Sat. Mar 25th, 2023

Image: “social media” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

During my freshman year of high school, I began using Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat and since then I would say I’ve always had a relationship with social media. I never felt addicted to it, I always posted what I wanted, when I wanted and never felt bad about myself because of anything I saw.

But lately things have felt a bit weird.

Over the last few months, I have noticed myself starting to compare myself to the people I follow. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about superficial things. I’m not upset because my butt isn’t as big as Kim’s and my lips aren’t as big as Kylie’s. It really has nothing to do with looks.

What I seem to be doing is comparing my life to others. I find myself lusting over other people’s experiences and travels, pitting my talents up against their talents and challenging my own personal aesthetic by questioning if it’s as good as everyone else’s.

It’s not constant or even that extreme, but for somebody who is typically very certain about themselves, this feeling is very new and uncomfortable. It’s like a pesky little rodent who, every so often, sneaks in to steal a tiny bit of my self confidence.

For this reason, I decided to take a week-long social media hiatus. On Monday, I deleted all three of my social media apps, just to be sure I wouldn’t be tempted to peek every time one of my friends DMed me a funny meme.

I spent a full five days completely unplugged from the social scene. There was no retweeting, no double tapping, no snapping and no posting and let me just tell you — I feel refreshed.

I thought at first that taking time away from social media would be a challenge. It’s not that I feel dependent on it, I’m just super nosey and love seeing what other people are doing. However, once the apps were deleted from my phone, it was like they were out of sight, out of mind.

I figured right away that I might feel the dreaded FOMO, the “fear of missing out,” over not keeping up with what was going on with the people I know, as well as what was happening in the world. I thought that even though social media has been somewhat of a burden for me lately, I’d still feel compelled to redownload everything before the week was up.

I was thrilled to realize that wasn’t the case at all. Once the apps were gone, they were gone and I actually never really felt like there was anything missing from my life as I went about my days.

There were a few times that I reached for my phone out of boredom, which normally would have been about the time I would have opened Instagram. But with the apps deleted, it felt good to put the phone back down, because there was nothing waiting to be seen or done.

Because of this “social media detox” over the last five days, I was able to take time to refocus and center myself. Instead of spending my spare moments scrolling, I was able to use them for greater things.

Where there were times I probably would have spent bouncing between the same three apps, I instead did the little things that I enjoy such as drawing, listening to my favorite music and reading the books that I wanted to read; all the while doing these things with no outside influence and without feeling the need to take into account what others were currently up to.

In doing this, I was able to establish more of a purpose to my actions and interests, which I feel has helped me to maintain my sense of self, now that I am back out in the world of new pictures, videos and tweets hurtling at me every five seconds.

I now understand that when one feels a true sense of purpose, they no longer feel the need to compare themselves to other people. If anyone else, like myself, finds themselves starting to question their lifestyle, their talents, experiences or aesthetics, I strongly suggest taking a step away from the screens and making time to find out what makes you tic and why.

When you figure that out, or make time to rediscover and refocus on what you already know motivates you, you are guaranteed to care substantially less if your life is just as “cool” as others, because you’ll already know, it is.

Social media can be a beautiful tool, but it can also make understanding yourself and what makes you an individual, a bit difficult. Whenever that haze starts to come about, just remember it is okay to unplug for however long is necessary and sit down with your rawest, truest self to figure out what truly defines you. 

Ali Kochik is a first-year student English major.

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