Last fall I wrote a piece about stepping away from social media and I realized that I never properly gave an update as to how the change has been going over the past few months :) The short version of the answer is, the change has been really great, for the both of us. I’ve felt a shift of priorities, I’ve felt more present and I’ve felt more clarity and focus and a lot of freedom. But I want to share a bit of the longer version here today, and I realize that it might come out in fits and spurts because I have a lot of thoughts going on in my mind that I hope I can convey coherently as I open the floodgates :) haha.
I keep a (somewhat) daily journal. One thing that’s important to know about me is that except for a few things, I rarely ever work in absolutes, and so this journal has always been whatever I wanted it to be.. sometimes I write everyday for a while about my thoughts, and sometimes I go a week or two without writing a word, never feeling guilty but simply knowing my journal is there when I feel the need to write. But sometimes I flip back and when I flip back to last fall, around the time I was thinking of ‘quitting’ social media, I read the words of someone who was tired and who was scared of what others might think. Oh I poured endlessly over the decision to cut and run, and for many weeks I felt so conflicted. I crafted the words I would say and I fantasized about my ‘goodbye’ messages and clicking delete on my accounts. These thoughts took over a lot of real estate in my brain :) Social media had become a real source of negativity for me, and it was bringing. me. down. in a serious way.
So I did. One day I stopped signing in and didn’t sign in again for a long time. I really need it, and it was really good for me, so good for me, to step away completely.
I realized that there had been a lot of noise in my life. Noise that was telling me I wasn’t good enough, noise that was telling me I would never be loud enough or clever enough or popular enough to be heard. Thoughts of ‘how should I tweet about this?’ that were clouding my brain and robbing me of really experiencing things. It was really good just to get back to myself, and my life, the things I wanted and valued. To not feel the pressure to share all the time, or to feel that I had to shout over all the other voices. To stop seeking the ‘high’ of number of likes or favourites or follows.
What I want to say is this: I realized that social media is neither good nor bad. It’s an inanimate object.. it just is. Like everything, it’s about the relationship we have with it. Our relationship with it is what determines whether it’s good for us, or not.
And it can be really hard to be really honest about the state of any relationship. :)
For a while I thought I would make a statement by just choosing not to participate. I’ll show them what I think of social media!! (I will? And who exactly is this ominous ‘them’?!) But I realized that it’s kind of like the voter who says the system sucks, and therefore refuses to cast a vote. When you take your voice out of the game completely.. you kind of give up the privilege of having a voice. Even if it’s a small voice.
The very nature of social media works like this (or at least, this is how I was using it, 99% of the time). It went like this: I’m bored, or lonely, and I have this little window of time that I want to fill, I’m craving some outside input into my life right now… craving some kind of social interaction.. I click through my instagram/twitter/fb/etc accounts and see what all my friends and strangers alike are up to. This is when we take the role of the consumers. The disconnect comes here — the ones creating the content are usually the ones who are actually doing something noteworthy.. ie here I am having the best day on my trip around Europe, or here I am with my best friend eating the first ice cream of the summer. And the thing is that here I am sitting by my lonesome and a part of me is wishing I was you having that wonderful experience. Or I wish I was the friend you invited for ice cream. Or I let myself think wow, she sure has a lot of time to instagram while I’ve been waiting for a reply to my email from a few days ago… and all these feelings really suck. Comparing my life to yours robs me of my own joy, makes me think less of mine and more of yours. When yes, our lives are probably different in many ways, but there are probably an equal number of high and lows in both too. But in those moments, we forget about that.
What did I find during those months away from social media? :) The biggest thing I first noticed was I felt a sudden calmness. A weight lifted and anxiety removed of that feeling of having to keep up. I felt a clarity of what was important to me, without being swayed by what others were doing or saying. I could get back to interacting with friends face-to-face or one-on-one over email in a genuine way (no more oh, I already know that, I saw it on your instagram) and I actually enjoyed these interactions more. There was of course a freeing up of time, more creativity and ideas going on in my mind, more real conversations between me + my husband. If ever you want to get a clear picture of the hold something has over your life and to get your priorities back in alignment, I’d strongly encourage you to try to go without it for a season.
So…. where am I now about all of this? :) Like I said, I’ve realized that I’m not really one for absolutes in life. I think of social media now much like I think of eating properly… I’ve never been one for diets or deprivation. It makes more sense for me to think about how the food I eat makes me feel. I think we all know how we’re going to feel after eating junk food… And I think that the minute we blacklist something as bad all the time and deprive ourselves of it, the more it becomes a game of willpower, a game we will all sooner or later lose. It’s not about feeling a weird sense of pride by staying away from Facebook, nor is it about making it a kind of ‘reward’ for a stretch of ‘good behaviour’. For me, it’s been about realizing there are things that will make me far happier that I can fill my life with instead of all that junk food.
These days, I do pop up now and then on social media, but what’s changed I think is the intention. I’ve realized that sometimes I do feel like I have something to say that might be encouraging to someone else out there… or I want to encourage someone in what they’re doing. But after taking such an intentional break, I think I’ve broken that ‘need’ to post updates all the time. I really try not to let my posts or words be the cause of the same kind of negativity or discouragement for someone else. When I go and visit other blogs now, instead of just scrolling through my social media feed and clicking on the links that come up as I used to, every single visit is with the intention that I want to leave a comment that will encourage this friend/writer/blogger/photographer/human being in what they’re doing. It’s helped my relationship with social media change from one of jealousy and letting it consume my thoughts and cloud my own experiences, to one that allows me to have the most genuine interactions I can on it… which, if it’s going to be a part of our world, that is honestly the best use I can think of for it. :)
I do still really limit my time on these things, because I know it can spiral downwards really quickly. And after my own experiences, I’d really encourage anyone to think about taking a break and seeing how it feels. Like I read somewhere recently, the internet is partial truths, it gives us the ability to heavily curate ourselves and it gives the false impression of relationship and community. The internet is also what we make of it, and I’m trying to do what I can to be as vulnerable and encouraging and real as I can whenever I’m a part of it.
Otherwise, the real world has been treating me well, and I can’t say that I’ll look back any time soon. You know guys, it sounds super cliche to say, but this is our one life.. this is the one chance I get at being in my twenties, living in this place, being with these people, doing these things.. and I want to savour + remember that while I can. :)
a million thanks to our friend athena for these images of us in this post.