Hi, I’m glad you’re here. I deleted Snapchat and Instagram five weeks ago, and I would feel so selfish if I didn’t tell you what I’ve learned. I think you might relate to something that I’m feeling (or something that I used to feel), and if you do, I want you to know you’re not alone.
Quick disclaimer: This post was inspired by my friend Lindsay’s post about why girls should delete Instagram, so please click here to page-hop over there to show her some love.
But then come back!! It’s important to engage in lots of self discovery!! Don’t leave me forever!!
Let me give you some quick background information: I am (was) addicted to social media. I mean truly addicted. I’d be awake for an extra hour+ every night looking at my phone — sleep was not an option until my eyelids were too heavy to keep open.
But mornings looked something like this: wake up, roll over, check in with my apps.
Open Instagram, scroll through my feed until I run into the last post I checked before bed (usually time-stamped “7 hours ago”), close Instagram. Open Facebook, scroll through my feed until I get bored, close Facebook. Open Snapchat, watch a few stories, close Snapchat. Re-open Instagram, realize no one has posted in the last 12 minutes, close Instagram again. Get out of bed.
I mean, what? What kind of wake-up-call is that? It’s not quite the “good morning, sunshine!” I think everyone deserves when they open their eyes for another day.
It’s actually more like, “Good morning, here’s a feed of things to make you insecure! See, photographic evidence that you missed out on a fun night last night with those girls. And a stream of photos of tan and skinny people reminding you that you need to be tanner and skinnier. I bet none of them ever feel insecure or stressed or lost or lonely. No really, you should look at all of this before you start your day. It’s fun. Do it.”
To tell you the truth, I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate social media. I love the idea of being able to connect with people from all walks of life in one place. It’s actually my life’s mission to facilitate connection between people in order to create mutual understanding and acceptance. I don’t think we give connecting with and relating to people enough credit.
But social media doesn’t only create a place for connectivity and meaningful conversation. Unfortunately, and more often than not, it creates a place filled with insecurity and misrepresentation.
Think about something for me: your last Instagram picture. Why did you post it? Really — why? I’ll go first: my last Instagram post was an attempt to give people a glimpse into my sister’s island wedding. But the pictures I uploaded in that post were carefully chosen, carefully edited, carefully placed into the perfect order, and carefully captioned.
Sure, I’ll go again: I put all of that work into my post so that it would get a lot of likes. I wanted my followers to think that I looked pretty in my bridesmaid’s dress, and I wanted to show off the incredible views on the island. In fact, the motivation behind almost all of my Instagram pictures (with the exception of birthday shoutouts) was that I thought it was a good picture, and I wanted my followers to see that good picture so that they’d think more of me. I wanted to keep up with those seemingly perfect lives I saw in my “explore” page or in my feed; I wanted to showcase my own “perfect” (lol) life.
And while I’m on a roll here… most of the photos and videos I’ve posted on my Snapchat and Instagram stories over the last few years have been because I want people to see what I’m doing. Sure, sometimes I just wanted to share a cute or funny moment for people to enjoy, but more often than not, I was competing.
I was competing for attention, for likes, for approval, and for affirmation.
So — your turn. What’s your motivation behind posting your pictures? If you’re one of the few who enjoy posting for the pure and true purpose of sharing a moment with people, I am very envious. But if you’re anything like me — crafting your posts because deep down you want people to see how pretty you look or how artsy you are and you’re secretly disappointed when people don’t leave really sweet comments — then let’s chat.
You are worthy of more than what social media can give you — so much more. Sure, likes and comments and followers and retweets are really nice, but why do they matter so much?
Why do we care if people — some we barely know — double tap our picture? Why does receiving a disappears-in-7-seconds photo and maintaining a “streak” make us feel sufficiently connected to someone? And why on earth do we talk about struggling with comparison when the key to freedom lives in our phones?
Comparison is the thief of joy. We see excessively edited pieces of people’s lives, and in order to keep up with them, we present to the world our own excessively edited content. Even worse, we convince ourselves — sometimes subconsciously — that our unedited realities aren’t good enough. We use filters to improve our original picture; every photo editing app on your phone right now is designed specifically to remind you that your reality isn’t enough.
Social media literally gives us a never-ending stream of material upon which to compare ourselves. Sure, we can talk about how unfair that is and tell our friends how much we struggle with comparison, but do we really have room to complain? Do we really have the right to open up to people about insecurities while we’re absent-mindedly scrolling through Instagram and obsessively refreshing Snapchat?
Honestly, I don’t think we do — at least not until we take charge of our own happiness. If you feel like you struggle with comparison or insecurity, or if you have a tiny suspicion that social media might be consuming your life/thoughts, it’s time to do something. It’s time to peel your eyes and thumbs off the smartphone and refocus.
Stick with me for a minute here: imagine that you’re terribly allergic to mold. And imagine that there’s mold growing all over your house. What would you do? Would you call your friends and tell them that you’re really struggling with breathing lately? Would you purposefully spend time in the rooms with the mold? Would you keep the house wet and warm to feed the problem?
Of course not. You’d use mold cleaning products (real life equivalent: deleting apps), you’d avoid the mold-infested rooms (real life: force yourself not to look at them), and you’d call a professional to assess the damage if need be (real life: see a counselor if your mental health is suffering).
You might think it would be crazy to tell your friends that you’ve been struggling with “breathing” while helplessly sitting in your house full of mold, but it’s no different than opening up about comparison with the source of your struggle sitting in your hand. You know without a doubt that you wouldn’t spend time in the rooms with the most mold, but you spend hours aimlessly scrolling through your feeds. And you probably wouldn’t induce humidity to feed the problem, but every carefully crafted Instagram post and Snapchat selfie you retake 4 times feeds the misrepresentation that’s currently crippling our society.
“Did she just say social media is crippling society?”
Yes! She did!
Think about it! No matter where you are, you are never more than 3 clicks away from cheating on your significant other. You are never more than 3 clicks away from copyright infringement, porn, nasty comments on youtube, an argument on Facebook, an Instagram post that your friend never commented on, or an opened arrow on Snapchat reminding you that your crush hasn’t replied in 11 minutes. 12. 13. Refresh. 14. Refresh.
Smartphones and social media applications have added a whole new meaning to the phrase “immediate gratification.” You could say that every relationship — be it romantic, familial, platonic, or the relationship you have with yourself — is currently hanging on by 3 clicks.
So here’s my call to action: stop it. Delete the apps for a few days; give yourself a break. Wake up, stand up, stretch, make coffee, and watch a morning show before you pick up your phone. Read a chapter of a really good book before bed instead of scrolling through all of the things you missed over the last 2 hours.
I can’t disconnect from the world completely (seriously — can anyone?), but I’ll tell you something: the past 5 weeks have been some of the most vibrant and fulfilling of my adult life. Not once have I felt 2-inches-tall because of insecurity. I’ve been more focused on the moment and less consumed by the pictures I’m taking of it. I haven’t thought about writing a caption, reaching a certain number of likes, or having a lot of comments. I’m finding my affirmation in myself, in my faith, and in the people I love.
And maybe one day I’ll re-install the apps, but only when I feel like I’ve grown enough to use them in a way that adds joy to my life rather than anxiety. Until then, I’m happy to be checking in with Facebook only every few days.
Give yourself a break from the constant, unyielding stream of comparison. You deserve it. You’re too good for insecurity.
Don’t let a tiny, pixelated box on your screen influence the real, beautiful, full-of-possibilities life that exists about 10 inches north of the smartphone. You control your worth and your happiness — it’s time to realize it.