Early this year, I was feeling completely overwhelmed with work, classes, and a couple personal commitments. Despite knowing I had many things to do every day, I was on social media more than ever before.
Simply put, I was addicted. I realized I wasn’t feeling as happy and as focused as I wanted to be.
So I quit… and this is what I learned.
Here are my toxic associations with social media. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of them at some point.
1. Distraction and Procrastination
Whenever I felt stressed, tired, or simply didn’t want to face the task at hand, my hand would unconsciously reach out and open the Instagram app. Then I would be be on a scrolling loop until I snap out of it after at least 30 minutes in (often a lot longer). I would feel bad and hate myself for doing it but that didn’t stop me from doing it again the next time.
It was a way to hide from all the “problems” in real life. During my detox, I caught myself several times at the beginning still unconsciously reaching for my phone attempting to open the deleted apps.
What I learned: I treated social media as an easy escape, instead of facing real problems/ work and opening up to feel the negative emotions.
2. Fear of Missing Out
When everyone is constantly uploading photos of attending events and gatherings, it is very easy to feel left out some times. You wished you were there and wondered why they didn’t invite you. It was fearing that you would be left behind if you don’t keep up. Fearing that others will forget you so you feel the obligation update your feed and story.
Especially for those who care a lot about other people’s opinions of themselves, it is a real fear, trust me, and an exhausting one too.
I felt like I had to keep up with everything, everyone, and be in the loop for it all. After I stopped being “updated” all the time, I began caring less and less about what I know about what I know, what others are doing, and what I’m missing out on.
> Related Post: My 23-Year Relationship with Fear
What I learned: It’s about knowing what’s your priority right now, and choosing to focus on that and make the best out of every day. Less is more. Delete. Simplify. Prioritize.
3. The Never-Ending Comparison Game
People are always updating their life status on social media. New career, new relationship, new city. It’s often easy to start comparing yourself with your peers. Comparing their stage in their lives with your own. Overtime, I’ve come to realize that it really doesn’t make sense to compare yourself with anyone. What we see on social media is only a fraction of someone else’s life. It’s the glorious part of the person’s life that has been chosen to present out to public. We never know what other things are going on in their lives.
What I learned: Our journey is like going down a highway. Stay in your own lane. Everyone else is going at their own pace. Some choose to drive slowly and enjoy the scenery, some prefer to speed on by. You only need to focus on your driving. There is no point in comparing with others. We’re all heading different destinations anyway.
4. Seeking Validation
The more frequent I was on social media, the more I cared about what others think. Another toxic trap to social media is using it as a way to seek validation of your own life. I realized at some point I was caring too much about what others think of me. The number of likes, views, and the comments should not define who I am and how I am as a person.
What I learned: The social numbers do not define you. Instead, you are defined by the meaningful conversations you walk into, every bold decision you make, facing intimidating situations head on with clarity, and how you treat yourself and others along the way.
Overall, my big takeaway is this…
The World Does Not Revolve Around You
Just because you take a break for a while, it doesn’t pause everything else from happening in the world. You do not have control over anything. All you have is yourself. As a control freak, this was a terrifying, humbling, and such a reassuring realization. It is about knowing that everything is much greater than you. And you sit there in peace letting them happen, while holding even greater clarity about your purpose and what is important to you, right now.
These 3 months had been a physical and mental break for me. Yet, I still cannot avoid the fact that as a marketer in digital space, social media is an inevitable tool I eventually have to go back to and use on a regular basis. It’s either I take control of it and use it to my advantage, consciously, confidently, or I become consumed by it. I choose the prior.
Despite all the negative associations I had with it, social media has brought me joy. I love making content, crafting images and captions, and creating art from scratch. I love spreading message about what I care about. It’s a tool that allowed me to build genuine relationships and be creative in the digital space.
Perhaps social media can be leveraged to create better experiences, perhaps it can be used to create an even more meaningful life. Perhaps, I just needed this break to be more aware of it.
> Related: How to Be More Mindful on Social Media
So how about you? What is your experience with social media? Do you think you are using it correctly at the moment? Let me know in the comments below.