At this time in my life last year, I found myself in a slump. I was going through a lot of changes mentally and physically and was completely exhausted. I found myself spending a lot more time on Instagram looking at other people living their best lives. I had just come back from traveling around Europe and was coming down from a travel high. I was posting quite a lot while I was away, and once I came back I spent more time lurking and feeling sorry for myself. Social media can be a dangerous place when you’re going through it, and you need to be able to distinguish when it’s being used for all the right reasons and when it’s not.
I had put a lot of thought into giving up something to better my discipline, and questioned what I was spending a lot of time on that wasn’t bettering me as a person. Instagram was my first thought. Then came Snapchat. I had never really been big on Twitter, and FaceBook had died down for me toward the end of high school. I figured, why don’t I give up everything? Cold turkey. I deleted all of the apps from my phone and took a deep breath. In and out.
It was weird at first. I was still picking up my phone constantly to check the apps that I had forgotten weren’t there anymore. I downloaded tetris so that I could keep my hands busy in socially awkward situations like waiting for a friend in a restaurant. I was making more actual phone calls and real plans to see my friends face-to-face. Imagine that. You know when your friends comment things on your pictures like “Omg I miss you” and “See you soon!” But they don’t actually make an effort to see you do they? Nope. Because they feel so connected to you by seeing you once a week on IG. Or every day on Snap. But when they don’t see you on there anymore, you two actually have to make the effort to spend time together, like back in the olden days.
There was definitely still the urge to take pictures and post them. Every time I did something new I wanted to post it. When I ordered a plate of food I wanted to take a pic. I went on a road trip, went to try new activities, hung out with friends who were posting everything we did and I resented the fact that I couldn’t whip out my phone and do the same. I questioned it, looking around a room full of people who were experiencing a moment through the lens of their camera instead of their eyes. I was sitting at a dinner table with people who were communicating with people miles away, instead of the people in front of them.
About 15 days in, I realized how much better I felt. I was sleeping earlier, working out more, (without the gym pics to prove it) and not constantly comparing myself to other people. Sure there are downsides, like meeting someone new and not being able to cyber-stalk them. You don’t know their friends, or what they’re like when they’re not around you. You’re also not as up-to-date with what your own friends are doing. Not to mention the fact that Instagram was emailing and texting me to prompt my return, addressing me by my username to show me updates on my friends’ recent posts.
A part of me wishes I never came back to the social media world. I was so content with living my life aside from the comparisons and validations. At the time I was taking a class called Building the Brand which was exactly as the name implies. There was an extensive amount of time spent analyzing social media platforms and exploring their best practices. We looked at how it can be used to our advantage from a business perspective. As an aspiring journalist, it’s almost impossible to thrive in my career without the use of social media. So I’m back. But I have a different perspective on the way I view and use it.
When I got back I was hesitant at first. I would go on snapchat just to take pics with the filter and not post them. It can be pretty scary knowing that people can get to know you and see who you are without ever meeting you, which can be a positive and negative thing.
A few days ago, almost exactly a year later, I deleted 47 pictures off of my Instagram and felt so much lighter. Cleaning your social media accounts can almost be as freeing as cleaning your house. You begin to realize that they really are just pictures, regardless of how many likes and comments you get. Not everything needs to be posted, and your online accounts shouldn’t dictate how you behave as a person.
I use it as a tool in building my brand and connecting with friends and strangers but I think every now and then it’s still good to take a break from it all to remind myself that it’s just not that serious.