I am a 90’s kid and, like most of my peers, my life has been split between a world before social media and our current landscape with the over-saturation of it. My millennial generation grew up during the birth of the social media era. We didn't have dating apps like Tinder or Snapchat when I first arrived at college. People met each other on sidewalks, in class, at parties. The only group chats anyone knew about were AOL chatrooms . The simple act of picking up a phone to call a friend is a form of communication that my age group and younger are relying on less and less. Now when you pick up your phone, you have to stop and decide...do I text, call, direct message on Instagram, Snapchat, or post on their Facebook?
Social media is a facade of how we want to see ourselves -- our online personas. You are completely in control of what you want to share with your followers, how much you want to let them into your real life, to show just the highlight reel or to be unapologetically yourself. Your online persona is the version of yourself you put on display to the world, completely curated by you...filters and all.
As much as I love social media, I needed a break from it all. I was losing sight of my actual self, spending too much time defining my online persona. I cared too much about what people were doing, what they thought. FOMO (fear of missing out) was real, lurking behind my screen, and making me feel overwhelmed.
I took a long, hard look at my behavior in real life and realized I no longer called or texted friends, but just commented with an emoji (that I put way too much thought into). So, I ditched my digital life including all social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) for 3 months. No logging on, posting or liking -- I was checked out. Off the digital grid I went, and this is what happened...
I stopped obsessing over my posts.
I used to hold my online persona so high, but what I learned during this break is that you’re not cooler if you get more likes than your friends. You’re not smarter if you have more followers than your colleagues. And most of all, you’re not doing yourself any favors by enhancing photos of yourself. Social media is meant to be fun and positive, not calculated and overthought.
I gained a deeper appreciation for living in the moment.
I became so enveloped with social media that I would miss out on the actual experience. At a concert, I’d be too preoccupied trying to get that perfect shot that I’d watch most of the show behind my screen. I challenged myself to do the things that I normally would post about which included going to concerts and celebrating holidays without fixating on how many people were liking and commenting.
When you watch a concert without your phone, you notice the small details that make an artist great live. How many of those concert videos do you go back and watch anyway?
Celebrating a holiday with family and not posting felt authentic and more personal. I was making memories rather than posts. The moments that I used to share have become more intimate. I still take photos but I enjoy them from the camera roll on my phone, which is for my eyes only.
I wasn't feeling overwhelmed anymore.
As much as I tried not to, an innocent scroll through my newsfeed became overwhelming at times (especially if I was home doing nothing on a Saturday night). It would cause unnecessary anxiety seeing my friends hanging out when I didn’t get invited. Not being online eliminated this for me. I like seeing what my friends are up to, but I don’t need to be following their every move. I also don't need to know what they ate for breakfast or how many miles they ran while working out so I won't compare myself to them.
Personal interactions are more fulfilling.
Liking and commenting on friend's posts is putting in the minimum effort to maintain a relationship. It’s shallow. Your comments will be read by all of their followers and your conversations are public. I started making time to chat with my friends on the phone, sometimes for hours at a time. There wasn’t an audience to read my comments or judge my thoughts; it was just us.
It allowed me to focus on more important activities.
Screen time on my phone went down about 50% during this detox. With this newfound free time I became more productive and got my work done faster. I started reading a lot more; picking up books on my list that I never got around to.
I wasn’t sure what to expect by quitting social media cold turkey. Initially it was hard to break the habit, but it got easier by the day. When I finally revived my accounts, I felt refreshed with a clear head. I’m not as critical with what I post and I don’t frequent my newsfeed nearly as much as I used to. I try my best to avoid the negativity online in the news that will alter my mood. This new concept of social distancing in our current situation is a good reminder of how important it is to maintain your personal relationships and stay connected with your loved ones however and whenever you can.
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