By Lauren Olson, October 8 2019
Social media. Those little buttons on our phone screens that take us into an alternate reality where we all get to be the stars of our carefully constructed and curated universes. When I was a teenager I used to read J-14, Teen Bop and Teen People to devour all the tips and tricks those articles touted on how I should look to make boys like me and what I should wear to make girls jealous of me. Today, those weekly $5 magazines seem almost laughable, because now I can just hop onto an app and do all those things, plus get immediate feedback to see if I’m “good enough” and see what everyone else is doing to help me decide what I should do, like and think.
This isn’t an article about all the things wrong with social media. This is some inspiration to see what it feels like if you step back from it, just a little bit. What are my credentials, you ask? Well, several months ago I completely deleted my Facebook account, which makes it a little awkward when group projects roll around and everyone wants to communicate via Facebook messenger and I’m the only one who doesn’t have it, and I also closed my Instagram account and deleted the apps from my phone. I’ve since ventured back into Instagram in a much less obsessive way, and my findings since my social media diet are extensive.
After initially feeling a little bit lost without something to stare at in down times, I started to notice how much space I had. Space in my mind for other things than what somebody else was doing, or what I should post about next. I felt like a duty or obligation I had to keep up with other people’s lives was suddenly gone. There wasn’t a requirement to keep others updated on what I was up to, either. It felt freeing! Like I was in charge of my own life again.
I never considered myself to be lacking confidence, however once I wasn’t looking for cues on Instagram about what I should be doing, I automatically was doing things that I wanted. I was self-motivated, truly, which lead to a feeling of trusting myself and my decisions more because I knew I was making them for me. I felt like I really liked myself a lot more because I trusted myself more. I also stopped comparing myself to others as much from the simple action of not looking at them.
Every self-help book on the shelf will tell you to be more present. It sounds nice, but how many of us actually know what that feels like? I do, now. Once the need to ensure I got a good picture of whatever I was doing to post was relinquished, I enjoyed everything I did just because. I did things because I liked doing them. No other reason. What a concept!
Creativity to do other things:
So much mental effort goes into maintaining the social media illusion that there simply isn’t space for a lot of creativity. I know a lot of people will argue that their social media account is where they express their creativity, but there are other ways too! Reading a great novel before bed instead of scrolling, painting a landscape from the hike you went on instead of posting an intensely edited shot, writing in a journal, doing a puzzle… the list is endless of things you can do instead. It’s not that I’m saying anything is better or worse, it’s just another option. An option to lift your eyes from the screen and use your mind and skills another way.
To be clear, it’s not all fun and games. Like anything worth doing, getting over addictive behaviour has its struggles. How many time have you heard that someone “gave up social media,” and then 26 hours later you see them watching your stories or posting new photos. We’re addicted to it! It will take some time, some tenacity and some fortitude to stick to your new diet. I’m personally a cold-turkey kinda gal, but I know that’s not for everyone. I suggest being honest with yourself about what works for you and adjust your social media diet to suit your personality type so you don’t set yourself up to fail. This isn’t an ultimatum telling you that you have to give it up forever, just a gentle reminder that there is life outside an app. Trying it out and seeing how it feels to get to know yourself might surprise you. I can guarantee one thing — that you will learn something about yourself, it’ll be an exercise in self-knowing and self-acceptance which, to me, is an incredibly worthy cause to go through a little bit of discomfort to get to.