I press “Share.”
The selfie, a mere 1 of 50 takes, is now out into the web. But my work is still not done. I open a second app and cash in all of the coins I’ve acquired from liking other Instagram users’ images. These win me 50 likes from random people whom I’ve never met, and never will.
I stare at my phone observing how with each refresh, my selfie garners more likes. When engagement reaches a plateau, I put down my phone.
I’m satisfied. I’m happy.
A year ago, I took a social media break, and it was likely the most effective diet or cleanse that I’ve been on in my entire life.
The months after my college graduation had sent me into a miserable state-of-mind. My non-relationship was on the rocks again. I was applying to 50 or more jobs a day. I had no money. I was living with my parents. And I was always opening up my social media apps and seeing more and more of my peers securing career opportunities, traveling across the world, or grinning in their beautiful selfies as if everything was perfect.
Why couldn’t I have a life as exciting as theirs? Why did it feel as if all of my likes on their pictures or views of their stories were only increasing my envy and self-loathing?
I finally received my current job offer at the end of July. And I took it as the perfect opportunity to start fresh. That non-relationship was officially obliterated after I accepted the job. The stress of moving in two weeks was impeding on my positivity. And I had too many other issues to worry about rather than keeping up with social media.
So, I quit social media cold turkey.
As a communications professional, I opted not to close my accounts. But I deleted Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter from my phone. No more birthday notifications, knowing what was trending, or having a platform for political rants.
During my social media break, I rarely felt the need to have my phone and could only learn of news directly from the source. Screenshots and selfies no longer filled my Camera Roll. And the urge to share everything I was doing with the world subsided over time.
I felt a whole hell of a lot better. I wasn’t comparing my life (which was pretty sucky at that moment) to that of others. I had to deal with my emotions internally and seek self-gratification from other, more meaningful, sources. I started learning how to play the guitar, explored the new city I was in every weekend and spent time working on improving my apartment. At my new job, I wasn’t distracted by the ping of a Facebook notification or the constant desire to check my Instagram. I got work done. When I had nothing to do, I would read a book or take a walk outside.
When I felt lonely in my new home, which was often, I didn’t have social media to amplify that sense of unhappiness. I doubt seeing so-and-so drinking mimosas on the beach, while I battled a new landlord to do repairs, would have made me feel any better.
But there were times when I feared missing out. I wouldn’t see pictures posted by my family members or hear of peers’ new milestones because those were all posted to social media first.
It seems we live in a society that opts to tell the internet about their life, before telling their friends and family.
I didn’t end my social media break until almost a year later. My transition back into the social media sphere was slow and tactful. I often limited my use of Facebook to a desktop and didn’t return to Instagram until months later.
Now don’t get me wrong, social media is great. It connects us with people, cultures and news, and it’s a large part of my career as a journalist and communicator.
Social media can create the illusion that the grass is always greener elsewhere—that your life doesn’t live up to those of everyone else.
And that’s not true.
So, consider a break from social media until you can create a healthy relationship with it again.