About a year ago, I did the unthinkable and deactivated my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I was posting a lot about my personal life and being more transparent about my mental illness, specifically my depression. I realized that the more that I put myself out there, the more I felt like I was trying to keep up with a persona of myself. I felt an obligation to post about my everyday life, and that translated to feeling like I needed reassurance from all of my “friends” online about my every life decision. I think that the more I posted about my depression, the more alone I felt. I always received reassuring comments and likes on my posts, but I started to realize that not one of those people ever just checked up on me. I didn’t have a support system that was more than through the superficial filter of social media.
I was feeling deflated on the daily and I knew that something needed to change. I decided to delete social media from my life and didn’t look back to it for a year. For that year I didn’t even miss it. I reached out to my good friends and told them about what I was needing from them. I told them that I needed them to check in on me more and I made an effort to text and call them a couple times a week. My interactions were becoming more genuine and as time passed, I finally felt like I had the support system that I had been craving for years.
Last week, a group at my school wrote an article about me and they posted it on their Instagram page. Feeling really proud of the article, I decided that I would re-download my inactive Instagram and share this accomplishment with a larger group of people than my normal circle. I was doing a sort of test to see how I felt reengaging with these people a year after not using social media.
The first hour was fun seeing how people have changed over a year, but after that it lost it’s charm pretty fast. I found myself going back to my old ways of checking in on if anyone mentioned me, messaged me, or liked my post. It was immediately very evident the role that social media played in my life. It was this machine that told me if people half way across the country approved or disapproved of me.
A guy that I’ve known for quite a while who would I wasn’t close with, but would casually like my posts, sent me a message that read: “So does this mean that you’re back on social media?” I replied that I was just excited about the article and would be deleting my account by the end of the night. He replied with something in the sense of “We don’t get insight of what’s going on in your life, but I hope that it is awesome and full of adventure.” I think that the message was meant in good intention, but to be honest it rubbed me the wrong way when I first read it. “We don’t get insight of what’s going on in your life”. That phrase made me feel like people were expecting me to share my life with them in little blurbs, and that they felt like I didn’t “check-in” enough. That message made me angry, because “Why aren’t these people who are complaining that they don’t have insight to my life just text me? Why don’t they just try a tiny bit harder if my social media feed was that important to them?” I don’t want to be an enigma, I want to be known. I want friends who come over and look at picture albums with me rather than interact with me through a heart-shaped button.
Less than a day back on social media, and I was already overthinking and feeling like I needed to justify my decisions to some sort of audience. My work in therapy wasn’t in vein though and through body scans and reflection techniques, I was able to see the toll that social media was taking on me already. I decided that I wouldn’t wait until the end of the day and that I wanted to de-activate my Instagram right then.
My time off of Social media has taught me the value in genuine interaction by forcing me into a new territory of “off the grid” communication. I realized that I don’t need 500 people commenting on how I look, think, or feel.
In this last year, I have experienced the most growth I’ve ever had. I came out as bi-sexual to my close friends, I dyed my hair green, started wearing more goth-inspired clothes, and I am not as afraid to trust myself and my instincts. I accepted myself as an introvert and now I know how much I value individual time and privacy, rather than forcing myself to be social in ways that make me uncomfortable. I also realized that if I spend all of my energy being defensive then I won’t have time to do things that I actually want to do.
I think that the biggest lesson that I learned by taking time off social media is that the world around me turns in the same way as it did when I was on social media. That was such a big realization for me. While I was zoomed in on the scope of my friends list, I thought the things that I was posting was changing the world. The truth is that no matter what inspirational quote I post online, the sun will rise and set in just the same way as if I hadn’t posted it at all. Wether or not I got 100 likes on a picture, the birds would come out as the sun rose and they would go to their designated tree-homes as it set. I was too self-absorbed to realize this before, but I much more enjoy watching this beautiful planet in its natural cycles rather than think that the same world revolves around me.
This year off of social media has shown me that I don’t ever want to go back.
4 Comments Add yours
Wow, I needed this. I haven’t deleted my Instagram but I think about doing it a lot. The less time I spend on it, the more I question how it really serves me and my mental health. Thank you for sharing❤️
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I totally understand that feeling; I was feeling like that a lot leading up to when I deactivated my profiles! I hope that you find what works best for you to take care of your mental health 🙂
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Great words. I stopped posting on social media a few years ago and I don’t miss it one bit.
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Thank you! Yes, I have found that I cherish more genuine and intentional interactions these days. Glad to see there are others who are living without social media.
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