Dear Social Media,
Please excuse my writing.
After being so close for so long, it’s time to reevaluate our relationship and finally take a break.
It feels like a good decision. After so many years, you must be quite tired of me and I am exhausted of you. We went from love to hate and it’s time to say goodbye, at least for now…
I’m writing this post to say a temporary goodbye to all of my social media channels. For the next year, I am planning to be completely absent from my social media accounts: Facebook and Instagram. Is it a joke? Nope. Why? Because I feel like I need a social media detox and today I’d like to describe not only why I feel that this is the best move for me and my life, but some of the reasons why social media can be dangerous to every one of us.
Let’s start from the very beginning …
I have had an online presence through social media for over six years now. I have spent an incredible amount of time and effort creating these social media profiles and continuously running them. Although these years of my social media exploration have had their good moments, I have been in an uphill struggle to maintain myself, my life, and my online life all at once.
Through social media, I have built up an incredible travel community full of people who have the same interests and goals that I do, which has been so amazing. Getting to know all of you has been a beautiful experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything!
Over six years, I have been sharing my life and my heart with the world on social media. My social media accounts had over 40,000 people being connected with me. I know that for some of you this is a very small number, but for me, strongly interacting with many of them every single day, it’s been A LOT.
This success has been part of the greatest and worst times I had online. I put a lot of pressure on myself and there is always a catch to social media success that I’ve learned the hard way.
My own personal failure began slowly. Of course, I was spending time every day on all of the above-mentioned social media channels. This is a requirement for virtual fame. However, that time became more and more. The online life that I had created was starting to swallow me whole. I spent hours every day perusing the social media feeds, reading about other people’s lives, comparing myself to others, viewing their pictures and replying to their comments and messages. Besides that, I was constantly thinking of how to turn my daily experiences into something worth sharing.
However, it wasn’t just the time that I was spending; it was how involved I was getting in the online (i.e. not real) life that I had created on social media. It was affecting me emotionally and mentally in ways that I had never expected.
My reasons for quitting social media are deep-rooted and personal. I am tired of seeing people’s lives portrayed as perfect when they are not. Everyone smiles on social media. Everyone is always HAPPY. Everyone’s lunch always looks delicious, everyone’s hair is always PERFECT. Nobody fights. Nobody is vulnerable. This only leads followers to feel insecure and dissatisfied with their own lives. I know how it feels, I’ve been there.
Social media is filled with NEGATIVITY, especially Facebook. I am tired of the rampant negativity and trolling across all social media channels, or the useless and inappropriately personal information that people are constantly sharing with hundreds (or thousands) of people they’ve never even met or seen for ages. “Happy to be finally divorced. Celebrations time!” posted my high school friend the other day on Facebook. Is that something you want to see when opening Facebook in the morning? Is that something you want to share with others? Think.
Since I decided to get back to my nomadic life in August this year, social media has been constantly making me feel bad about my travels, my lifestyle and the decision I made. Seeing my friends getting engaged, married and having kids got me thinking that maybe there is something wrong with me. I’m almost 28 and I am not married yet, I don’t have kids, I don’t even have a boyfriend and I can’t keep a relationship for long. Instead, I want to travel around the world, collect beautiful memories, meet people and inspire others to do the same. I’m different than my friends and I accept it but why is Facebook making me feel bad about who I am and what I love to do?
The Real Danger of Social Media
There is not one of us who does not create a persona when using social media. No matter how much we deny it, the pictures that we post or the captions we write are not telling the whole story of who we are.
So what do people post of their lives? Check the social media profiles and feeds of the people you follow. Do you see failures, sad days, truly ugly pictures (not just captions that talk about how ugly they look), or tears? Very likely, you will see none of this.
These are the private things that most people hide. Instead, when they post on social media, their lives seem perfect. They are smiling, laughing, traveling, partying, and having success in their personal life and in their work. But the problem is that none of this is real.
So why do people post these things? Because they seek approval.
“An open Facebook page is simply a psychiatric dry erase board that screams, “Look at me. I am insecure. I need your reaction to what I am doing, but you’re not cool enough to be my friend (…).”
― Shannon L. Alder
We want people to believe that we do actually have that perfect life. We want the likes and the attention that comes from success. Do you know how many times I felt heartbroken and still smiled for the Instagram picture? MANY.
But what effect does it have on our followers, and on us? When you see the pictures and posts recounting stories and anecdotes from a seemingly perfect life of happiness, how do you feel? I know exactly how it makes me feel, and I know that I’m not alone.
We feel depressed. It makes us think, “Why isn’t my life like that?”, “Why can’t I get invited to such cool parties?”, “Why isn’t my hair always so perfect?” or “Why can’t I always look good in pictures like she does?”
We start to think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’
These fake lives that we follow online seem very real, but that’s because we’re only seeing one side of a multi-faceted life. We are not privy to the doubts and the tears of others on social media. We only see what they present us with, and that makes us feel like our life is unsatisfactory, or worthless. We become addicted to this ideal of life that isn’t real, and as we continue to see this false message thrown at us from all directions, we crave it more and more to our own detriment.
So how do we respond? Unfortunately, the automatic response is to continue the trend. We too start to post pictures, quotes, and stories of our seemingly perfect lives. We hide our dirty laundry in the closet and pretend that it’s not there, pretending that our life truly is that incredible, 24/7.
What’s worse than that, however, is this: eventually, we may start to believe in these personas we’ve created.
How devastating it is to wake up one day and realise you are not at all the person you’ve been pretending to be for the last six years!
Another danger of social media is what I call the trash bin effect. Some people use Facebook and other social media profiles as a place to throw all of their dirty trash. Negativity starts to flow out, and the social media channel becomes the soapbox where these people spread their rants. The controversy, the bickering, and the profanity that is used on social media has truly shocked me, and at times hurt me personally. Much of what people post online is private information that should never be shared outside of a circle of close friends, never mind with thousands of complete strangers on the internet.
Social media is a way of connecting to many people from across the globe, but a pitfall that I have unfortunately fallen into is losing focus on what is truly important. When you’re constantly on social media, you at times forget about the real people in your life. These are the people who need attention, care, and love from you in person. However, it is very easy to get swept up in the waves of social media and lose sight of the offline relationships, which are the most important ones.
“The more time we spend interconnected via a myriad of devices, the less time we have left to develop true friendships in the real world.”
― Alex Morritt.
As a traveller, social media has been a way of distributing my experiences abroad. But there is a danger in this as well.
As mentioned above, I started to become obsessed with sharing. The content world is fickle, and to keep active and successful you must keep posting constantly. Preferably for travel bloggers like me, you should post something on social media at least a few times every week to keep people interested. Not only that, but each post must be informative, stunning, creative, humorous, or shocking. It is so hard to find things from every-day life that fit these requirements that it is easy to get lost in the madness of posting.
Imagine you’re standing in front of a world-famous monument or place, such as the Eiffel Tower. What are 90% of people around you doing? They’re taking pictures. They’re posting online. They’re talking about Paris on social media. They’re checking how many likes that selfie with the Eiffel Tower got. I’ve been in this situation; I know it too well. Almost no one is actually just looking at the Eiffel Tower, which is truly a shame because it is one of the most beautiful structures on Earth.
This is what happens when we become so obsessed with social media. Our generation is becoming addicted to being online, and it is so difficult to break free. But the cost to us is that we are losing touch with reality. We are losing our appreciation for just living.
Social Media Isn’t All Bad
I don’t believe we should just shut down all social media. It does have its good points, along with the dangers I mentioned above. The key is finding balance.
It is a Way to Build Relationships With Like-Minded People
Social media connects us with people all over the world. We are thus introduced to new cultures, passions, environments, and ways of living. These people are separated by space, but social media puts us in contact with them. It allows us to interact, to get to know each other, to see our similarities and our differences.
At times, through social media, I have formed close friendships with people that I would never have met otherwise. These are people who love to travel, like me and have the same goals and values. These are relationships I still treasure.
You Can Find and Spread Inspiration
So many people have come to me and thanked me for giving them the inspiration to live abroad. The feeling you get when you realise you’ve been able to touch someone’s life is absolutely indescribable. It is one of the greatest joys of social media.
It Allows You to Network
Especially for those in search of work and freelancers, social media is a way to find and apply for jobs. You can network with people in a company where you want to work or pitch ideas to higher-ups.
Give and Get Advice
If you’re looking for advice or tips, you can find it on social media. When you grow your network, you have people with questions that you can answer, or with answers to the questions that you want to ask.
How to Retain the Good and Avoid the Bad
After six years of experience, here are my tips to making a balanced use of social media:
Limit Your Consumption
Don’t just take in what social media feeds you. Remember that much of what is presented to you is either false or is just one side of the story.
Avoid the Feed
If you get caught up in the feed, you can lose hours of your day without even realising it. Instead, focus on the people whose content you actually want to see.
Don’t Follow High Volume Posters That Don’t Care About You
There are so many people that post multiple times a day with an intense focus on themselves and their lives. Don’t get caught in their tangled mess of incessant posting!
Prioritise Your Time
Give your daily tasks a priority rating and do what’s most important first, leaving social media for last. That way you can enjoy it guilt-free!
Take a Break
If you feel that you are becoming addicted to social media, then give yourself a break. Take some time off the online world to connect again with the real world, whether this be one day, one week, or even a whole year.
Hopefully, you all understand now why I’m doing this. My time on social media has given me some wonderful experiences and introduced me to some fantastic people, which I don’t regret at all. But I’ve decided that for me personally, it’s time for a social media detox. It’s been a hard decision to make, but I hope that by outlining my reasons for doing so, I may help others to make the same decision and break their own addiction to social media.
My personal Facebook has already been deleted a month ago. I’ve entrusted the care of the rest of my social media channels to trusted friends (which mostly means Cez). For the entirety of 2017, I am not touching social media. Instead, I’ll be focusing on my offline relationships, my travels, sport, and blogging. This is what I need to put my focus back where it belongs.