want, but if users find value to it then it is simply someone’s personal opinion. And social media means so many different things to different people, I find it hard to believe that there is a self-esteem or pestilence issue for most people…. though I could be wrong.

  • Mark Stonham

    Interesting topic, that deserves to be taken seriously. I too thought of the TV analogy. There’s also an analogy with being a football or sports fan. On the positive there is the genuine social side, of keeping in touch with family and friends across the world. And the opportunity to connect with new people in a way that was impossible even 5 years ago. However there are side-effects, such as the 3 mentioned above, and perhaps the obsession or addiction side, and what people sacrifice for social media time. As with most things, there will be a bell-curve, with a few very heavy users, the majority in the middle and some light users, For individuals in any of these groups it may be advantageous to completely withdraw, or to stay out. But at least in the west we have freedom of choice.

    • jimdougherty

      Great points all, Mark! Reminds me that I was ready to give up on my Seahawks earlier in the season and look at them now. I wasted an entire night watching their game instead of working! Great insight – I appreciate your comment!

  • Cendrine Marrouat

    Great article, Jim!

    A lot of people decide to quit social media because they don’t understand its purpose.

    The day I started to liken it to the human journey, things became quite clear to me. I have met incredible people, forged great relationships, and been able to learn a lot.

    I don’t think I could ever quit social media. It would be like quitting life in a way.

    • jimdougherty

      Great point Cendrine – and maybe one that strengthens the positions of Facebook and Twitter – the fact that people understand these platforms overcomes a very big obstacle for folks. Trying to get my mom to switch to Google Plus or Myspace would be difficult. And to your second point, once people have embraced it, there is a lot of value to be gleaned. Love this comment – thank you for sharing!

      • Cendrine Marrouat

        Thank you for your response!

    • Martin Gysler

      I totally agree your comments Cendrine.

  • Martin Gysler

    Thanks Jim, it’s a very interesting question. Sometimes I wonder … What I mean is that everybody should ask himself if he doing the right things in his life. I do not really see the difference between social media or another subject.

    I totally agree with Brian, each person must find his own answer.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks Martin, some great thoughts from both you and Brian. What I suspect is that this is merely an academic exercise as people seem to see enough value in social media to participate in these networks. Cheers!

  • imercury

    The demise of main stream media before us screaming we can’t live without them. I guess we’re to go back to the old days. Wait for the next issue of Forbes or WSJ to come to tell us what to buy that will make us feel good . But wait Jim Daugherty is telling me this not the publishers of Forbes ! I doubt anyone will be closing their Facebook accounts or go to the library or even the mail box to read major media any time soon. Unless they are sending it free I need some paper to get my stove going.

    • jimdougherty

      Thanks for the great comment! I imagine for the foreseeable future Jim Dougherty’s posts and five bucks will get you a cup of coffee, but great point. There is a nostalgia for the past that informs peoples opinions on social and new media, isn’t there?

      • imercury

        Fact is large media outlets are losing market share, revenue, and are over valued. Social media and social networks will thrive no matter what the old, big money has to say. Internet censorship is the biggest threat to the information revolution that we are in. The power of the internet is evident in movements like anonymous , occupy, Ron Paul’s bid for POTUS and the awareness spread about his platform all done without the blessing of major media. The rate that this is happening is alarming of course Forbes is going to discount the competition to gain value from their diminishing subscriber base. O the good old days when you had to buy the magazine to find out the Forbes 500

  • Robin E. Thornton

    It’s all about the value – perceived or actual, to the individual. It may change according to the situation, circumstances, time of the year or social calendar. It’s sort of like friendship, where you need to see some benefit over the long term to continue to make the commitment.

  • elizabeth efthymiadis

    I didn’t know anything about social media and being of a curious nature but also an avid learner, I joined the swirl about a couple of months ago. I did learn quite a bit, laughed, pondered, and tweeted. It’s a great way to feel connected to the world community and also, for some professionals, a way to show one’s expertise. To my mind, it is never annoying to be exposed to what other people have to say. On the contrary it is mind-broadening. And as Katie Swinehart wrote in her FB, no one has all the knowledge. We each have some knowledge that may be of value to someone else.

    • jimdougherty

      Wonderful insight Elizabeth! You remind me of the best aspects of social media! Cheers!