My Relationship with Social Media
As of today, it has been around more than a year since I swore off all social media, except the bird app (which I made a new account with last July). I'm saying this because, for the past few days, my mind has been dangerously walking the thin line between whether or not I should be making a few new ones, even including the ones that the fediverse has to offer.
But let's backtrack – why in the world did I end up quitting in the first place? I would be lying if I had any philosophical answer to this, so in all honesty, I'm just going to say it: heartbreak. The initial impetus to my whole self-ban was heartbreak, which I'm not too embarrassed to say because it did me a whole world of good in the end. My longest relationship ended not just because of circumstances, but also because we had so many immature, petty fights about being “online” on Facebook Messenger but not being able to reply to me in a timely manner to be pacified quickly enough. The same thing happened in the next rebound relationship I had, but this time it was on Instagram. Believe me, I've learned my lesson and I'm now more calm about it, but there was always this line I would cross and then I'd snap.
After more than a year in therapy, I haven't figured out a lot, but there was one common thing between the two circumstances – it was that green, “online” dot and read status on messages that got the best of me. In my immature mind, I probably thought that if they were online, I could monopolize their time. Being left on read equated to being ignored. During the break-up and recovery period, I had no other choice but to delete my whole account to feel better and at peace.
For the first few weeks of deleting those apps, it was agony. Anyone who has gone through a social media detox will tell you that the withdrawal symptoms can be real – your hand will automatically shoot up to your phone to find an app that isn't there, or you'll fidget and look at your screen, again and again, expecting a notification that will never arrive. You'll find ways to justify trying to get back, but your friends will tell you to stay put.
It was during those weeks that I realized that even if I wasn't active in the social media sphere, things will most probably go on. Besides the friends I told this predicament about, no one reached out to ask where I was, or how I was doing (miserable). When I eventually logged in again, my notifications were mostly things that I had presumably “missed” (which in fact, I couldn't care for at all). The truth came out – if you cared too much about your image, social media became a numbers game. The 500+ people you call “friends” were only present when you posted a random, positive milestone. I hated how relatives who I hardly talked to during reunions would comment on our family photos. I was able to identify the feelings of rage and jealousy within me. Insane, I thought, and it really was. In the years that I had built up my social media account, I had painted an image of me that, after my detox, I could not relate to any longer. Who was that? That was definitely not me.
So I purged them.
I made a new FB account, added my closest friends and my immediate family members, and promptly deactivated it while just keeping the messaging aspect of it, just to stay in touch. I saved all my IG pictures before permanently removing myself off the platform. My Twitter account met the same fate, and it took a lot of months before I was ready to make a new one and start from scratch.
A year in and I feel more at peace now. Being in the “silent” corner of the internet has calmed down my anxieties by strides, and the focus of everything I've done so far has been inward. Who I am here is just really who I am now, and all the ugly-delicious photos and nerdy selfies I have on Twitter are real markers of what I consider as happiness at this current time. There is no desire to “compete” – who am I competing with anyway? The only competition here is with my past self!
Do I recommend people to go on this whole social media detox? Absolutely! It's like trying to find who you really are when no one is looking, and for someone who tied their existence to an ideal image, it was painstakingly hard. Reminding myself of this, but when the journey is over, come back to social media for the right reasons. Things are going to be different, I promise.
I'm currently doing a challenge called “100 Days to Offload” – you can join in the fun too by visiting https://100daystooffload.com
If you'd like, drop me a message here – I would be absolutely thrilled to hear from you!