Adjusting to Real Life After Social Media

Charlotte Bismuth
3 min readOct 11, 2021

The challenges of a break from Twitter and Instagram

Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

Maybe it was all the ads on Twitter. Maybe I was tired of seeing every complex issue reduced to a heated binary conflict. In any event, a few weeks ago, I set a screen time limit on my phone for Twitter and Instagram, and it all just stopped. Now I’m only on a few minutes day, at most. It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought.

  • My eyes are no longer accustomed to the stillness of life. Sitting at my desk, in my NYC bedroom, I’m looking out at the building next door. Its rectangular windows are shaped like my cell phone screen, and during the first few days of my social media break, I almost expected them to scroll or fill with images. But they are fixed in brick. It’s an adjunct building for a hospital — I think it contains some labs and offices — so there’s barely ever any movement or change. Seeking movement and distraction, my eyes flit around my desk and room, resisting focus.
  • My eyes are tired. Or — I’m finally feeling how tired they’ve been. The constant absorption of visual information, the gazing and switching — it had become a habit. Now that I don’t just hitch my eyes to the moving visual parade of social media, numbing everything, I’m feeling the pull and burn of eye strain.
  • I have a lot of questions. Do you have to be on Twitter to be relevant? Do you have to be on Twitter to be heard? Do you have to be on Twitter to stay informed? What else is out there? Where else are people communicating with each other?
  • I was never the quippiest Tweeter, but these days, thinking is a slower process. I don’t feel like saying much. I’m re-examining beliefs. There’s some business cogitating below the surface, but it’s complicated and still wordless. There are inner conflicts related to the opioid crisis and the so-called War on Drugs, questions about what I want to do next, and also just the relative silence of life with much less social media chatter.

And then, of course, there’s confronting the big questions, like the purpose of your life, the quality of your parenting, the health of your friendships, mortality—you know, the questions that aren’t so easy to resolve when you’re running down the rabbit hole of Instagram dog toy ads. Those topics are almost enough to send me running back to social media … but luckily, I went to see the Bond movie a few nights ago, which sent my eyes and mind spinning like a cartoon character with rapidly revolving slot machine eyes. It was like Twitter and Instagram in a high-speed nuclear explosion, delivered directly into my neurons. I’m still stunned. The big questions are now quieter, for better or for worse, replaced by many small, urgent questions about Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux’s chic brown sandals and the James Bond franchise.

Is anyone else finding Twitter both overwhelming and underwhelming these days? Have any of your social media breaks turned into a permanent quit? Where are you finding community and conversation?

Charlotte Bismuth

Author of “Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher,” former Manhattan ADA , Columbia Law School grad, occasional legal cartoonist.