An Open Letter to People Who Don't Use Social Media

How do you know if someone doesn’t use social media?

Don’t worry – they’ll tell you.

I know this because for 10 years, I’ve helped companies use social media to connect with their consumers.

And for every person I've encountered who deeply believes in the power of social media, there is someone who most certainly does not.

Here are the five most common responses from people who do not use social media, when I tell them what I do for a living.

1. “I hope you’re not offended, but I don’t use social media."

2. “I don’t use social media because I don’t care if people are eating a sandwich or showering."

3. “I don’t have time for social media."

4. “I don’t use social media because I don’t want people knowing my personal business.”

Or (my personal favorite):

5. “I don’t believe in social media.”

The first thing I wonder, when I hear any of these explanations, is: Would you ever take this route with another profession?

If I told you I were a comedian, would you tell me that you, yourself, don't tell jokes? Or that you don’t have time to tell jokes? Or, perhaps you don’t believe in comedy altogether?

I’m guessing not.

What if I told you I were an artist? Would you respond by saying you don’t care for paintings, if the art features mundane details about the artist's life? Would you tell me that you don’t paint because the art might reveal intimate details about your personal life? 

Likely not.

Because, no matter what you choose to do with your life, you exert self control. Restraint. Judgment. You would never generalize an entire industry.

Why should social media be any different?

I’ve written openly about how most people use social media as a hobby, not a job, which I suspect is partially why the industry is subject to so much scrutiny. (Everyone has experience, few have expertise.)

But as I hear more and more people share their reasons for not participating in social media, I can’t help but notice that it’s often not the platforms they’re concerned about – it’s the people – and in some cases, themselves.

Oversharing is one of the most common reasons people give for not using social media. (i.e. “I don’t use social media because I don’t care if people are eating a sandwich or showering.”)

But Facebook doesn’t force you to share. Instagram doesn’t ask what you’ve eaten after every meal. Social media doesn’t overshare – people do. Oversharing is not a social media problem, it’s a character flaw. (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the person who overshares on social media overshares at brunch, too.)

Time – or lack there-of – also doesn’t strike me as a real reason someone is not on social media. (You’ve heard the one about making time for the things that matter.) I don’t go to the gym not because I don’t have time, but because I have not made time. (True story, ask my trainer). And to the folks who don’t “believe” in social media, we’re not talking about the Easter bunny or fake news. Social media is a multi-billion dollar industry employing millions of people. (Love it or leave it, but you better believe it.)

    You may be wondering at this point: What are you after, Natalie?! Are you trying to convince more people to join social media?

    The answer is no. (Trust me, there are plenty of us here.)

    What I do want to solve is: Why are so many people who don't use social media blaming the platform?

    Social media doesn’t overshare. Social media doesn’t steal time out of your day. Social media doesn’t tell people things you don’t want them to know about your personal life.

    Only people do these things.

    Only we do these things.

    20 years ago, we were all people who didn’t use social media.

    If I were to explain social media to someone living in 1997, I’d say: Social media is a network of and for people. It’s a tool that billions of people use to share their successes, their challenges, their lives.

    But, it doesn't make decisions for you. It doesn't take away your free will or force you to do anything you don't want to do.

    So, the next time you find yourself commenting on why you choose to use – or not use – social media, share the real reason. I'd like that.

    By Natalie Zfat