Hello! It’s been a while, hey. Today’s post is just going to be a casual chat. I’d like to catch up and share with you my recent struggles and what leaving social media has been like for my mental health.
48 days and counting
I stopped using Facebook and Instagram on February 20 and haven’t used them since except for work and Growing Up MNL activity as well as for sharing posts that are really important to me such as info about Earth Hour and sexual abuse. I didn’t at all look at either feeds but I do visit my sister’s new art Instagram account about once a week.
I’m still on Facebook Messenger and Twitter, but I generally don’t spend over 20 minutes on them each day. Exceptions are when I am having actual conversations, which are surprisingly infrequent. People are usually busy and don’t engage for long when online (me included). This was something not as obvious to me when I was still “on” because constantly knowing what others are up to through their posts gave me the illusion of being connected.
I thought I was immune but I wasn’t
I’ve known for a while now that social media can be bad for us (I mean, everything can be right?). More studies have to be made but links have been found between social media use and increasing levels of depression and anxiety, poorer mood and lower self-esteem. Not to mention, it also affects our sleep and can be very addicting, which bring a slew of problems on their own. I mean, the fact here is that a lot of things can be both good and bad; it just depends on how you use them and, in many cases, on how you feel about your self and your life.
Local news posts aside, social media never really made me feel bad. My experience was always more positive than negative. So when I learned of the ill effects of social media use, I thought I knew better and would not “give in.” That was arrogant of me and I was wrong.
For sure, not everyone will be affected by social media negatively. I don’t know what kind of unicorns these people are, but I’m sure they’re out there. Honestly, for a while there I thought I was one of them because I believed I was discerning enough to know that social media is a curation of lives rather than a genuine depiction of reality, but it seems like self-awareness doesn’t shield you 24/7. I know of people who I think already have it all but still don’t have a very good relationship with social media. Maybe they’re not aware of it, but I know of a couple of women who visit people’s (usually celebrities) feeds for inspiration and “goals” (read: things to buy) and share inspirational quotes and whatever on their personal feeds but are also the type to say snarky things about other people on the same platform. I’m sure you know someone like that or have been there too.
Self-worth, success and social media
Earlier I watched a video of Khloe Kardashian (yeah yeah I know, ganda ng lipstick niya dun ’no) where she said, people be hating when they’re unhappy. I believe that’s true. Certainly, that was the case for me in February. I’ve been on social media for, what, 12 years now (since Friendster haha!) but have never really gotten to a point where I was so unsatisfied that I wanted to hate on others. Well I finally felt the beginnings of that in February.
I had never wanted anything sooo badly in my life until recently. I was applying for this thing for over a year now but kept getting rejection after rejection. I won’t talk about it in detail yet as that’s not our current topic, but the point is I really wanted this one thing to happen because it will dictate the trajectory of my career, financial stability and even love life, and is very much key to achieving my idea of success. To me, achieving this thing is not only tied to my self-worth but also my future– making rejection painful on so many fronts.
Because what I wanted but didn’t have is key to my job security, income and career growth, I grew extremely anxious and seeing people I know show off their own successes online made me feel worse. Before this, I vowed to only leave productive and/or positive comments online but the anxiety and blow to the ego of rejection made it increasingly difficult for me to be genuinely happy for others. That’s when I decided to take a break.
My brain offline
Some of you have probably already started using social media less, even before this Cambridge Analytica thing, or may have tried it for Lent and may be familiar with these “withdrawal” symptoms. During the first two to three days offline (let’s just call it that henceforth because “off social media” is so long hehe), I found myself automatically opening social media apps every time I wanted to be distracted or had some quiet time. I read somewhere that we have become a generation that doesn’t know how to be bored. And if you’re a creator in any way, I think boredom is key to knew ideas and problem solving. In fact, no matter who you are, I think our brains come up with some of the best stuff when they’re allowed to breathe (like in the shower or while doing chores). Twitter didn’t contribute negatively to my mood, but for the first two weeks I didn’t use it either so I could get rid of the habit of automatically going on socials.
After about a week, I regained the habit of staring off into the distance and saw that other people were also still doing the same. It was nice.
All the time in the world
The most noticeable difference off the bat was that I suddenly had so much time. For the longest time I thought I just didn’t have enough to do everything I wanted to do. Going offline showed me what I’ve been spending and wasting my time on—mindless scrolling and mindless conversations. It’s been years since I’ve had this much time to read, write and watch movies. I think I’ve watched over 50 documentaries in the past 48 days.
I now go to Reddit for my daily dose of animal cuteness. That’s where a lot of viral Facebook posts come from anyway, plus I follow subreddits that enrich my understanding of the world without the ads, fake news and updates I don’t care about. I could unfriend everyone I don’t care about, true, but Facebook has made itself so inextricable in networking/connecting these days that it’s pretty hard to especially when your work heavily involves social media.
My quiet addiction
I feel like I’d been walking through the most beautiful forest with a boom box over my head ala John Cusack in Say Anything (am I dating myself or what?) and it suddenly turned off. That’s what going offline felt like. The quiet was sudden… and liberating. Many maybe won’t feel this way but I felt like I was alive again. I wasn’t constantly looking down and not living in the present. My brain is now in a deep and serene quiet where the voices I hear are mine and those of the few people who truly matter.
Finding my self-worth offline
That being said, going offline has helped me regain perspective of what success is for me. Setting goals and figuring out what truly makes me happy was so much easier when I didn’t know what everyone else was doing/posting about and when my brain isn’t on wanting-affirmation-via-likes mode. It’s also pretty nice that I no longer feel the need to constantly show people what I’m eating, buying, etc. I mean why was that even a thing. Anyway, I will still definitely post about animals when I do go back online.
Connecting when disconnected
Social media has definitely changed how we build and maintain relationships as well as the frequency, amount and quality of what we disclose to our contacts and friends. The instant nature of everything has wired us to think that everyone is always reachable—even our bosses think so and that’s the most annoying. Haha. Anyway, this is where my dilemma lies. The most difficult thing for me about going offline is the guilt of no longer being interested in constantly being reachable and ready to converse with everyone, even the ones I care about.
I care about my friends the same way and want to see and interact with them in person, but I don’t want to do it online anymore. I am happy with the ways of the early 2000s where instant messaging was used for important things and setting up in-person meetings. This is obviously not as easy for those who live far from each other. But honestly right now I’d rather have in-person quality time with friends or just write letters from time to time. I think the quiet has fortified my brain from anxiety and depression, and turned me into the introvert I truly am (i.e., the extreme kind). So staying connected while keeping the quiet is something I still have to figure out.
Reconciling with the real world
I have the same problem with staying updated on what’s happening in the world. Right now I’m pretty disconnected from what’s going on around me and I know it’s a privilege to choose to not be involved. As someone who’s been in development communications for a while now, I know the crucial role social media has played and will continue to play in advocacies and movements all over the world. I think both anger and love are very much necessary in spurring action, but anger is something I haven’t felt since the quiet has taken over. Anger feels like the opposite of keeping my brain peaceful, y’all, so I have to figure that out too.
Going back online
I’ve seen my therapist since quitting social media and was able to ride out the depression I knew was coming, but going back online isn’t on the cards yet. I never doubted that I could use social media judiciously, but I don’t want to risk falling back into that pit of self-pity just yet. Plus the quiet in my head is exhilarating.
I do miss seeing wedding photos, funny stories and updates about something that made people really proud or happy, but hey the internet is forever, right? I’ll come back someday. Today is just not yet that day.
What about you? Have you found the quiet amid all the noise?
Hope you all had a restful weekend! <3
Thumbnail photo from kaboompics