Last year, I read an overwhelming article about social media that inspired me to go on a six-month Instagram/Facebook hiatus. It was more of a challenge for myself but I soon realized how rewarding the experiment really was. I rejoined social media late December and I realized something… IT’S OKAY to be on Instagram, to be on facebook, etc. just as long as you are sensible and in control. Now (as of November 2017), I check Instagram a few times a day and I hardly ever go on facebook.
Earlier this year, when I returned from my half year hiatus, I came across a post about social media that literally gave me chills. It was sharp, uncesnsored, and absolutely genuine. The following is written by my long term pal Heidi Anne Fuchs.
LOVE YOU HEIDZ.
I wonder how many people check their social media at least once every hour. For me at least, I spent a lot of time on social media. I told myself it was okay – it wasn’t like I was spending my day scrolling through instagram or facebook. But I was always checking my locked phone screen to see if I had any form of notification. At least once an hour I would be updated on snapchat stories of people I maybe met once, or hadn’t seen in 2 years. I didn’t really care for what they were doing, it just stimulated my mind. I love taking photos, so naturally instagram was addictive. However, I was constantly seeing posts of fun social lives, expensive on trend clothes, post-salon hair and professional makeup. I realised I had been checking my facebook notifications for around 7 years. Wow. Facebook was the most struggle by far to disconnect from. As a very social, outgoing person, facebook was useful for me to keep in contact with my friends and organise/ be invited to events. However, It also was filled with 1,000 “facebook friends” which had accumulated over the 7 years. Similar to instagram and snapchat, constantly being updated on peoples lives that I hardly knew or spoke to. I pass people by on the street who sometimes have no idea of my existence, but I knew what they did the other day because facebook told me. Pretty creepy, huh.
I admit, I was fooled. I was fooled by a facade filled with filters and emojis. I did genuinely believe that people were living more exciting lives than me. I would feel anxious sometimes thinking that I couldn’t afford or keep up with the latest trends of clothes. That my hair was not regularly done, that I didn’t have manicured nails. I was constantly comparing myself to others in a negative way, whether it was consciously or unconsciously.
Last year, I met an “instagram famous” woman who happened to have more than 1mil followers. I asked her what she did for a living and she told me that she got to travel and get paid for it by writing a blog and posting on instagram. I was amazed. I wanted that life. I was sitting in a room full of bloggers and PR’s. A woman next to me worked for a PR company and her job was to source out potential “instagram famous” people and send them products for them to review and post on their instagram. I questioned her about how someone can get such a high amount of followers and get free stuff sent to them (asking for a friend…). Her reply was honest and fascinating – that you have to “make your life look better than it is. When your going out – say for drinks with friends, make sure you take lots of pictures and from the right angles”. I started to study those of the famous instagram profiles; how often they posted, what they wrote in their captions, the filters they used, their photo content (and angles), their bios, etc. I wanted to be an influential instagram user with thousands of followers. But the question is… why? For social credibility and status? My sense of worth? For free stuff?
After a wind whirl of personal events and constant ongoing research of the fascinating lives of social media royalty, my self esteem was at an all-time low, I didn’t believe any compliments I was receiving from anyone, my imperfections were prevalent and blinded me from seeing my beauty within and without.
One day, I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of uncomfortableness. That people whom I didn’t speak to or even know knew my business. That seeing my posts was a few clicks away… I felt ashamed at the facade I was creating of myself of a perfect life, just like the instagram users I looked up to. I have been known for making rash and spontaneous decisions, which subsequently lead me to deactivating all of my social media. I also restarted my phone which deleted all the contacts on my phone.
My mum once said that it takes a month to break any habit. I researched into that theory and some studies suggest that it is a myth, others say 21 days. I felt liberated deactivating each social media account and deleting the apps on my phone one by one. I also unintentionally stopped listening to the radio during this time which I quickly realised how I was ‘living under a rock’. I realised that facebook and the radio was my source of news as I don’t watch television, so I downloaded a news app and started checking it every morning. I felt as though I had no sense of reality. I
I felt as though I had no sense of reality. I realised how reliant I was on social media to make me feel social and accepted. I was also struggling to find who my true friends were. The friends that no matter what season of my life I was in, would accept me whole-heartedly. I had no friends to contact, however within about a week a number of friends texted me – some who I hadn’t spoke to in a few months, noticed that I wasn’t on social media. I bumped into someone whom I had not seem in a few years, and they said they noticed I wasn’t on social media anymore and I had “gone off the radar”. It proved my point that we are constantly being updated on peoples lives, whether they’re currently in your life or not. We can ask someone ‘what have you been up to?’, when really, you probably already know since you’ve been regularly updated through their posts.
Towards the end of the month, I spoke on a radio station who had a segment about dnm’s (deep and meaningful conversations), where you could ask a question and the radio hosts would answer it. I asked the question ‘how can you stay social without social media?’. One radio host understood my reasoning and told a story about her friend who went off social media for a few months, felt lonely and went back on. Another radio host was not shy of her opinion against leaving social media. She thought it was unnecessary and social media is a big part of our lives and that would never change. It was interesting to get two strangers opinions on the matter, as it was completely unbiased. Both opinions were quite helpful; I related to the first radio hosts story. Loneliness was a key emotion I was experiencing during this time. I love making plans with friends and I realised how difficult it was to make plans with people over text, especially if it was more than one person. I also was not getting invited to outings (i’m assuming because texting involves more effort to invite someone). I was not getting notifications or likes, I wasn’t constantly being updated on my friends lives and I did indeed feel lonely and almost an outcast. The second host’s opinion at first irritated me, because it seemed insensitive. But in retrospect, her honesty made me realise that we do live in a world which relies heavily on social media to communicate and connect with one another. And there are many benefits for using social media – such as keeping in contact with friends and family overseas, old friends or organising events.
This time was absolutely vital in my self development and wellbeing. A time of quiet, reflection and stillness. Of learning to listen to and trust myself. I started to read books, watch documentaries and started a pottery class. All of which were new to me. But the most important lesson I can walk away from this with – is to find solace in solitude. To enjoy my own company, and understand that I don’t need to always go out and be with other people, as although friends and family are important, learning to spend time with myself and recharge alone is just as important. I learnt not to always compare my life to others – as we are all on our own journeys at a different pace, and someone will always be ‘better’ than me – whether that may be wealth, intelligence, etc. and that is okay.
I now have my social media accounts back, and don’t find the need to be on social media as much, maybe a few times a day. And when I post content, I am not worried about trying to create a facade of a perfect life. I want to be honest in everything I do and say in life, and hopefully that shows in my posts and in every other aspect of my life.