Twelve months ago I decided to give up using social media for social reasons. I came off Facebook, deleted my personal Instagram account and deleted all but news and information accounts on Twitter. It was the height of the lockdown and I came to the realisation that far from making me feel good about myself, the constant scrolling, posts and status updates was in fact making me feel far worse.
It sounds almost ridiculous to say but it was quite a momentous decision and one not lightly taken. I had spent a lot of time on social media, a lot of time on social media in general but certain apps in particular, ones more focused on lifestyles.
They were my ‘go to’ every time I picked up my phone, probably only for a couple of minutes, but over the course of the day those minutes really started to add up. I am sure that this is something that many of you out there can identify with, it was just so easy. Let us not be under any illusion I was addicted.
That addiction was fuelled by a lack of actual social contact with people, an inability to travel more than one kilometre from my home and an overwhelming need for comfort at a time of massive uncertainty; things, a direct result of the lockdown. I was a pretty regular user beforehand but when Covid really took hold, things kind of went into overdrive.
On the surface social media appeared to be the perfect antidote to all those things I was missing, filling the gap so well. In terms of social contact, instant access to practically all my friends, lack of travel opportunities, literally the whole world is on social media and comfort; seeing other people getting on; living their lives and going through a similar was a big relief. That said, maybe these things were great, at least to begin with but as time went on negative aspects became more and more apparent and indeed rather than providing all the things I thought I needed it was actually taking them away.
I found myself getting depressed and anxious. Not seeing my friends in person or actually travelling somewhere just reinforced how isolated I was and just how powerless I was to do anything about it. Seeing far-flung places, beaches, the sea, beautiful forests etc. simply reminded me just how far away they were and just how much my life had been turned upside down.
I started getting jealous of people who ‘appeared’ to be either doing ‘normal things’, things I wanted to do or things that I couldn’t do, like somehow going on holiday or mastering a new hobby or skill. Someone had written a book, someone else started a success business and then yet another, was now a YouTube star. Seeing that was just frustrating and made me feel kind of worthless.
I tried to make up for it, to strike back with my own posts, posts of me doing something cool or being really happy but this only made me feel worse, hollow, a fraud because I knew that it was not true, that in actual fact I was struggling. Of course I could not post this because I didn’t want people to know, I didn’t want to be the one pitied.
Certainly no one else was showing their vulnerability in this way, so why would I? Of course part of me knew it was all a façade, that most of the people out there were in the exact same position as me, trying to put on a brave face, projecting an image to make themselves feel a little bit better.
However this rational part of me was almost powerless in the face of the addicted part of me, I just couldn’t stop. And when I did finally stop, I went through some serious withdrawal symptoms, it was really tough, it was only through deleting the apps on my phone did I finally break the spell.
I feel that it was a great decision and I found that I was certainly starting to feel a little better about myself and not getting as down or anxious as I once was. I definitely was not beating myself up so much for not doing something or acting in a certain way that’s for sure. If nothing else it made it plain to me just how big an impact social media was having on my life and that surprise, surprise I could actually get by without it.