The majority of us nowadays are on some form of social media platform. I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At first I found them really useful tools to keep in contact with old friends and to share life events. But recently, I have noticed a different side to social media. As i’m getting older, it’s becoming clearer that Social Media sites are more of a place to compete and to enforce negative thoughts. I’ve embarked on a social media cleanse to see how my state of mind can improve when I change the way I use my social accounts.
I do believe there is a good use for social media. You can keep up to date with the lives of your friends and family, you can stay in touch with people who have moved away and you can watch some great cat videos! But over the years I have been using social media, my opinion towards it has changed and now the way I use it has changed too.
When I was younger, I was always on social media. I would jump on MSN Messenger (back in the day!) to talk to my friends for hours after school, if you weren’t online there was a big chance you would miss some ongoing drama or some big news. When MSN slowly died down it was replaced by the likes of Myspace and Bebo. Then, when I reached college it was all about Facebook. I was forever updating my status and adding photos of random outings, loving the fact that people liked what I had to say. The more friends you got, the more popular you felt. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I realised how weird this online world really was. With age, the novelty of writing about petty everyday events had worn off. I no longer felt the desire to share photos of my holidays. I didn’t want to be part of the group chat. After several years, I realised that social media was damaging my outlook on life, in a subtle but frightening way.
I would scroll through my feed and see photos of new phones or laptops, new homes, new cars, fancy holidays, nights out, shopping trips and meals out. It had become a battleground of competition and the older you got the more expensive the competition became. I now believe that social media has become a hub for bragging. It’s used as a constant reminder to all your friends of how well you’re doing. It’s enforcing the competition but in doing so it’s damaging the expectation of life. Maybe it’s my personality, but I found myself questioning how I was living my life. I was wondering why I couldn’t afford loads of lavish things and I was doubting if I was keeping up with the pace of everyone else. There’s always the fear of being left behind and here I was, scared that I wasn’t doing the things that a normal 20 something should be doing. Should I have a house by now? Should I be earning lots of money? Should I have taken a gap year? Should I have a brand new car?
Because it’s simply not real.
My Social Cleanse.
There is a certain pressure in these situations for your life to be a certain way, for you to have something exciting happening all the time. If you don’t, you aren’t living you life right. The constant bombardment of a particular standard of life got to much for me. I wasn’t happy with my life and I was always wanting more without really knowing how I could achieve it. This was all happening inside my head and was fuelled by what I was seeing on social media. I was disappointed with what I could afford. I longed for more and I began setting some pretty unrealistic expectations for myself. I knew I had to change something to help my outlook on life. I knew I had to start with social media.
I started by limiting the use of my social media accounts. I changed my habits and convinced myself that I didn’t have to keep checking my feed. That I wasn’t, in fact, going to miss anything important. You see, social media is addictive. It becomes a routine, a bit like brushing your teeth and setting the alarm. I had to break the routine. I deactivated my account for 3 months and didn’t log back in for the duration. I needed time to live social media free to see how things could be. I deleted my twitter account and rarely posted on Instagram. If I didn’t check it, I couldn’t miss anything. If something happened, someone could call or text me. I wasn’t cut off at all, I was actually free. After 3 months, I had realised how much better my attitude to life became. I didn’t have the standard looming over me anymore, I didn’t have the unwelcome competition like before. I could plod along in my life at my own pace knowing this was what was making me happy. It was all me and my life and for once I no longer cared about other peoples opinions, I no longer felt the need to share so much. But equally, I no longer felt the need to keep up with everyone else.
It was at this moment that I realised I had a lot of good in my life. I’d been seeing everyones lives in a very warped perspective, but the reality is far different. You may see a new car, but you don’t see the loan taken out to pay for it. You may see a house, but you don’t see the stress to make mortgage payments. You might see the holiday photos, but you don’t see the months of saving up. You see one side of the situation, because that’s the only side they want you to see. It’s all a matter of perspective.
After my three month social media blackout, I decided to start posting again on Instagram. This has always been my favourite social media account because I love photography. It’s also my way of keeping memories of the things that have happened in my life. I have reactivated my Facebook account but I rarely use it now. I find if I check the feed it’s still the same stuff being said two or three years ago. I know i’m not missing anything there. But after all this, I’m a lot happier. The less i’ve posted and the more i’ve lived, the happier I have become. I’m not worried about missing anything online, because there is nothing to miss. If this all sounds very familiar, i’d recommend trying a social cleanse. It’s easy to get caught up on what’s happening in other people’s lives that you sometimes forget to live your own.
So here are my 4 tips for a better relationship with social media:
1. Learn to switch off.
Knowing when to turn off Facebook or Twitter can be tough. We’ve all gone to bed intending to have an early night but have then spent a good few hours scrolling through your news feed or watching videos. My relationship with social media is a healthier one now because I’ve learnt to switch off. I no longer check my accounts before bedtime. I no longer feel the need to check them on my lunch break at work. But in doing so, I’m becoming a lot more engaged in what’s happening in reality. If you find it difficult to completely cut social media usage out of your life, try and limit it. Set yourself a couple of minutes each day where you are allowed to look at it. Set yourself an allowance on how much you can post and you’ll see yourself caring less about what’s online and more of what’s happening in real life.
2. Limit what you post.
It’s true that not everyone needs to know your every thought. If you’re going out for a pizza tonight. Great. You’re having another argument with your boyfriend. Terrific. You’re posting another selfie (#nofilter) because you look amazing without make up. Good for you. But do you really have to share everything? Sometimes the actual activity or occasion can be dwarfed by the need to post about it online. If you haven’t written a status about it, it never happened, right? Wrong. You went to Glastonbury and forgot to take that picture of you favourite band, the world isn’t going to crash and burn. You had a good time and that’s all that matters. It’s memories, not status updates and snapchats that matter. Not only has limiting what I post meant I’m not sharing as much, it’s also helped me limit my time browsing social media. I’ll put the occasional update on there (if i’ve passed an exam or something) but I’m not compelled to remind everyone how I look with make up on or what i’m doing every night this week. I don’t want to know the intricacies of everyone else’s life and I don’t want them to know mine. Some things are actually better left unsaid.
3. Don’t compare.
Your life is just that, your life. Just because you haven’t learnt to drive yet or haven’t got a house or a fancy new handbag doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. You’re on your own little path going in the direction you want to go in, just like everyone else is. But you are also going at your own pace. So what if someone wants a mortgage at 18, you might want to go travelling. So what if someones just got a brand new car, you might prefer cycling. There is no urgency for you to reach certain points in your life because everyone else is. I’d much rather get to 70 and look back and see all the experiences I’ve had rather than the number of cars i’ve had or the fact i’ve got a nice big house that’s all paid for. It is after all experiences that make people interesting, not the items they own. There shouldn’t be a pressure to get on and live especially from ‘friends’ online. Be grateful for where you are right now and always see the bigger picture. There are a lot of falsities posted online, don’t be fooled by them.
4. Have a clear out.
It’s hard to admit, but sometimes you just need to have a social media clear out. For a long time I enjoyed using Twitter, but the novelty wore off. I kept the app on my phone for ages without ever touching it. I kept it because I thought it might come in useful one day, but it never did. If a social media account no longer serves a useful purpose to you, delete it. I didn’t really gain anything from Twitter so I got rid. I only reactivated my account a few months ago so I could follow a few friends but I have a different relationship with it now. This doesn’t just count for apps, having a clear out of ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ online can also be beneficial. We all have those people we kind of know, but don’t actually know, online. Go through your list and unfriend/unfollow anyone you don’t want knowing your private life. Yeah, having 1000 friends on Facebook about 10 years ago would have been great. But in this day in age, I think it’s pretty clear they aren’t all ‘friends’. You might not even know some of them and that just makes it creepy. I did this about a year ago and it’s quite refreshing. I no longer want to be spammed with posts from someone I barely know, neither do I want to be spamming their feed about my personal thoughts and feelings. I’ve found this has made my accounts a lot more personal. I care what the people I follow have to post but I also value their opinions, not the opinions of hundreds of people i’ve only met once in real life.
As always, i’ve rambled on quite a lot! If you embark on a social media refresh, let me know how you get on, it can be quite a liberating experience for both your mind and your expectations.