The real reason I gave up social media


Tired of going to parties where your friends seem more concerned with your Instagram stories than your actual real-life stories? Meet Hadden, a Cambridge graduate turned chef, who went cold-turkey after a wifi-free family holiday and has never looked back…

Can you recall the first-time social media made you feel anxious and why this was?

I started feeling anxious using social media when I started my own catering business. I had no team, no money and no help but I wanted to prove that I was doing something cool that was a going concern. At that time I started following lots of businesses that were doing things similar or related to what I was doing on Instagram. I began getting this overwhelming feeling that everyone else was nailing it, doing so well, getting so many clients and so much press and I was kind of just ticking along. With retrospect, this was totally ridiculous as I was only just starting out and many others had been around for years but I felt Instagram gave me no place to hide even early on and that I had to be on it to grow my business and have any success. I started becoming obsessed with numbers of followers and making sure I got great photos of my events. Except I never did because I was too busy actually running the events but I would end up feeling disappointed and depressed that I had “missed an opportunity” to show off on social media.

On a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all, 10 being very) how addicted were you to social media before?

9 – I got to the point where I was looking at my phone every hour checking social media and inadvertently planning my day around what I would post.

What prompted you to go cold turkey?

I went cold turkey at the beginning of this year. A few things prompted it:

1. I went away with my family over Christmas and we stayed in this amazing old lodge in Big Sur where there was no internet or service. We had a really lovely time – lots of time for board games, chats and reading. It made me realise that I actually enjoyed my time more when I wasn’t on social media and I only really learned that because I physically couldn’t access it.

2. I was starting to become aware that social media was bumming me out, particularly Instagram. I realised Facebook got boring years ago when my friends stopped using it and the only people who commented on anything were my parent’s friends. I started feeling like the rest of the world was infinitely cooler and more successful than me and that I just sucked in comparison. I also realised that I was scrolling my life away – I was either watching other people live their lives or was too busy posting my own to actually live it properly. Soooo lame.

3. I could tell I was getting addicted and felt like I needed to have a break. More than anything in wanted to prove to myself that I could have some discipline.

4. I got so bored going to parties and events IRL where all people would talk about was instagram: “Omg I saw you were in Mykonos” or “your stories were hilarious” but no one was actually talking about their real selves or how they were actually doing in real life.

Looking back social media was diluting and dulling real life for me. Since I have stopped using it, I feel so much happier, so much less anxious, so much more positive at work and like a much better friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister and colleague.

Can you list 3 pro’s and 3 con’s of social media?


1. Discovery: I found some of my favourite brands, recipes, events, restaurants, words of wisdom, artists, interiors, hotels etc… on Instagram

2. Promoting a visual business: if you have a visual product Instagram is a brilliant way to curate, cultivate and promote your vibe and brand visually

3. Connecting with like minded people – whether friends or businesses


1. It’s addictive and is making people vapid and self interested.

2. Its making celebrities out of everyone and is making people judge themselves by likes and followers.

3. It’s all just a big sales engine that uses your data to get you to part with your time and money.

What impact do you think social media will have on the minds of future generations?

Positively: I think it will make the world smaller and will democratise people’s access to information and opportunity.

Negatively: I think it will have a big impact on the mental health of future generations who will constantly expect instant gratification, which I think will lead to addiction, high levels of distraction, a struggle to cope with the real world, anxiety and depression.

How has your life changed after logging off?

I am so much happier and way more productive. Both of which feel so great!

Is there anything you miss about Instagram?

Finding new, cool things. But it has forced me to find that information elsewhere; for example, through friends, going out, magazines, blogs etc…

What hobbies have replaced your social media addiction?

The gym (Insta was making me fat – I was always hungry because I followed a lot of food accounts), reading, meditating and working.

Do you think business is dependant on social media or can savvy entrepreneurs get ahead without it?

For consumer driven businesses it’s hard not to have an Instagram as so much depends on visual direction. But there are so many businesses that don’t need it to thrive. In fact those businesses are probably better off not being on it because the visual appeal of their posts would be low.

What would it take for you to log back on?

Only if my friends were on it. But I guess that’s what Whatsapp is for…

Hadden is CEO of DINING OUT + IN – a food and drink business in London comprising supper clubs, catering and styling. She’s also the brains behind S’MOREDITCH – bringing the sweetest American treat to London.

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