Social media and a cell phone have been part of my life since I was 14 years old. Before that, I stayed connected to my friends while away though online chats (hello dial up AOL chat) and email as young as 8 years old. Since then, I have entered the field of digital marketing as a social media coordinator. For the past 3 years, it has been my job to create content for social media, be connected to it 24/7, and be quick to break news into the communities I managed. Recently, I decided to take a break from my personal social media as a way to refocus and do some personal assessment and this is what I realized.
1) I have never been fully present my entire life.
2) I was comparing myself to a community that didn't even know me.
3) I felt if I didn’t post about it, it didn’t happen.
The intention of personal social media use is to stay connected to our friends and family. It’s a totally efficient way to update people you know on your life, promote the things you are involved in, get advice from those you trust, and keep connected to everyone you simply don’t have the time to call or text all the time to stay in the loop and receive the same back. It should be an extension of our actual community, but here’s more of what it looks like now.
1) Personal diary/venting sessions that lead to flying opinions and arguments.
2) Self-obsession (ie. The selfie) and Self-assurance (I have an awesome life, see!)
3) Bragging and comparison.
It wasn't until I stepped away from social media that I realized online activity is counterfeit to a community, rather than an extension of it. It doesn't offer those long, meaningful conversations with new friends till 2 AM. Hearing the laughter of someone you are building a bond with or the love from the embrace of a hug. It never offered encouragement to taking a new risk or consoling when a failure occurred. It offers windows into people's lives, but I found it be much more fulfilling to actually be in those windows, living life with others and fully engaged in every activity. When I wasn't pre-occupied with capturing a moment to share with the world I found myself making more memories and caring so much less of what people thought.
Some of the expected withdraw of being off social media occurred like FOMO (fear of missing out) and the simple habit of constantly checking some sort of outlet, but the thing that took me off guard is how unsatisfied I was with my daily activities without someone to acknowledge them. It was like I didn't even do something unless people knew about it. That sounds totally insane and shallow, but I don't think I am even remotely alone in this. Most of what we post on social media is showing off what we are doing, who we are with, or something we have. It is the inclusion of ourselves out of insecurity, and as a result, it seems like the goal of social media is to make everyone jealous. To hold a magnifying glass to a moment to feed into this facade of achieving some sort of fantasy that makes everyone want what you have. It's boasting and bragging at it's finest.
All it breeds is insecurity and emptiness because it's fake, and ends up pushing us farther from an actual community through the self-inclusion that makes our friendship seem exclusive. You can't be friends with everyone and should be picky about who you are friends with, but there are levels of friendship and we should equally have friends we are pouring into as well as those we are receiving from. I also know a lot of people who constantly post about being at a party or event, and appear to have a fulfilling life but are actually quite empty and hungry for true connection. I'm not saying don't post about being with your friends or about what you are doing, more so questioning the why we feel the need to do those things.
After this realization, I contemplated never returning to social media. Once time did its thing and unraveled by bad habits of needing to post everything, I felt so good. Fulfilled by my day and how I choose to spend each moment regardless of what anyone else thought. I still took pictures during those times, but now all of those sweet moments were just for me. Which made them all the sweeter. Sometimes things just need to stay intimate, between only a few people. I think life is missing more of that, true intimacy because we are constantly letting the world into every moment. Leaving nothing left for ourselves or those we love. I belive, that is where the emptiness comes in that plays into our insecurities.
In returning back to social media I have done a few things. First, I narrowed down who I follow to my actual community. People that I am actually doing life with. Not the ones I wish I were doing life with, celebrities, or brands. Life is too short to feel discontent, and I want everything I am involved in to be a positive influence rather than negative. It is honestly the best thing I did. I enjoy socials so much more because it's an extension of my actual community. The second thing I have implemented is looking at my motive for posting. What is it feeding into? Some sort of insecurity or is it actually communicating with my community in a way that will produce joy, grow hope, and build bonds? Stepping away was hard, but I am so glad that I did. I feel more balanced and whole as a person. I highly recommend taking a break and taking note of what you realize. If you do it, leave a comment on how it went!