Will quitting social media hurt my career?

Having a social media presence can seem like a prerequisite for employment.
Having a social media presence can seem like a prerequisite for employment.
Image: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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This May, I deleted my Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter profiles.

In spite of the dopamine rush from “likes” and the ever-accessible validation, I went radio dark, largely because I suspect that social media does, for me, more harm than good. Or at the very least, I am curious if this experiment will confirm that inkling.

The problem is that, as I graduate from college and commence my job search, it seems that several perfectly curated platforms are often a prerequisite. Many of the internships and entry-level positions available to students and recent grads, regardless of industry, list social media upkeep as a core responsibility.

For me, as a freelance writer, it seems that self-advertisement supersedes my portfolio. A professor from my school’s MFA program told my class that we need an online presence to interest publishing houses: “No one is going to give you a book deal unless you have Instagram followers.”

Entrepreneurs with unlimited live access to public opinion lust after coveted influencers to sell their brands. Corporate executives can address an immense global audience in seconds, announcing promotions, launching products, and responding to negative press, all while establishing a more human ethos. The facility and immediacy of user interaction accelerates connection; company growth strategies hinge on the connectivity of these platforms.

Employers, especially older millennials, want to see how a potential employee could advance their brand, business, or name, and a sizable internet following seems the fastest, cheapest, and most effective way to do that.

One of the most appealing selling points among my peers is our savviness with this ever-evolving tech. Hipness and cultural literacy comes with youth, with immersion in the revolution. But perhaps this isn’t the revolution in which I’d like to take part.

I worry that by deleting my social media accounts, I’ve damaged my résumé. But the thing is, I actually feel like a more effective, creative worker since I did precisely that.

Deprivation of white noise forces you to notice silence. Immersion in our constructed universe of artwork and images and information, amplified by interaction with anyone at any time, can really feel like inhabiting a room full of people. But therein lies the issue; I wasn’t in a room full of people. And if I was, I was often more consumed by the universe in my lap than the one around me.

That I can log into a network on my phone means I am, at least in that instant, denying the potential for the formation of a network in my vicinity.

It is astounding how much time I squandered on social media, mindlessly scrolling through profiles of people I scarcely knew or taking “Which Disney Prince Should You Marry Based On Your Skincare Preferences?” quizzes or watching compilations of the dancing videos Donald Glover slams in his music video for This Is America—all in an attempt to ward off boredom. This procrastination impeded more than my ability to meet deadlines; it also eviscerated my sense of presence, of mindfulness.

Two months into my social media-free existence, my frenetic thumbs still return compulsively to my home screen to find another app to refresh, another feed to consume, one more of my ex’s college roommate’s high school best friend’s hot cousins to stalk and envy, but nonesuch apps reside there anymore.

Lately I have been focusing on grounding myself in my surroundings whenever I can. A sort of externalized meditation, I try to absorb, assess, and appreciate any space I enter.

I still commute with headphones to evade catcallers, photograph sidewalk oddities with my phone camera, and become fixated on Will Shortz’s crossword puzzles on the train, but I’ve been focusing on spending my time with intention, and I feel better for it. Still, I cannot bear static yoga, and still, the earth is heating up at alarming rates, and still, writer’s block often prevails, but I had to start somewhere. And I’m making progress.

I only hope that those who look to employ me can see that, too.