I laid in my bed in the early evening, covers tucked under my chin, arms out with my laptop on my chest. A week old sophomore in college, I was very insecure and depressed. This particular evening, I denied any plans and opted to be alone again. Scrolling Facebook, I stared at a picture of old high school friends smiling, light and free as ever. They’d just been to an outdoor concert while it was still warm enough to feel the magic of summer.
Freedom was something I didn’t understand, yet haunted me. The kind of freedom that you must feel when you are young and financially cared for. I was both, but I didn’t feel free. I felt heavy, as though the whimsy was too weak to take my blue soul flying. A witness of light, giggly, easy happiness was what made me hate myself, because I couldn’t BE that. I saw it all around me, and I told myself there was something wrong with who I was for not being that.
This particular picture instantly slathered on my voice of shame, atop the bare cake of isolation I’d made earlier. It told me a short list of precisely what was wrong with me, while enforcing what wonderful people these must be to be smiling here, able to experience ease and not be a burden. Oh how the mind concocts these stories - all from a simple picture, and some stale details I knew about them from high school.
It was then that I decided to retreat. What my brain and heart have always agreed on is that when something hurts it’s better to be left alone. So my isolation seeped into the digital world.
I deleted Facebook that day and only got it back this year to start Opaline Hue. I got an Instagram a few years after and then deleted that, got another and deleted it again. I do not claim that my decision was virtuous like people think it is. When over the years I mentioned my social media absence, people would respond with quick explanations as to why they have one, and that they would delete it if it wasn’t the only way to keep in contact with their cousin overseas. I also don’t claim that it is a good decision. I do think it’s a good decision for ME that was fueled by insecurity, unhealthy retreating and maybe a little bit of wisdom. But there probably isn’t a way to determine if something like that is inherently bad or good. It’s the way people choose to use it which makes it so.
So, here is what I learned deleting my social media, and what I learned getting it back.
I stopped seeing situations in terms of their social media appearance
My mind no longer had a witty caption instantly prepared between the moments of cheese and a captured photo. I was released from the pressure of doing a birthday or anniversary post for loved ones and friends - lest the world wonder if my love has waned. I enjoyed more special, fun, funny and random moments in real time that may have gotten a laugh on instagram. It was hard not to post the really rich, wonderful moments. As humans I believe we have this strong urge to share our joys, like they are incomplete without showing another person. I felt that urge strongly, but without social media I would text a friend a photo, or make a phone call to share my feelings. It was just as satisfying - maybe even more.
My FOMO decreased
FOMO was most real for me when I had social media before. I was a witness to every party, coffee date, and event that I wasn’t invited to, or declined to attend. It truly was a joy not to daily stumble across a photo which could immediately make me question my choices and self. Out of sight, out of mind, and more peace of mind for me. I am personally someone who resonates with the new acronym going around JOMO - the Joy of missing out. When I left social media behind I felt much more at ease.
My comparison decreased
I am the type of person who will believe a smile and never question that there is something behind it. This makes Instagram especially challenging for me. When I see someone’s perfect feed, even when I know no one’s life is perfect, I still believe them. I just believe the perfection they portray and instantly wonder what I’ve done wrong. I then begin to lose gratitude for my life and begin the dangerous comparison game - a game which is never evenly matched when its between my reality and someone’s instagram feed. When I gave up social media, I really stopped comparing my life to others’ lives. It is easier to do when it isn’t in your face. I would learn about others’ lives by hearing them talk about it, and their lives sounded a lot more like mine - just life.
My perception of my own life increased
When I wasn’t receiving feedback on my life in the form of likes and comments, my brain began to forget that was a big type of reinforcement in our day. I found that my own opinion about something I may have ‘grammed before began to mean more to me. I really liked my voice mattering more to me.
What it was like getting it back
I was awkward and rusty at first. I didn’t want to show my face. I didn’t want my business to be about me. Slowly I learned how important that is to growing a little seed of a business into something healthy and blooming today. I began to dip my toe and ease my way back in to social media life. It felt like someone rushed into my dark room and opened my curtains to the blinding sun. As I adjusted, I found that I have more control now over social media than I felt I did before (I’ve also grown a lot). I can share my personality and a bit about my life which is fun. I also don’t feel pressure to post everything about my life, which is easy when my account is for my business. I feel free to keep special moments private without feeling like I’m letting down “my image” - something that was a stressor for me when it was a personal account.
Some of my boundaries
I don’t follow people whose feeds I don’t want to see
I take one day off a week
I don’t get too personal (this makes more sense for a business account, but puts me at ease either way)
I make sure to have reasons to be proud of myself on the front of my mind before I post, so that likes aren’t what fuel me
I have to say, I LOVE having social media back. I see now that the toxicity of social media in my life was because I was really not in a healthy space, and I was following people whose lives just made me feel small (also a result of me being in an unhealthy space). I love now that I can follow my friends and see their lives. It’s so fun to be able to interact with them throughout the day in a more dynamic way than texting. I love connecting with people I don’t know who are doing interesting things and expanding my community in a way I never could without social media. It really is fun.
What is the moral of the story?
This is my personal story, so glean what you’d like off of it!
The moral is, don’t feel bad that you have social media or you don’t have social media - just don’t let it control your life.