An ambassador on our SOVA site recently wrote about her experience with social media in order to provide some guidance for others who might feel dependent on it. Here’s what she had to say:
In this day and age, social media is the norm. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook—we spend so much time on these sites and apps that we don’t always realize the negative effects they can have on us.
I’m one of those people.
For me, Instagram is my weakness. There’s something I love about the creativity of it, the “coolness” of it, that draws me in. I often spend more hours than I’d like to admit “Instagram stalking” people’s profiles I don’t know and looking at their perfect lives. It inspires me to be more creative. It allows me to show the coolest parts of who I am…or rather, who I’d like to be: that is, a travel-obsessed, hipster-loving, aesthetic-seeking young adult trying to figure out life as I go, in the trendiest way possible.
But that’s not really who I am.
Instead, with every selfie or picture I post on social media comes about 100 others that didn’t make the cut.
I’m the girl that spends 30 minutes editing 15 of those 100 photos, so I can carefully decide which one will make me look the best on Instagram. I’m the girl who gets really anxious if someone posts a picture of me—on any social media site, where I look bad—because god forbid people realize my life isn’t as perfect as I try to make it out to be online. I’m the girl who deletes an Instagram post if it doesn’t get at least 5 likes in 4 minutes and reposts it again later, when I can be sure more people are online; and the girl who tweets her heart out attempting to be funny or cool, only to delete it later because nobody thought I was funny enough to reply or ‘like’ my tweet.
I’m the girl that spends hours social media stalking other girls or other couples, and uses it to destroy my own self-esteem and romantic relationship. I’m the girl that lets the negative side of social media completely take over—until my real life is a perfectly curated version of my social media life…until I’m missing all the good moments in front of me because I’m too busy worrying if they’re going to be “Insta-worthy, Snapchat-worthy, or Tweet-worthy.” I’m the girl who cares too much about what other people think, and often forgets what it means to be present.
And when I go down that dark tunnel of comparing my own life and my own worth to others, it’s hard to remind myself that it’s not real. It’s hard to remind myself that I am important enough–that I am beautiful and strong and talented in my own unique way.
So, I decided to quit social media.
For 30 days, I gave up all of my social media: including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, (my beloved) Instagram, and Pinterest (I know…I struggled with not being able to pin cool recipes or DIY projects).
To my surprise, it was an exhilarating feeling. It was incredibly challenging, yes, but it was beyond worth it. And here’s what I realized at the end of it all:
I am a better person without social media.
I was focused on myself. Instead of spending time worrying about what other people were doing, I was taking the time to think about myself and care for myself physically and emotionally. I was no longer sitting on my couch with major FOMO (fear of missing out). I was taking walks to Target when it was nice out, reading on park benches, exploring the streets of my neighborhood, and finding shortcuts to places I didn’t even know existed.
I stopped comparing myself and my life to others. The only times I found myself comparing myself to others was when I was online. When I spent hours “Insta-stalking” people I didn’t know is when I would find myself wishing I could be someone else because they had a perfect body or lived in my dream house or traveled to the places I’ve always wanted to go. Offline, I didn’t do that. I didn’t look at someone in real life and say, “their life is perfect, I want it.” I didn’t look at someone’s clothes or shoes and want to suddenly “be” them. Instead, I looked at their clothes or shoes and thought, “those are cute, I should ask where they got them.” Because in real life, you don’t see only what people want you to see. In real life, you see that people aren’t perfect. And that’s okay.
My relationships grew stronger. My relationships with my significant other and my parents blossomed. I found myself reaching out to my parents more often and talking to them for longer periods of time. In my long-distance relationship, I was less jealous, less snappy, and more understanding. The more comfortable I grew being disconnected, the more my significant other began opening up to me. Despite the distance, we became closer.
I made an effort to be present and mindful. Going places and hanging out with my friends was no longer about capturing the perfect moment to document on social media. It was purely about spending time with people I enjoyed being around and taking time to appreciate it. I was conscious of my surroundings and more in tune with my senses. The days of checking my phone constantly when I was with my friends—or even alone, was gone. I was listening and watching more intently in every aspect of my life.
I was happier. The stress and guilt I felt for looking at my screen for hours at a time when I could have been doing something else dissipated. And when those negative feelings disappeared, I felt more positive. While I was aware of my unhealthy relationship to social media before I quit, it wasn’t until I gave it up that I really understood how much it had negatively impacted my life. Being disconnected made me realize that all the things I cared so much about online, were in reality, not important. Caring about what others thought of me, worrying about what other people were doing, or letting jealousy and envy control my life was not getting me anywhere. It was not helping me grow or become a better person. Being disconnected on the other hand, was.
Overall, in the 30 days I spent completely disconnected from the realm of social media, I was more caring, emphatic, happier, mindful, and relaxed. My 30-day break from social media may be over, but this experience will be something I will always remember.
If I start to see myself slipping back into those unhealthy patterns again, I’ll know that it is possible to stop. And for every moment I find myself wishing that I was living someone else’s life, or trying to convince myself that I’m not enough, I’ll know that I am wrong. I’ll be able to remind myself of how empowered I felt.
Because my emotions don’t define me. I am more than than my weaknesses. I am stronger than I think. I won’t let my insecurities get the best of me. I am better than that. And in the future, I will continue to be better.
Has your adolescent or young adult ever taken a break from social media? Tell us about it in the comments below!