Leaving Social Media

Table of Content

With the advancement in technology, society has transformed from an industrial age into the information age, leading to the rise of social media. Social media refers to applications and websites that allow people to share photos, opinions and events in real-time. The ability to share content quickly and efficiently (Held, 1999) has led to a change in how relationships and first impressions are established. This is also the case for developing countries (Jacob Poushter, 2018). However, social media is often viewed as a paradox. While it connects society on a global scale and fosters modernity, it is also criticized for being a toxic mirror (Simmons, 2016). Some may experience a loss in self-esteem by constantly comparing themselves with others on social media. However, by moderating the time spent online, one can avoid the negative impacts social media may bring about. Thus, I feel in today’s society, one would not leave social media.

Literature Review

The advancement of technology has changed the way people interact and brought society to a highly interconnected level (Chen, 2012), resulting in the formation of the network society (Castells, 2004). Network society is defined as a society which is made up of networks that are powered by digital information communication technologies. However, Castells’s theory does not encompass the whole community in the world. According to him, networks work on “binary logic: inclusion/ exclusion” (Castells, 2004, p. 4). This implies that two distinct realities are existing in the world, those that are part of the network and those that are not. In this case, the presence of the digital divide (Warschauer, 2004) has left people in developing countries out of the network society. Yet, this digital divide will slowly narrow in the near future, especially after surveys and research have shown how smartphone ownership and social media usage is increasing in developing countries (Jacob Poushter, 2018).

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Social media usage has gained popularity rapidly, to the point that it is becoming the main form of communication online. People use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to establish and maintain relationships with others (Boyd, 2007). Using these sites, profiles are sometimes created to create impactful and lasting memories, which is similar to Goffman’s theory of impression management (Goffman, 1999). Cunningham (2014) provides her analysis on how identity is constructed on social media and emphasizes the importance of it, especially with social media becoming the main form of communication and connection. This indirectly resulted in the rise of businesses on social media, as discussed by Simeon (2011).

However, the increased use of social media may lead to social overload. One may experience stress, exhaustion and dissatisfaction, resulting in the quitting of social media. This is validated by Maier (2012) where they conducted a survey with 523 Facebook users and also popular internet figures such as Essena O’Neil and Daryl Aiden Yow.

Research Methodology

Sociological articles and research papers were analyzed to obtain data on the pros and cons of social media.


One of the main reasons why one would not leave social media is due to the connectivity and convenience it brings about. The rapid development and rise of the new media have brought human interaction and society to a highly interconnected and complex level (Chen, 2012). This has led to the transformation of society into a network society – a society which is made up of networks that are powered by digital information communication technologies. (Castells, 2004, p. 3). The rise of technology the widespread use of the Internet resulted in a few essential structural changes; tasks can now be completed without being affected by geographical and time constraints (Castells, 2004, p. 36). In the past, people communicate using letters and mails, which may take months to arrive. Whereas communication now is instant; texting depends on the internet speed and service coverage instead of the geographical distance. Applications such as Whatsapp or Telegram serve as a reliable platform for people to communicate and engage in conversations with people all over the world.

Other than being a platform that enhances connectivity, social media also brings about convenience in the form of entertainment and businesses. Music, videos and news are accessible on social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Facebook. The widespread use and large userbase also resulted in businesses moving online, as brands can advertise their product much more efficiently and effectively (Simeon, 2011). With so much of our everyday lives being moved online, in terms of social and economic reasons, one would not want to leave social media.

However, some may argue that the network society is only prevalent in developed countries, where people can afford these technologies. This idea was also recognized by Castells himself, as he stated how “networks work on binary logic: inclusion/ exclusion” (Castells, 2004, p. 4). Those who are informed and affluent will be a part of the network society while those who are poor and powerless will be disconnected to the network. This results in a digital divide, which is a “barrier marked not only by physical access to computers and connectivity, but also by access to the additional resources that allow people to use technology as well” (Warschauer, 2004, p. 6). Thus, as people in developing countries are not even part of a network society, it would not be a disadvantage to leave social media.

While there is indeed a digital divide between developed and developing countries, this gap between them is slowly narrowing with the advancement of affordable technologies. This can be seen in a survey by Pew Research Centre, where smartphone ownership increased from 24% in 2014 to 42% in 2017 and usage of social media increased from 34% in 2014 to 53% in 2017 (Jacob Poushter, 2018). As such, it is not surprising to see even developing countries using social media as a tool for communication. This is especially the case for migrants in developing countries, where early migrants communicated with their loved ones via letters and packages by mail which may take a long time to arrive. However, with the increased usage of social media, migrants can now communicate effectively and efficiently through the use of Whatsapp and other social media applications. With the constant advancement of technology, one can expect the smartphone ownership in developing countries to increase even further and more people being part of the network society. While people in developing countries may have no qualms in leaving social media today, I believe that this would change in the near future, once they are part of the network society and have access to the benefits of social media.

Another reason one might not leave social media is due to the usage of social networking sites as a platform for presenting the self to others. Sharing of photos or captions on social media are straightforward and instant. As such, it is not surprising how the popularity of these platforms has increased tremendously over the years, with many people using it as their main source of communication in the virtual world. One example would be Facebook. With over 2.45 billion monthly active users on this public platform, one might take extra effort to control and monitor how they present themselves online, to create lasting first impressions. With the decrease in significance and occurrence of face to face communication in today’s network society, first impressions play an even greater role on social media. With social media being a public platform, any information that is shared can be easily viewed by others. This includes potential employers, friends or even partners.

As such, people may go through a large extent to ensure they give the best possible impression of themselves online. This form of behaviour is similar to Goffman’s theory of impression management, where he states how during “any type of social interaction, people have the desire to control the impressions other people form of them.” (Goffman, 1999, p. 109) Many people shape their behaviour or tweak their appearance in an attempt to control how others may perceive them. Goffman also likens these social interactions online to a theatrical performance, where people are like actors on a stage but with differing roles. In social interaction, there is a front region where individuals perform while being aware that others are watching. There is also a back region where individuals can be their true self and need not put up with their role (Goffman, 1999, p. 128).

These performances occur all the time, especially on social media like Facebook. While sharing content or personal information on Facebook (front region), people may put in the extra effort to craft a caption or edit their pictures, being fully aware of how others have access to these content. However, how people portray themselves online can differ drastically with how they are in real life. Behind the computer screen (back region), people may not look or sound as professional as their online persona. With no one watching, they are not required to put up with the act of impressing others. While the back region, people can practise for the next performance, preparing the content required to post online (Cole, 2019). With the decrease of face to face interaction in the network society, the importance of first impressions on social media has increased. Thus, being able to control and shape impressions on social media while connecting with others serves as an encouragement for people not to leave social media

Furthermore, human beings yearn validation and enjoy being praised, especially when the effort spent in impression management is being recognized. On social media like Youtube or Instagram, the number of views and likes are treated as indicators of validation. The higher the number, the more satisfaction they gain. As a result, this creates a cycle where people would constantly seek to improve their degree of impression management, to share even better content to gain more validation and boost their self-esteem at the same time. The validation serves as a motivation for people to stay on social media. Thus, it is not surprising if one would not leave social media as it serves as a platform to impress others and receive validation at the same time.

However, this approach of impression management may backfire, causing people to leave social media instead. In the long run of impression management, one may feel the pressure to be socially accepted and validated to be too much to handle. Over time, social media may seem to be a platform to compete and boast, losing its initial purpose of communication and sharing of information. An example would be Essena O’Neil, a former Australian internet celebrity. She had 600,000 followers on Instagram when she decided social media was too much for her and deleted almost 2000 photos from her Instagram account. According to an interview, she decided to quit social media as she was “constantly comparing herself to others” and “measuring her self-worth based on the number of likes on her posts” (Weyman-Jones, 2015). Having to deal with these problems daily to stay on top of the competition in social media is no easy feat. By constantly comparing to others apparently perfect lifestyle, people may feel very dejected and anxious over their plight. This may even result in people, especially those with low self-esteem to develop social anxiety (Harman, 2005). Thus, it is not surprising if people chose to leave social media to avoid the pressure and toll on their mental health.

In the long run of impression management, one may take an extreme path of blatantly deceiving others and presenting a false front. This discrepancy between the front and reality may be caught on others, resulting in a misrepresentation (Goffman, 1999, p. 55). Often, misrepresentation leads to humiliation and a loss in reputation, which may compel one to leave social media. This can be seen in the example of Daryl Aiden Yow, a Singaporean photographer who claimed stock images and other people’s work as his own, posting them on his Instagram. He was faced with so much backlash that he deleted all his photos and went on a hiatus from Instagram. Paying for stock images online and editing it to pass off as his photo shows the extent one would go to impress others. Thus, having suffered humiliation and the loss of credibility and reputation due to misrepresentation, one would voluntarily leave social media.


In conclusion, social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives, bringing us convenience, increased connectivity with people all over the world and a platform for us to present the best version of ourselves. Some may liken social media to a double-edged sword, how it may affect self-esteem negatively instead of boosting it. However, I believe that as long as we can maintain a good social media and real-life balance, knowing when not to let our online behaviour cross the line, there is no need to leave social media.

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Leaving Social Media. (2022, Aug 10). Retrieved from


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