What I Learned from Taking a 3-Month Social Media Break
There was a time in my life when social media felt like a lifeline. I can’t tell you how many times my cursor hovered over the deactivate button on my Facebook account, tempted to click, but was stopped by the fear of what my life would look like without social media. I imagined it would be like modern day Walden, a retreat from society, a chance to ignore the rest of the world and just be. As nice as this sounded hypothetically, it was the reality of the loneliness and disconnect that scared me. The constant access to a larger social world was comforting—too comforting. Then, one day, I did it. I clicked deactivate.
It all began last summer at a Beyoncé concert when I caught myself focusing more on the number of views my Snapchat story had than the Queen Bey herself. Social media was a beast that needed feeding, and though I tried to resist my desire to Snapchat through the show, I felt an obligation to prove to my tens of followers that I, too, do cool things and have a fun life. Each post was intended to combat the jealousy and FOMO that colored my social media consumption. I kept forgetting that like any other high, the ego boost it gave me would eventually come crashing down.
When I looked up from my phone, I realized Beyoncé was beginning “Me, Myself, and I.” In her introduction to the song she said that “the most important relationship we have is with ourselves.” It felt like Beyoncé was sending me a message. I had let outside voices distract me from listening to my inner voice that told me I was having a great time, regardless of how aesthetically pleasing my snaps were or who was paying attention. That night, after I got home, I deactivated my Facebook account and deleted Snapchat and Instagram from my phone. Hard as it was, I made it through three months without going on social media once.
The break confirmed for me that social media is neither a corrupting social force nor is it flawless. The reality is somewhere in between. Social media’s effect on a person all depends on who they are and how they use it. It turns out the disconnect and loneliness I feared were exactly what I needed to help me better understand who I was and how social media affected my mental health. During my break, I concentrated on how I felt going about my day without any outside influences muddling my connection to the present moment. I realized that I am very happy with my sometimes boring and not-always picturesque life. By distinguishing this genuine satisfaction from imposed desires, I could protect myself against the voices in my head that used social media as a form of self-sabotage.
I re-entered the world of social media with a completely new philosophy. This time, I was in charge of my social media, not the other way around. I now try to only share things I feel like sharing, even if that means getting less likes or not posting as often. I’ve seized the power to make my social platforms spaces that I want to be in, and I've become comfortable filtering out the people I don’t want to hear from. It’s not that social media never threatens to trigger my insecurities anymore, because it does. All the time. What’s changed is that I’m better able to pinpoint when it’s having this effect on me and why. Now I know not to listen to those self-sabotaging voices in my head and that if things ever get too much, I can always take a break.
By Sophie Hayssen, 20