I’ve opted out of Instagram, TV, and dating apps, and I’ve never been happier


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I’m a single guy, and I haven’t ever used a dating app (I did once upon a time use the dating site OkCupid—more on that later). I’ve never had my work Slack or email on my phone. I haven’t posted on Instagram in well over a year. And believe it or not, my dating, professional, and social lives have never been better.

To be clear, I’m not some kind of ascetic or martyr or one of those people who decided to live in the woods without technology. (No judgment though!) I have an iPhone, watch Netflix, and go down deep YouTube rabbit holes. I definitely haven’t rejected modernity or pop culture, but I’ve tried over the past few years to be more aware of what I think I can’t live without and what I actually can’t live without. I want to distinguish between a want and a need, and I want to need as little as possible.

When I Kondo-ed my apartment last year, I realized I’ve been gradually decluttering my life for years—paring down and simplifying and finding myself happier, calmer, and more self-actualized. Specifically when it comes to how I interact with technology.

Below are a few techy things I’ve opted out of already.

Deleting social media and minimizing tech is peak JOMO
Photo: Julia Garan

1. Instagram (and pretty much social media in general)

It started with deleting my personal Facebook page in lieu of a professional one, where I used to but now rarely post my writing. My Snapchat was short-lived and is now totally defunct. I tweeted twice in the last month and only log on to respond to a comment on my work or surrender to a push notification about @AOC’s latest clapback.

And finally, there is—er, was, for the most part—Instagram. I haven’t posted in a cool 79 weeks. I still have a (private) account, but the app is long deleted from my phone. I only check my sisters’ pages via browser bookmarks so I can kvell over my nieces’ latest antics and my sister’s latest show. But that’s all; no scrolling, no searching, no posting.

Mindless time I used to spend on the app made me resent my friends and resent myself. It would lead me to feelings of envy, self-loathing, disdain—three sensations I almost never experience offline. Even as an outwardly confident person, I felt the effects of our culture of comparison in insidious and visceral ways: If friends’ lives looked better than mine, I hated them for flaunting it. For others with lives that appeared less glamorous, I mapped schadenfreude onto them to feel better about myself. I hated people’s vacations and houses and spouses and dogs. Their DOGS. I’d obsess over posting the right photo and right caption and the number of likes I received, like the terrified, insecure adolescent I never even was.

I hated people’s vacations and houses and spouses and dogs. Their DOGS. I’d obsess over posting the right photo and right caption and the number of likes I received, like the terrified, insecure adolescent I never even was.

When I saw something funny, I was angry because I wasn’t that funny. When I saw a good dancer, I was angry because I wasn’t that good. When I saw an attractive man, I hated myself for not being that attractive. Even after acknowledging that Photoshop and filters and lighting and angles and retakes and the idea of the platform itself portray a distorted if not completely false reality, I couldn’t distinguish what I intellectually knew from what I emotionally felt. So I deleted it, and I don’t miss it all.

2. A TV (Along With Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Go)

Not to sound like the most twentysomething Brooklynite ever, but I tossed my TV in favor of an HDMI cable. It connects to a big monitor that I use at my workstation and then rotate 90 degrees to face my couch and serve as a TV. I rent movies on YouTube and risk contracting Russian malware by occasionally streaming an NBA game on Reddit. But I don’t use Apple TV or Roku, or Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBO Go, so I’ve never seen Game of Thrones or Patriot and no, I don’t know what happens when they go to the Catskills in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and yes I’m sure it’s amazing and that I’d love it.

I did cave on the Netflix front, mostly because my brother-in-law offered his password (thanks, Joel!). But even there, I try to adhere to strict rules: No shows, just movies (except if it’s a show I’ve already seen, like Parks and Rec, which I’ll sometimes put on for background noise). That means no bingeing. I also only watch stuff from my List and try to keep that under, say, eight or so movies, which helps me avoid scrolling. Basically this means I’ve seen To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 150,000 times, and nothing else. It’s perfect.

Here’s why: I surrender. It’s impossible to watch everything, so I’ve stopped trying (JOMO > FOMO). The paradox of choice overwhelms me and, usually, leaves me unhappy with my decision or unable to decide in the first place.

I sometimes feel sucked into limitless depths of novelty, buzz, and acclaim, scrolling in perpetuity until I’m sweating and stressed and completely paralyzed. I’m sure this is covered in a great episode of Black Mirror that I’ll never get around to watching.

I was recently at a friend’s house with a group, and we started watching trailers to decide what movie watch. An hour later, frustrated and exhausted, we chose to get up and leave. On the flip side, I visited my parents over Thanksgiving and decided to watch a movie with my sister. They have a 7,000 pound non-smart TV the size of Buick and no DVD player. Limited to the 14 VHS tapes laying around from our childhood, the decision was a no-brainer: the Mary-Kate and Ashley classic, It Takes Two.

Of course I value independence, autonomy, and choice, but too much of a good thing is, for me, well, too much. Despite my self-imposed limitations on Netflix, I sometimes feel sucked into limitless depths of novelty, buzz, and acclaim, scrolling in perpetuity until I’m sweating and stressed and completely paralyzed. I’m sure this is covered in a great episode of Black Mirror that I’ll never get around to watching.

3. Dating Apps

I haven’t used technology to date since I was on OkCupid for a handful of months in 2012, back when we called it “online dating,” before dating apps were really a thing. I recently spent a half-hour looking over the shoulder of my recently single friend as he swiped on Tinder, and immediately filled with anxiety and dread, I was reminded why I’m not into dating apps. Here’s what I just can’t deal with:

  • Feeling dispensable.
  • Feeling others are dispensable.
  • Getting quickly attached to and then immediately disappointed by someone I don’t know anything about and/or who has no interest in actually meeting me.
  • Not knowing if there’s an actual connection with someone when you match online, and then when you meet up, instantly realizing there isn’t.
  • Spending the energy it takes to seem like a cool, attractive person on apps when I’m just trying to be a functional, healthy person off of them.
  • Anything that forces me to spend more time looking at my phone.

I know I’m lucky to be able to maintain a healthy dating life without apps. In fact, the worst part of my fortunate situation of being a generally confident guy with a good job, living in a major city, and not being subject to serious pressure from my family or a biological clock (and so many other things that make dating easier) is also the best part: I have to shoot my shot. I have to physically walk up to a person at a party, networking event, or bar and risk the ultimate humiliation by starting a conversation and literally asking them out. I’ve been practicing this for a decade, and it is still one of the most terrifying, exhilarating, life-affirming experiences I can imagine. When it fails, it’s devastating. When it works, it’s ecstasy—or, er, an endorphin rush. But regardless, it’s always, always worth it.

If you do decide to give dating apps a shot, here are doc-approved tips to stay happy while doing it. Plus, if you’re new to the scene, check out advice from seasoned vets of the landscape.

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