Two months ago, I noticed that I was addictively checking social media on my phone and experiencing some serious negative consequences as a result. The main culprits were Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. I would scroll through my Facebook feed and constantly compare my life to the strategically cherry-picked beautiful moments of other people’s lives. I would go on Instagram and Snapchat and see what other people were doing and get FOMO (fear of missing out) so bad that it actually physically hurt me.
I was cherry-picking the moments of my life that I showed on these apps, trying to paint the most impressive picture of my life. I fed off the likes that flooded in when I posted something new, but when they stopped coming, I would experience an emotional crash. An ego dreams of a vehicle as powerful and insidious as social media to intensify its control over me.
I was more depressed than I had been in a while, and started checking social media more than ever before, which only compounded the problem. I would click Instagram, scroll through some posts, open Snapchat, watch some stories then put my phone down. 2 minutes later, I’d restart the cycle. If I saw close friends having fun without me, I got pangs of envy and fear of being left out, or FOBLO. FOBLO is something which I just made up but which is arguably much worse than FOMO in my experience. I was comparing myself to others to an unhealthy degree. I was making choices in my life based on what would look good on social media. I was jonesing for likes and favorites. I couldn’t have enough. I was addicted.
This particular day, I guess the pain just became too great. I deleted the Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat apps on my phone. Then I blocked Facebook on my mobile browser. This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted something like this, but I’d always redownloaded the apps and jumped in again in the past.
For whatever reason, this time it’s stuck so far. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed since making this change.
I want to note that I have kept my Facebook up and I access it on my computer. I need Facebook Messenger for business and keeping in touch with old friends. I do check it daily but I do not post at all and do not check it compulsively as I did when I had it on my phone
I Spend More Time In the Moment
I think the biggest blessing from this social media hiatus has been my increased ability to be present and stay present. Of course, I’m on my phone less and thus paying attention to real life more. And that’s nice. Actually, it’s really nice to just leave my phone in my pocket most of the time. But it’s even bigger than that.
The longer I go without posting something about my life, the more I realize how much social media distorted the entire lens through which I view life. We are all trying, on some level, to paint some picture of ourselves and our lives on our social media accounts. For me, the picture I was trying to paint became a driving force in my life. Whenever I would do something, a portion of my consciousness would look at it through the lens of social media. Is this something that I can post about that will make me look cool/interesting/smart/successful/desireable in some way? Should I be taking pictures of this place to make me look well-travelled on Instagram? Should I take a Snapchat video of my friends right now to show the magnificent company that I keep? I cared about looking good to an unhealthy level. That’s just not what I want my priority in life to be.
My artificially created online persona was melding with my real world personal identity. That’s a scary thought but it’s exactly what was happening with me.
It’s now been exactly 60 days with no posting in any way shape or form (okay I did post 1 photo on Facebook but only because it was arguably the best picture I’ve ever taken).
It’s a little difficult to describe the effect this has had on my life and my personality. It hasn’t been drastic. It’s not extreme. It’s subtle, just as social media’s influence is. But I do feel an increased level of serenity.
I experience the moment differently than before. I’m not longer shoving my experiences through an ego-driven social media filter to determine how they would make me look to others if shared. I’m just experiencing them.
I’m no longer taking picture after picture of a moment that is best experienced with my phone in my pocket.
I’m no longer worrying about who is liking my posts.
I’m no longer making decisions that will bolster the impressiveness of my online persona.
I’m just living in the moment as best I can. My circle of awareness is smaller and more focused. I appreciate the small things. It’s pretty great.
I’m More Humble
My life on social media was characterized by a sense of significance about my life. 50+ Instagram hearts, 100 likes on Facebook, and some comments made me feel like my life was more important/impressive than it really was.
For example, I’ve been travelling a lot but nobody would know about it besides the people that I talk to on a day-to-day basis. And that’s cool with me, because it turns out nobody among your Facebook and Instagram friends really cares about your travels.
There’s something to be said for showing people photos after your trip, in person. It’s a throwback to the good old days of sharing your vacation photo albums with close friends and family. I feel like I get to share my travels from a place of shared experience rather than braggadocious Instagram photos with cliche travel quotes as captions.
Honestly, it was a little hard at first. I would do cool things and be living a life that I really enjoy and am proud of, but none of my online friends knew about it! I felt this urge to share so they could know. But I didn’t, and slowly that urge went away and I barely notice it at all anymore.
And yet, my life still feels cool and I’m still proud of it. I just don’t have an unhealthy obsession to brag about it. My ego doesn’t like it, but my true self loves it.
I Actually Use My Phone for Learnin’
Maybe the most underrated thing about giving up social media is that you have so much more free time to consume media that actually educates you. Since getting rid of the 3 apps on my phone, I’ve noticed an increased uptick in my consumption of news, educational Youtube videos, and Reddit. I’m not sure if Reddit is the most constructive thing but I’ve learned a ton of random knowledge on there.
I’ve also started falling down “research rabbit holes”. This happens where I’ll see or hear about something that sounds interesting, start looking into it and fall down a research hole of knowledge. I’ll open a bunch of tabs, start reading obsessively and learn a ton about something I knew nothing about before.
I’ve also just started reading more actual books because I have less time with my nose in my social media obsession. It’s pretty great.
I don’t think most people have the relationship that I had with social media. I know that a lot of my friends use it in a healthy manner, and it doesn’t seem to consume their lives. For me, that’s just simply not the case. I gave it up, and, just like giving up any addiction my life improved and I became more healthy as a person. I think I’m going to continue this abstinence from social media and keep this life improvement rolling.
Thanks for reading!