I’ve always found social media quite demanding. Almost like it comes with its own set of unspoken rules and expectations. I noticed that even the pattern of comparing myself to others was unavoidable. I would log on because I was bored and come away feeling like I should be doing more with my life. That I should be interesting, funnier, smarter, prettier, busier, or richer. On top of that I felt like I needed to have an opinion on the latest political or celebrity scandals, or ensure I was complimenting my friends on their most recent posts. But what did I gain out of trying to keep up with these trends or stay relevant? Nothing. The more I tried to maintain these unrealistic expectations the more I experienced anxiety. The more time I spent on social media the more I procrastinated, felt bored and had trouble sleeping. So, I quit. I deleted all my profiles and said adios to social media for about two years.
The first few days, I’d open my phone to check for the apps that were no longer there. This alone gave me a wake-up call. How often did I actively share and consume information without really thinking about it because of a habit that was ingrained in my muscle memory? I wondered if people would think I’d blocked them…or died. My ego wanted to believe that people would care enough to miss me. I’d tricked myself into thinking social media was an efficient way to build and maintain relationships and it was only the absence of having it in my life that showed me this is a lie. Although I have made connections with like-minded people, these relationships often lacked authenticity. They served a less meaningful purpose. This experience, if nothing else, taught me who my true friends are. Calling and texting the ones who genuinely cared and checked on me led to more meaningful conversations because people are far more willing to share the intimate parts of their lives in a 1 to 1 conversation.
Mindfully using my free time, I remembered just how much I enjoy my own company and began learning, pursuing, exploring things I found interesting. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Fashion magazines, and picked up a copy of Vogue and Elle on my lunch break. Not only did it reignite my interest in the Fashion industry, but it made me reflect on all the hobbies and interests I loved and lost touch with over the years. Reading being one of them.
I signed up to the library (a sweetly nostalgic act in itself) because I hadn’t set foot in a library since leaving school. I rented 3 books and read in the park whilst soaking up the sunshine, sipping an iced latte, channelling the kind of inner peace and satisfaction that Julia Roberts exudes in Eat Love Pray. My romantic moment ended abruptly when it began to rain, and I remembered I live in England. This moment stands out in my mind because I had the bittersweet realisation that I’d forgotten what it was like to slow down and enjoy the bliss of these seemingly insignificant moments. I was taking time to reflect, be alone with my thoughts, and that my dears is a powerful thing.
A social media detox reignited something within me that made me question how much our lifestyles in the modern day are serving us. How many habits do we acquire, or mentalities do we accumulate throughout our lives just by following the status quo?
5 years later, I am studying Fashion. Becoming an active reader also inspired me to start writing. Creative outlets have become more than just a hobby; they are part of my lifestyle. They allow me to monetize off skills I fear I may not have nurtured without this necessary period of self-reflection.
I am now back on social media; however, I use it much more intentionally. I stopped following people just because they were popular or pretty, or because we went to school together and made a conscious effort to fill my timeline with people who inspire and affirm me. I no longer follow people out of obligation or fear that I might seem rude if I choose not to. Sorry, not sorry. Removing this overload of information or toxicity has freed up space for me to become more secure in myself. Using social media in a mindful way has taught me that it’s not all negative. It is the user’s responsibility to take control of how much time they spend on apps and stay attentive to how content they view makes them feel. The moral of the story is use social media, just don’t let it use you.
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