We all live for approval, whether we like to admit it or not. I will hold my hands up high and say, when I post on my social media accounts, I feel self validated if I get a good response. Stop to think about that for one moment, you will notice how unhealthy that prospect truly is.
Last year, I made a decision to log out of social media and log back into reality for a period of 30 days. I decided to delete each App from my phone. Rather than avoid temptation; I removed it completely. The response varied, many people asked ‘Why’? expecting there to be a momentous occasion that led me to this point. My explanation could not be attributed to a significant moment, but rather a web of reasons. Catapulting myself off this online world and removing the option of procrastination was the only way I could put this web of reasons into words.
Modern Day Use
Like many people of my generation, I have the same anxious thoughts that enter my mind. What is my purpose in life? Am i following my passion? Am I content? For me, I found the use of social media a place that personified feelings of uncertainty and doubt, particularly at a point in life where one is transitioning from one life stage to another. Scrolling through my feed on a bad day allowed me to compare my worst moment with everyone else’s highlight reel hence solidifying that feeling of sadness. As I scroll, I am both jealous and frustrated. Jealous of their seemingly better, more complete lives and frustrated with myself for not having travelled as much, or furthered my education at the right time.
Likes are the nods of approval craved in order to feel smart enough, talented enough, funny enough. All of this and more left me feeling quite numb, unable to access creativity and to live with confidence and passion. I began to ask myself, Is social media the cause? Or at the very least a conduit for such negative inner dialogue? The only way to find out was to remove this feature from my life.
I hesitated for a few minutes. The Icon of each precious app wriggling back and forth. I press delete four times; Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. Twitter. My guilty pleasures. I decided to carefully observe my behaviour, taking note of my weak moments and how living without these apps made me feel in comparison to living with them.
What stood out to me first was muscle memory. Every time I unlocked my phone, before I even thought about it, my thumb was desperately scrolling in an attempt to find the icons I had come to know too well. Disappointment would wash over me as realisation hit – they were gone.
I began to notice quickly that my conversations were changing with friends. Instead of making statements, I was asking questions. I didn’t know what their night out was like on Saturday because I didn’t have an instagram story capturing every candid moment, every boomerang of cocktails. I began asking “How was your weekend” instead of saying “ It looked like you had an amazing night”.
I found myself enjoying moments for what they were. As I stood at bus stops , I was looking at people. I was smiling at strangers. I was bumping into old friends and meeting new people. As I looked around at my fellow commuters , I realised I was the only one watching the real world pass me by, everyone else was heavily invested in their digital worlds. Often times, I found myself feeling quite alone.
I came to realise how heavily I relied on my phone for escapism from situations I found awkward. Sharing an elevator with another human. Previously, I stood their in silence not knowing where to look, I would unlock my Samsung and delve into Instagram – instant relief. This time, I was striking up conversations with people, If even for a minute, I was making true connections that were valuable.
I noticed my attention span was returning. Having become accustomed to spending less than 30 seconds looking at content on my social media, I found myself taking the time to read articles from start to finish. I was better able to concentrate in work as I didn’t have the constant temptation to look at my phone. I began to become more comfortable spending time alone. I realised I wasn’t truly experiencing time to myself previously, as I was still profoundly connected via the device in my pocket.
What stood to me most in the 30 days, was being able to access my creative side. Every day I woke up, I had the intention of sitting down and writing. However, It was as though my hands had become magnets that repelled a pen and paper. The resistance became incredible. I would escape through my phone, and read the wonderful work of everyone else who I believed could word things far better than I ever would. In 30 days, I had meaningful conversations with people face to face. I expressed emotions using body language and not hiding behind a series of colourful emoji’s. I wrote more words than I did in my final year of college.
I set about a mission; to replace an old habit, and find a new source for this rush of Dopamine that would not impact me so negatively. Like most things in life, It’s about finding a balance.