How to Find More Time and Freedom for Your Life

Do you remember life before social media?

Of course you do.  If you're over 30, you remember.  And if you're in your 40s or older, you actually had a social life before social media.  You met friends face to face, called them on the phone, and maybe even sent cards and wrote letters!

vintage photo of friends out together

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Yes, social media is a fast, efficient way to touch base with friends and family who live far away (you can also use texts, which is what I do).  I wouldn't say it maintains close connections, since you're usually posting to anyone and everyone who might look at your stuff.  In other words, it's not personal.

If you're a content creator, you may keep in touch with readers via social media, and it's one way to grow your following and maybe increase your income.  However, if you want something more than general communication with a group, your readers are going to use a contact form or personal email.  (By the way, if you want to get in touch, mine is

But let's be honest.  Most of the time, social media is 110% draining.  Between the lack of privacy we all now deal with, to the thousands of reports of bad things happening around the world, to the toxic comparison game that goes on whether we admit it or not, social media can be overwhelming.

And I haven't even mentioned the addictive, black hole time-suck that social media has become, which steals our attention and keeps us aloof from real life.

6 things I miss about life before social media

1.  We didn't photograph everything.

We live in a very visual era.  And while it's fun to be able to take a photo and look at it (even edit it) right away, we might have lost something when we stopped having to get film developed.

Do you remember taking your film to the drugstore to have the photos printed?  You had to be much more thoughtful about the photos you took, because it was too easy to use up all your film and have nothing left for the really great parts of a party, outing, or vacation.

Your photo-taking priorities were different, because you were looking for shots you wanted to document forever.  You didn't photograph what you ate, or the store you visited, or the outfit you had on.  You didn't take pictures of yourself just because you could.

Maybe you still amassed hundreds of photos in a box somewhere that you never looked at again, but you might also have taken the time to choose the best shots to put in an album or scrapbook.  And let's be honest – we still have photo clutter.  We still have hundreds of pictures on our phones we never look at again.  It's clutter, even if it's not physical.

2.  We lived more in the moment.

When we didn't feel obligated to document everything on Facebook or Instagram, we spent more time participating in what was happening.

Maybe you've heard the expression, "If it isn't documented, did it even happen?"  I want to shake the person who said that.  Were my children born if I didn't have someone taking video of it?  Did we celebrate birthdays and holidays if I don't have the pictures?  Yes, and yes.  And without a bunch of photos and videos, I have actual memories of what occurred.

Here's a disturbing bit of information.  When we snap a picture, we're essentially outsourcing the memory of that event to our camera.  We don't pay attention to what's happening because we believe the photo will capture the memory.  Linda Henkel, professor of psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut, says, "If your camera captures the moment, then your brain doesn't."

I'm sure you've seen people at a gorgeous vista or ancient monument, staring at their phones to get a picture.  Don't you want to say, "You're missing it.  Don't miss it!"

To form lasting memories, we must pay attention.  Don't just look – listen, smell, touch, and taste.  Photos do serve as memory cues, but they don't tell the whole story.

3.  We didn't know everyone's business.

I admit I'm a fan of Google.  If I want to know the latest research on a subject, the original meaning of "antidisestablishmentarianism," or a recipe for maple-glazed carrots that doesn't use butter, Google is my go-to.

What I'm not a fan of is knowing everyone's business, including their mom's, sister's, and the person they used to do Zumba with.

Yes, I'm a blogger, and I share certain things about myself online.  I'm very thoughtful about what I share and how I share it.

I wish others would follow suit.  But with social media, I'm often exposed to people's private issues and dirty laundry I'd rather not see.  Is it just me?  I'd rather not know everyone's marital problems, money issues, political views, or strange obsessions.

4.  We didn't make news so personal.

We used to read the newspaper, or turn on radio or TV news, to learn the important local and international news stories.  Information was reported, and we might pass it on, discuss it, or give our opinions.

But we didn't post angry rants about what was happening.  We didn't do our part to create viral video and internet memes.  We didn't pass along fake news.

We spend so much time and energy demonizing each other.  This doesn't make us better-informed, and it doesn't make the world a better place.

5.  We acknowledged each other.

I know you've been out somewhere, especially in a line or a waiting room, and noticed that no one is speaking to anyone else.  You've seen couples and families "sharing" a meal in a restaurant, not speaking to each other.  Every person (including the toddler) has their phone or tablet out and is scrolling or watching.

Even people older than I am, who lived at least 50 years before smart phones and social media took over the world, display this same behavior.

And if you do try to start a conversation, people look at you suspiciously.  "Why are you invading my space and bothering me?" they seem to be thinking.  "Why are you trying to talk to my kid?"

No one likes to wait.  I get that.  But somehow we used to manage without our digital crutches.

You know, we'd be aching for human interaction if we were marooned on an island for any length of time.  We'd start talking to ourselves (or a volleyball*) in lieu of having a real person to share with.  It would be a survival mechanism.  Yet we maroon ourselves with social media even though we're surrounded by other people.

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

6.  Comparison and competition had its limits.

Yes, "keeping up with the Joneses" has been around for generations.  But before social media, we knew about the lives of people we were in direct contact with (and, to a much smaller extent, celebrities and TV characters).  We didn't compare and compete with every stranger on the planet.

Today, it's hard not to be reminded of the things we don't have, places we haven't been, and accomplishments we haven't gained.  We see the highlights (real or staged) of other people's lives and wonder what's wrong with our own.

Even if you remind yourself that the majority of what's on social media is enhanced and curated, you may still struggle with inadequacy and the fear of missing out.  And the younger you are, the more vulnerable you are.

We used to be more real, and it was refreshing.

More time, more life

Maybe these are growing pains, and as time goes on we'll get better at using social media as a tool instead of a crutch, distraction, ego boost, or means of self-harm.  Maybe we'll overcome the addictive algorithms that platform designers and marketers create to keep us coming back.

Of course, we can choose to follow accounts that inspire and uplift us.  We can set boundaries on the time we spend on social media, and leave it alone during meals, family gatherings, and before bed.

But we should all realize that time is precious, and social media engagement is generally not a good use of that irreplaceable resource.  Instead of wasting those hours, let's revisit life before social media.  What did you used to do instead?

  • talk to other people
  • really listen
  • participate in real life
  • take care of tasks and chores
  • exercise and do other self-care
  • pray or meditate
  • get outside
  • read a book because it looks interesting, not because an influencer says you should
  • mind your own business
  • make or do something without having to document, compare, brag, or gain validation from "friends" of "friends"
  • take the path less traveled
  • simply relax with your own thoughts

Reclaim your life before social media.


  1. I agree about not wanting to know too personal details of others. I keep my friends list small,,only true friends so if they share, im ok w that. If i chose to see a public post of an aquaitence , i dont want to know how painful the pap smear was, for example
    Fyi, I regularly cull my photos. I keep only 2-3 pics per event
    This is a very helpful post. I hope dome people take action after reading

  2. Wonderful and timely post, Karen! You've given us much to ponder. I'm in my mid-70s, so I do remember life before technology took over. I especially noted your comments about truly paying attention to our experiences, and not being so busy taking photos that we miss the memory of the experiences. When I was a teenager, we lived near London, England for almost three years. I didn't even own a camera, and my parents only took a few dozen snapshots of our time there. But I have a huge treasure of memories from those years, because I deliberately, consciously, went around committing every scene and event possible to memory. I knew we'd be there for only a finite time and I made the most of each day. I can remember SO much--from the mundane walk to the bus stop for school (a 45-minute ride to the American school I attended) to the major events, such as seeing Oliver! and Camelot in West End theatres. I can remember how the summer sunlight played on the roses in the gardens of our neighborhood, and how the winter fog turned everything yellow-green under the streetlights, the sound of the trains on the tracks, the scent of damp sweaters in the rain, and the taste of the delicious custard tarts I'd buy at the bakery on the corner of East Lane. No amount of selfies or Facebook posts could possibly capture what's in my own brain. Thank God for that! As it turns out, I've never been able to travel back to London, but I have the comfort of these lovely memories!

    1. Kay, thank you for sharing your wonderful memories. I notice that your WORDS (with all the extra details) enable me to see and imagine what you remember -- they are at least as valuable as any photos to help me share your experience. I'm happy that you have all of those sweet times to remember and enjoy.

  3. I agree with every point! I miss the days before smartphones and being so artificially connected. It is interesting, as a kindergarten teacher to observe kids who have known nothing else but this! It is completely normal for them to ask me to take a picture of something they did to “send to their mom”. Which I don’t mind doing of course. But, I want to live more in the present and let my mind capture the memory. Great post!
    Also, I noticed your address is from Yuba City. I live in Chico. ❤️

    1. My grandkids do the same, which as you said is fine -- BUT. Did you grow up, as I did, sitting at the dinner table with your family sharing stories about your day? Instead of getting a quick photo, "liking" or commenting, and then forgetting about it, we TALKED to each other and got to know each other. I think that's missing.


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