It’s no secret that social media greatly impacts our lives. Some of us are more affected than others for various reasons, whether it be our difference in use or pre-existing attitudes. I don’t personally believe that social media is an inherently negative thing. There are actually many positives to social media in my opinion. It has a way of making the world feel smaller. Through social media, people from all backgrounds can share information and learn about and from one another. You can use social media to raise awareness about really important things that would otherwise not reach as many people. You can use social media to market your business. You can use social media to stay up to date in your loved ones’ lives. You can use social media to find a sense of community, a good laugh, a job, a significant other or a used couch. I think that we determine how social media affects us. If you are not aware, it can be detrimental in a myriad of ways, but more on that later.
MY TYPICAL SOCIAL MEDIA HABITS
I am a huge fan of Twitter. I get a lot of my laughs from reading everyone’s daily thoughts, and I have more drafts saved on Twitter than I’d like to admit. I also frequent Instagram and Snapchat very regularly. I occasionally use Facebook, but I don’t check it everyday and haven’t posted a status in years.
I typically start my mornings by scrolling through Instagram and Twitter and catching up on Snapchat stories. And by “scrolling” I mean looking at every post until I see posts that I’ve already seen so that I don’t miss anything.
WHY I TOOK A BREAK
Recently, I had noticed that a lot of the times when I was upset it was due to something I had seen on social media. Of course, I control my own reactions, and I was reacting in such a way because of other problems. Nevertheless, I knew that social media was feeding into my depression and anxiety, making it more difficult to overcome.
I also had been feeling extra less-than-worthy recently. While I typically battle occasional feelings of being not good enough, for whatever reason they had been elevated for the past few months. I wouldn’t admit it, but I had sneaking suspicions that this may have been due to consuming copious amounts of social media, or at least that it wasn’t helping.
One Sunday night around midnight, I was up alternating between Twitter and Instagram, frustrated that I was still awake and unable to put my phone down despite having to wake up in seven hours. I had been telling myself that I would eventually take a break from social media for awhile, and I just decided that it was time. In a moment of clarity, I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to delete all of my social media apps (specifically Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and VSCO), and I did just that. My biggest concern was that Snapchat is my primary form of communication, so I posted on my story that I would be away from social media for at least a week and that I could be reached via text. (I want to thank the people that reached out to me after seeing that and asked if I was okay. It is very appreciated, and it did help to hear that people cared about me and my wellbeing.)
It felt really weird to wake up Monday and see only the weather app on my home screen when I went to do my routine scrolling. Once I was awake, I had no reason to stay in bed so getting ready was much quicker. I ended up having about 15 minutes to kill before I had to leave for class.
Having a lot of free time was a continuing theme throughout the week. I found myself almost uncomfortable when I had a free five minutes waiting for my next class or my coffee. I also was much more productive. During my usual library sessions, I didn’t spend the first 45 minutes on my phone as I usually did. Because of this, I accomplished much more, which decreased my stress and again gave me a lot more free time than I was used to.
I did experience a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), but not as much as I expected. I was worried about being left out because of missing out on snaps in my group chats. I missed talking to people that I only ever talked to on Snapchat (to my Vlasak family members, I miss our daily morning snaps). I missed scrolling through twitter and laughing. I missed sending memes back and forth with my friends. I missed understanding what the heck people meant when they talked about things they saw on Twitter or Instagram. However, I didn’t miss posting or tweeting. I didn’t miss the notifications. I didn’t miss having ten minutes to get ready in the morning because I spent to long obsessively having to look at every single post before I would allow myself to stop scrolling. I didn’t miss being distracted when I tried to do my homework or talk to my friends, and I really didn’t miss feeling not good enough because I didn’t look a certain way or because my life isn’t a certain way that other people’s lives supposedly are based on their Instagram profiles.
I noticed a decrease in my bad moods. I had less things to be upset about because I was being exposed to less. While I still had some negative thoughts and feelings, they were less frequent. Also, I noticed that I was thinking less about things that typically bothered me all of the time. I believe that this is because I had less reminders. By not being on social media, I was more able to control what I spent my energy thinking about.
I also noticed myself living solely for my own enjoyment. During the week, I didn’t do anything because it would look cool on my story or because it would be a cool photo to add to my Instagram. Some days I didn’t even wear makeup because I knew that I wouldn’t be snapping anyone. I lived in the moment. I was more present in everything. I was off of my phone when people were trying to talk to me, and I didn’t scroll to fill “awkward” lulls in conversations. I was wholly a part of every moment in the present. (And bonus: my phone’s battery lasted all day.)
I will eventually re-download my social media apps. (And if you’re reading this, chances are you saw it on my Instagram and therefore I already have). That might be surprising considering I just listed at least 5 ways that my life improved without social media. Remember what I said in the first paragraph about social media not being inherently bad? I believe my use of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram is what was really negatively weighing on my life. I will continue to be on social media, but I will be drastically altering how. I am the type of person who needs hard and fast rules, so I will be listing some do’s and do not’s.
First of all, I will not use social media to delay getting out of bed in the morning. If I can wait until I have actual free time to check Instagram, I will be much more productive and efficient.
I will not think of social media as something I have to keep up with. It will take some work, but if I can come to terms with missing some things and only using these apps when I have time or “need” to for a specific use (entertainment, socializing, sharing, marketing my Photography business) I will be a lot less stressed.
I will be cutting down on the amount of accounts I follow (celebrities and people I know-of, don’t worry friends and family<3). Following less people will decrease the amount of things I have to look at. Therefore, I won’t be able to spend as much time scrolling and I won’t have as much risk of seeing something that makes me feel negatively.
I will put my phone away and stop scrolling when I am out living my life and actively enjoy what is going on around me.
Most importantly, I will be aware of the things that I have learned about how my social media use affects my life. Keeping all of these things in mind will help me to monitor my use. I’ll be able to tell if I’m wasting too much of my time scrolling or if I’m feeling particularly bad about myself due to Instagram models. I also will most definitely be repeating these breaks periodically to continue to learn and refresh.
MY CHALLENGE TO YOU
I’ve broken down how my personal social media use affects me and the things that I can do to possibly help myself. However, everyone is different. Sure, you could follow my do’s and don’t’s and you probably would see some improvement, but you might have different problems surrounding your social media use. Not to mention, this week without social media has cleared my head and allowed me to reflect. I think that everyone can benefit from taking a break from social media, so I challenge you reading this to delete your social media apps for at least a few days and pay attention to the changes that happen in your life. Let me know what you notice and if you have any do’s and don’t’s of your own!
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