In a world dominated by every possible platform of social media, it’s sometimes hard to imagine life without our beloved Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
After all, they keep us connected to our friends, family and the world at large. We share our everyday lives and our every move.
We post the vegan, gluten-free sesame tofu we had for lunch, the carefully curated Moscow mule we sipped on at the bar, the plane ride en route to the enviable holiday in paradise and our dog sh*tting in the backyard.
It’s all on display for the world to see.
Sharing every minute detail of our lives has become as natural as breathing. We don’t even think twice about it. But what would happen if we stepped back, and stopped sharing everything with the world?
At 23 years old, I found myself doing exactly that. One year ago, I deleted every single one of my social media accounts (even Snapchat), and I never looked back.
Okay, I kind of looked back. I kind of missed it, too. And maybe I activated a new Snapchat account for, like, 36 hours. But I deleted it.
Then I activated it again, and I deleted it again.
I realized I had major problems.
But after the initial withdrawal/caving period passed, I found myself enjoying a life, free from the constraints of posting my every move.
There was just something so refreshing about not sharing everything with everyone. My world felt smaller and more intimate for the first time in a long time.
I could still share pictures and moments with my friends and family, but I did so via text. I also (gasp!) waited to tell them about my experiences in person. There was something so refreshing about keeping my private life private, and sharing only certain parts of my life with the people who actually cared to hear about it.
I felt happier than I had in years, and I’m still reaping the benefits of a life free of any type of social media. Here are four reasons why we can all afford to — and need to — take a step back from the pressure of posting.
1. You can stop comparing your own life to everyone else’s.
After I had some distance from social media for a significant amount of time, I realized so much of it was just a competition. After all, why do we share very selected details from our lives?
Do we honestly want the world to have a taste of what we are experiencing, or are we more focused on presenting ourselves as having certain types of experiences?
Social media, for many people, is about creating a persona, a cardboard cut-out version of ourselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t want to paint themselves in the best light?
But it's important to be conscious of how social media changes the way we see ourselves, and the way we want to be seen by others. It’s the reason we Instagram pictures of $20 mai tais on our Hawaiian vacations, as opposed to a lovely photo of us praying to the porcelain gods last weekend.
More often than not, when we post, we are starting a subtle competition with ourselves and the people who follow us.
Who has the best clothes? The best meals? The best vacations?
It wasn’t until I was out of the game did I realize how hard I was trying to create a certain image of myself through my Instagram account.
And the more I scrolled through other people’s accounts, posting pictures of sommelier-esque wine tastings and Birkin bags, the more pressure I felt to compete.
And the posting war continued.
2. You can live in the moment and experience life without the anxiety of posting your every move.
Have you ever been out to dinner with friends or family, and realized everyone was on their phone? I know I sound like your annoying, technology-bashing aunt at Thanksgiving dinner, but hear me out.
There is something incredibly distressing about the fact that we can't even enjoy a meal — or anything for that matter — without texting, snapping and posting.
We are so concerned with creating online personas, we spend our entire meals giving the world play-by-plays of our enviable feasts.
But here is where the irony comes in: When we are so concerned with connecting online, we fail to connect with the people and experiences closest to us.
We can never fully savor the moments, the people or even the food because we are so concerned with posting the perfect pictures.
What I have found during my social media detox is that life is so much more fulfilling, and experiences are so much more valuable when I am present in the moment, and not concerned about chronicling my every move for my 500 followers. (Okay, it's more like 83 followers, but you get the point.)
3. You can enter and develop relationships (both friendly and romantic) without the distractions of social media.
Just like everything else these days, our relationships revolve around social media, especially with the introduction of new dating apps. We have become, and I will fess up to this myself, professional stalkers when it comes to meeting new people.
Most of the time, we will stalk people before we even meet them in person. We log on, and we make quick judgements based on accounts, the pictures they post, the hashtags they use and the amount of followers they have.
And suddenly, just as we construct personas for ourselves on social media, we use other people’s accounts to make swift verdicts and create constructions of who we think they are.
In my opinion, it’s a losing game. The people will either fail to meet the expectations of their online personas, leaving us disappointed, or we won’t even bother giving them chances because of the things we see on their accounts.
Without the distraction of social media, I have been able to pursue both platonic and romantic relationships. It's invigorating to go on first dates, and let face-to-face time determine how I feel about them.
I don’t have to spend my lunch breaks trolling social media to find out what's wrong with people or what makes them so great. I find out in person, and if you ask me, that’s the best way to navigate any new relationship.
4. You can cut out the toxicity of rehashing the past.
Besides screwing up our dating lives, social media can also be detrimental to our mental health, especially when our accounts offer constant reminders of our past.
Don’t get me wrong; it's important to reflect on the past and to learn from it. And we can even use it to make more informed decisions about our lives, and the future relationships we form. But social media forces us to harp on the past instead of reflect on it.
As we scroll down, we are barraged with photos of ex-boyfriends with new girlfriends (drinking those $20 mai tais together), and ex-friends celebrating the promotions of their lives with a bunch of other ex-friends we’d rather not remember.
Our social media accounts force us to rehash the past over and over again. Before we know it, we are floating in a cloud of toxic negativity that prevents us from moving forward to a more positive place.
Perhaps the most surprising and fulfilling part of not being on social media is the ability to move forward and cut out past relationships. Now, if I don’t want to see pictures of an ex, I don’t have to. If I don’t feel like living vicariously though my frenemy’s promotion, I don’t have to.
Without social media, I can rehash the past only when I feel like it's appropriate, and more importantly, I can control it. Again, not having social media does not mean you never have to think about the bad parts of your past.
But, it does put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to bad memories.