Social Media Struggles

One month ago, I finally mustered up enough courage to leave social media. Well, that is, the courage to leave my personal social media accounts for a month as a social experiment to ultimately decide whether I want to keep or delete my accounts. (Why was it so hard to pull the plug? More on that in a bit…)

Notice I said “finally” mustered up enough courage. Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it for a long, long time. Not weeks, not months…years! That’s right, I’ve been thinking about leaving social media for years. (Sigh.)

It’s taken me so long for a plethora of reasons. The main reason being that I wasn’t sure what life without social media would be like, which was surprisingly intimidating. Next in line would probably be the concern that I’d be out of the loop with friends and family.

But what it really came down to was that my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts were really starting to wear me down emotionally. I felt very, very unhappy with myself and my life in general. So, here goes…my struggle with social media and my self.

Keep or Delete

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HEAVY LOAD TO BEAR

Somewhere along the line I developed baggage…social media baggage, if I may. And it felt like I was carrying that baggage around with me everywhere I went. You might be wondering…what’s social media baggage?

Just plain old baggage: memories, friendships, relationships, photographs, messages, likes, comments, time, energy, usage, etc.

I felt addicted, which was depressing, because even when I tried to cut back, the next rough day made me relapse by means of excessive usage. And I always felt anxious that I was either posting too much or not enough; liking too much or not enough. And of course, the inevitable envy and self-comparison was constantly eating away at my confidence and self-worth.

So, yeah…unfortunately social media was shoring up a lot of personal insecurities and other issues that were so unnecessary and unwanted. Especially since it was all of my own voluntary viewing and participation! Obviously, I should have tried leaving social media a long, long time ago. (Dwelling in the past and living in anguish, much?)

All that social media baggage is what lead me to undertake this social experiment, a month long social media detox. (Ahhh, life without social media…more on that later!) I remember when I finally had had enough and resolved to put an end to my social media anguish, I told Damon: I just want to live a simpler life with more purpose. Meaning…I just want to be happy again!

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SPLIT IDENTITY

I often wonder if the older generations realize just how big of a part social media has played in the lives of the younger generations.

For perspective, I’m 28 years old. I’ve been on one form of social media or another since I was 13 years old and in middle school. Think about that…more than half of my life has been spent with a large portion of my identity being intertwined, or split, between my real life self and my online self.

We’re all playing different roles at different times. But when we’re all playing two different roles of ourselves, which one are we really? And most of all, is it a smart and healthy decision in the first place?

At this point in my life, I’d have to say no, it’s not smart or healthy for me to put so much stock into my social media life and online self.

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FRIENDSHIPS

On a different note, while in college I took one French class. I tried so hard to learn French that, while I was at it, I ended up forgetting a little bit of English. It was awful, and I hated every minute of it. But I took two things away from that class: a good grade and the concept of French friendships.

According to my French instructor, Americans use the term “friend” generously. Whereas the French use the term much more sparingly. Which made me wonder: How many of my Facebook friends – family excluded – do I think actually qualify as my true friends?

friend: (noun) a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection

Before I underwent this social experiment, I had no idea how many Facebook friends I had. Then, when I deactivated my account, I learned that I have 206 friends who will “miss me.” (Eye roll…)

Not surprisingly, my true friendships number far less than my total 206 Facebook friends. Which in turn made me wonder: What does that make the rest of my Facebook friends? Old classmates and coworkers, I suppose. Acquaintances, really!

acquaintance: (noun) a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend

And for me, that’s the saddest thing about social media – it’s connected me with a lot of friends in the literal sense, but none of those connections have been strengthened because of the connection. In fact, I’d argue that the social media connections have actually caused me to become disconnected from most of my friends. I say that, because social media gives me and everyone else an easy out.

It’s so easy to be a good friend on social media – I know from experience! All that’s required is logging on, looking at everyone’s posts to get up to date with their lives, and clicking the “like” button. Notice there was no one-on-one communication required? Heck, even if I take the time to show someone I really care by writing a comment…guess how long that comment is. Usually one sentence, maybe two! Who am I kidding, usually it’s just a complimentary or congratulatory short phrase.

Obviously, there’s nothing innately wrong with using “likes” or comments to show friendship. But lately, for me, it just hasn’t been cutting it! Likes and comments aren’t sufficient – I want more! Not more likes, not more comments…more meaningful interactions! I want friends who want to be a part of my life, not friends who just want to see my life. And the same goes for me: I want to be a better, more involved friend.

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MOTHERHOOD

Once I became a mom, my social media presence and usage really started to get out of control. To be honest, I think the shock of motherhood sent me spiraling into an identity crisis.

Not to mention, for some reason, it felt like being a good parent also necessitated being a good parent online. Which meant posting the birth announcement, the monthly updates and anything cute or noteworthy that happened in between. I tried my best, but in the end it became too much!

Unfortunately, during my identity crisis in real life…I was also having an identity crisis online. Before I could get a grip on my new life as a mom, I’d morphed into an instamom. By my own definition:

instamom: (noun) a mom on social media, particularly Instagram, who posts profusely about the trials and tribulations of motherhood; who frequently posts pictures of her children; and all too often makes life, motherhood, and her children seem perfect.

As much as I enjoy following instamoms, I can’t say I have any desire to be one myself. Needless to say, when I emerged from the fourth trimester fog, I wasn’t too happy with who I’d become. Besides not wanting to plaster mine and everyone else’s social media feeds with photos of my baby boy, I also just came to the realization that I’d rather keep that aspect of my life more private.

Life as an instamom – been there, done that…moving on!

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I don’t want to look back and wonder why I squandered away all of my time on Facebook or Instagram. Endlessly scrolling through feeds, capturing and captioning the perfect shots, and updating everyone with cute photos and thoughtful captions. Sure, they’re not in themselves bad things to do, but they waste time and energy that could be better focused on living in the present and enjoying what is before my very eyes.

Does that mean I’m going to stop taking the time to capture the cuteness, the special moments, and the milestones? No, not even close! My phone and camera are filled with photos, and my journal is filled with the latest happenings.

I’m not going to lie, though, I felt kind of guilty at first. Knowing that a lot of my family and friends won’t get to see my son grow up if I choose to delete my accounts. But I don’t feel guilty anymore, because getting to see my son grow up is a privilege. And the privilege is easily earned by showing interest!

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FACEBOOK FOG

Spending the past month being social media free has been an extremely liberating experience, and if nothing else it has taught me that life isn’t boring. And I say that, because I think Facebook and Instagram can make it feel that way…that life is boring, that living life without social media isn’t enough.

It’s so easy to just pick up a phone and become enthralled in a feed. You can take in a huge assortment of content — beautiful photos, interesting captions — just by scrolling, and that in itself is very engaging. So much so, that in the blink of an eye, a few minutes can turn into an hour or more. And the same goes for when you’re trying to document your own life for posting to social media. One picture turns to two, three, four…and before you know it, you have ten near identical photos. None of which seem quite perfect enough for posting.

Well, I can assure you, life without social media isn’t boring. And life without social media is enough! Remember that fourth trimester fog I mentioned earlier, that took me a while to surface from? Same goes for social media. It’s as though I’ve surfaced from a Facebook fog. My mind feels at ease. I’m not constantly dwelling on the past, or wondering what’s next. I’m just living my life now, and I’m happy.

(Update: In a previous blog post, Motherhood: All the Feels, I mentioned how I didn’t feel very content being a stay-at-home mom. For those who have been worried or wondering about me in that respect, you’ll be happy to hear that I no longer feel that way! I actually feel very content now. In part because I’ve adjusted to life as a stay-at-home mom; and in part because being away from social media has allowed me to spend more quality time with those who matter most to me: my husband, son, and our families.)

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THE FINAL DECISION

Being social media free has allowed me to grow up. I no longer feel like I’m dwelling in the past, or wasting my present. I mean, I flew through a 300 page book, which is something I never would have had the time or desire to do with social media in my life. I’ve also taken up hobbies like running, baking, and gardening. And I’ve gone for more walks and spent more time outdoors. Plus, I’ve actually felt energized and motivated to work on home projects and blog posts.

Most of all, I just feel happier:
Happier with myself.
Happier with my husband.
Happier with my son.
Happier with my life.

So, my decision is easy: I’m choosing to be happy, to spend my time wisely, and to focus my energy on the things that matter most in life:

My own well-being.
My amazing husband.
My oh-so adorable son.
And my WONDERFUL life.

I’m deleting my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts. My family deserves all of my time, energy, and affection — not my Facebook or Instagram accounts. (Buh bye!)

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I thought after a month away from social media, I’d be eager to see what everyone had been up to in my time away. I mean, a months worth of content to view all at once, it’d be like a social media binge! One last hurrah before deleting my accounts!

However, to my surprise, I’m more reluctant than ever to log back on. I think it really would be like a binge…a very, very emotionally destructive and mentally damaging experience. Even perhaps a cause to relapse into my social media addiction. So, this is my personal social media farewell, as I’d rather not put myself back into my old, addictive, self-damaging position as a social media user.

(P.S. I’d just like to add that I’m an extremely lucky wife, because Damon has agreed to copy, save, and delete my social media content and accounts on my behalf. I’m planning on making a scrapbook, because Damon and I first met and got to know each other on Facebook. So, yeah…I’m sentimental.)

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REALLY, NOW WHAT?

It wasn’t easy pulling the plug and breaking my social media addiction. To be honest, I think I went through the seven stages of grief twice to get through most of my social media baggage. It took a few weeks to work through and so did losing the habit of thoughtlessly opening the Instagram app. (Ugh!)

Sure, I’ll miss a lot of my 206 Facebook friends and seeing what’s going on in their lives. But…

• I don’t want to feel or be addicted to social media.
• I don’t want to spend any more of my time scrolling through feeds.
• I don’t want to display my personal life – I want to live it!
• I don’t want to subject myself to anymore unnecessary or unwanted anxiety, depression, or envy.
• I don’t want friends who just want to see my life, I want friends who want to be a part of my life.

Most of all, I don’t want to be unhappy anymore because of social media!

I realize that I’m letting go of a lot of friends, and sometimes that’s a bit hard to swallow. However, I’m excited about finally letting go of my social media baggage and about the prospect of developing & strengthening friendships outside of social media. After all, social media isn’t the end all, be all of communications. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we’re meant to be in touch, we’ll be in touch. Perhaps Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series says it best:

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

So, maybe we’ll see each other…maybe we’ll talk. Or…maybe we won’t! Either way, I’m choosing to be a person – not a social media user – and I’m choosing to be happy!

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