By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

While Paraguay champions positivity and Papua New Guinea is best known for propagating diversity, the “International Number Ones: because every country is the best at something” report published by The Independent tags the Philippines as the best in the world for social media. But in a country where trolls, selfies, and memes rule and keyboard warriors always have something to say, there are some people — surprisingly, including millennials — who’d rather stay offline, but not necessarily out of touch in the world. Outside Facebook, they may have better relationships, better jobs, and a better outlook in life. They are not, in social media language, in “FOMO” or in fear of missing out.

What you may gain when you quit social media: Career, friends, health

And what is there to miss when you go offline? For author and millennial computer scientist, Cal Newport, nothing. In his recent viral think piece, “Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It” published in The New York Times and shared on the NYT Facebook page, he suggested that if you want success, better tune out of your social media accounts. From Facebook and Instagram, to Twitter and Snapchat, social media accounts are designed to be addictive and can be destructive, including of a person’s profession. In a world that is increasingly becoming smaller and converging, it is seemingly quite impossible to be an outlier and diverge from it. But as Mr. Newport wrote, “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.”

Mr. Newport argues that social media “diminishes your ability to concentrate.” It does, and I did not have to go too far for confirmation. It took me a while to finish this story — and social media was to blame. A “ping” notification from my phone instantly zones me out of my writing game, and lures me into the addictive, 24/7 social media world, where I end me up stalking some friend of a friend of a friend’s dog on Instagram. This, I did, while I still had tons of articles pending. (While I am basically confessing my sins to my editor, the point is, social media is a disturbance.)

“The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom,” said Mr. Newport.

A journalist for more than a decade now, Benedict Romero, 32, said “social media is a waste of time.” While some journalists crave online clout and presence, Mr. Romero prefers his privacy. “I would not have opened a Twitter account if it were not for work,” he said, adding that he does not buy the idea that one should advertise oneself online, because “it’s frivolous.” He added: “I don’t want to waste time reading unnecessary stuff like ‘16 Things You Did Not Know About Whoever.’ For me, it’s unproductive.” He never tried to create a Facebook account — he did not even join Friendster back when it started in 2002. He also said some employers stalk their staff online, which may or may not improve one’s career, depending on what information a person (over)shares online.

It also took prudence and self-control for Alyssa Sanggalang, 25, to permanently log out of her Facebook. She bid goodbye to her account in 2015 to focus on the more important aspect of her life: her future. “After I finished all my requirements in school and I was sure that I was about to graduate, I permanently closed my Facebook [account] to concentrate on my exam,” she said via e-mail. She did pass her board examination and is now a chemical engineer in one of the country’s biggest cellular phone companies, but she said she has no plans of re-activating her Facebook account anytime soon. She said she never missed spending most of her time scrolling through her Facebook feed. “For me it’s useless. It’s a distraction,” adding that she could be reached via her mobile phone anyway.

Social media does not necessarily boost a career, but it may impede it. For instance, a photo of a wild night out with friends may hurt your professional image once the boss sees your shameful and shameless photos on Facebook.

What you may gain when you quit social media: Career, friends, health

“To be clear,” Mr. Newport wrote, “I’m not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I’m instead arguing that you don’t need social media’s help to attract them.” In his opinion, if a person is an excellent worker, even if he or she is not found online, opportunities will still knock on their door.

Obviously, this excludes the booming business of blogging in the Philippines. In the online sphere where likes and shares are the currency, being on top of social media and having an online influence can be more of a career boost and bring in more money. Filipino bloggers, according to a BusinessWorld story “From #InstaFame to #InstaMoney: The Business of Blogging,” may earn as much as P30,000 per post on social media.

But the point remains that while social media may be a good avenue for networking and sharing portfolios, it still has its downsides. In Mr. Newport’s words: “If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smart phone, close your browser tabs, roll your sleeves, and get to work.”

While the connection between having a social media presence and a better career is still debatable, the impact of social media on having better relationships and better health is more established.

There are many studies saying that social media causes burnout and low self-esteem. A survey by global cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab with 1,000 Filipino respondents showed that 27.7% admitted a feeling of sadness when they see friends who seem to have better life than they do. Almost half of the survey respondents (45%) also revealed they felt “unhappy” when they see a friend’s happy holiday pictures posted on their Facebook or Instagram accounts. The survey was done from October-November 2016.

The humble-brag — a seemingly modest statement or post which in truth is meant to fish for more affirmation and compliments — pushes Mr. Romero not to open any social media accounts at all. “I mean, who cares about your daily life updates? And then, when nobody of your so-called ‘friends’ likes your post or selfie, you’ll get mad and think, ‘bakit kaya hindi niya ni-like ang post ko?’ (why didn’t he like my post),” he said.

Many people fall into this trap. The Kaspersky survey said that 59% of Filipinos felt “unhappy when they see friends’ posts from a party they were not invited to” while 37% admitted to feeling miserable after looking at their previous happy posts and comparing them to their present life, thinking that their past posts were way better.

What you may gain when you quit social media: Career, friends, health

Online posts can easily affect one’s mood, and, in the long run, one’s outlook. The survey said 25.8% of the respondents feel “very low” when a friend’s post or photo gets more likes, comments, and shares than their own.

“When we log onto social media, we’re bombarded with images and posts of our friends having fun. And it looks like they’re enjoying life more than us. It’s easy to see why this is leaving people feeling down and why so many people have considered leaving social media altogether,” said Evgeny Chereshnev, head of Social Media at Kaspersky Lab, in a statement.

While she has not totally left the online world, Diane Almanzor, 24, a public relations specialist, said she started her social media detox last October and is loving it.

“I used to enjoy browsing my timelines and news feed. But then for the past months, Facebook somehow became toxic. Although it is okay that people are opinionated about certain topics, I feel like people become too outspoken that everything becomes noise to me,” she said, adding that instead of Facebook as her news source, she turns to newspapers and legitimate online resources instead.

She added that while one of the downsides of cutting off her online connection is that it leaves her out of place when her friends talk about something that went viral online, “I appreciate it more that there are people who will really make an effort to talk to you, whether to call or see you in person,” she said.

The people who have temporarily or permanently left their social media accounts said nothing beats a face-to-face interaction.

“Ever since I deleted my Facebook in 2015, I like it that I or them will make a way to talk or meet. We put in the effort to sort out our schedules and make time for our loved ones. I think it is better because the memories will last longer than when you do it through chat or a shared status,” said Ms. Sanggalang.