Quitting Social Media: Bad for Businesses, Good for People
Ross Miles - 15.04.2019
Social Media is ubiquitous. Social Media is omnipresent. We’re always connected. But is this 21st century phenomenon a good thing?
Last week Lush, the cosmetics brand known for its pungent high street stores and colourful bathroom products, decided it was going to shut down its social media accounts. Nearly 600,000 Instagram followers, gone. Over 420,000 Twitter followers, ignored. 200,000 Facebook friends, forgotten. And the feedback has been overwhelmingly negative.
Sure, the scope of press coverage and column inches about the Lush brand over the last seven days has been impressive (any PR is good PR?), but the underlying tone from commentators has been a mixture of shock and derision.
Onlookers found it difficult to compute how a brand could simply delete its direct connections to over 1.2m social accounts when so many other businesses are investing more and more into building their own social accounts for commercial benefit.
Even more, Lush’s own statement rang hollow to observers,
“Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead.
We don’t want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities”
Commentators noting that in particular, their expressed desire to not limit themselves to holding conversations in one place – they shut down three separate social platforms to move all conversations to their own website – seemed to contradict their actions.
Regardless whether you personally agree or disagree with Lush’s bold decision, the prevailing published opinion was that Lush’s leaving social media made little long-term business sense.
Intriguingly though, in stark contrast to the widely held belief that ‘quitting social’ is corporate suicide, if you search for “quit social media” on Google, the majority of page one results are themed around how, for an individual, jettisoning your social accounts is actually good for you! That you’ll be happier! Modifying your search slightly will quickly lead you to studies about how Social Media Negatively Effects Your Mental Health by creating self-esteem issues, a fear of missing out (FOMO), sleep deprivation, attention span problems, and more.
The curated, filtered and photoshopped lives lived by our digital selves rarely captures a representative snapshot of our day to day activity. Whether it’s a stylised shot of your healthy breakfast or a black and white picture of your dumbbells post workout, the reality we inhabit is often quite different to the one projected on social media. Charlie Brooker’s dark, sci-fi series, Black Mirror, does an excellent job of encapsulating this charade of an existence, expertly lampooning this social fakery in its season-three episode, Nosedive.
This dichotomy creates an fascinating juxtaposition in which when a business leaves social media, it has a detrimental effect on them (according to Social Chain, Lush’s denouncement of social media has already incurred a 365 per cent increase in negative sentiment towards the brand), whereas an individual leaving social media is a boon for your mental health and self worth.
How this will play out we shall have to wait and see. Lush’s US arm was quick to distance themselves from the UK HQ’s stance, “We are happy to share that the North American @LushCosmetics channels aren’t going anywhere,” they posted on Instagram.
Lush’s parting words in their farewell announcement on Instagram did however cast some doubt on exactly where this was heading, “This isn’t the end, it’s the start of something new. #LushCommunity – see you there” prompting some to suggest that Lush has something up its sleeve to replace the lost social channels. We’ll have to wait and watch this space if we’re to find out more, unless of course we’ll have already quit our own accounts by then for our own wellbeing…