No, it’s not a click bait.
I quit social media and am in rehab.
Let me explain:
- I deactivated my Instagram account.
- I deleted the Facebook app on my phone. I cannot completely deactivate my account, because I am administrating a page (hence the responsibilities). I only access FB from my phone in case of emergencies. Everyday, I check my notifications once or twice from my laptop.
- I logged out of Tumblr on my phone and deleted the app. Visits reduced to 2-3 times a week.
- The only social-networking app I am still using on a daily basis is Messenger, which is more like a messaging app.
From October 13th. Undecided end date.
1. My clean history with social media
I have been socially active all my life and been using my social accounts very consciously for years. Ever since my childhood, my parents have taught me about the importance of moderation when it comes to social media. Even though I have had 2 emails (not one, but two!) for 11 years (and I am 20), my parents have given me guidance on managing these from the very beginning. It was the same with Facebook (which I’ve also been having for about 10 years) – during the first few years, I never went online without parental controls. And for that I was thankful.
Even when I gained full control of my socials, which was about 7 years ago, everything was still going well. Although I have a lot of friends in school and from my social activities, social networks have always been there for its initial purpose – to help me stay in touch with people.
Even when I took charge of my social media accounts, I still used them with caution and consideration. On Facebook, I only connect with people whom I have actually met in real life or whom I have heard about/talked to or with whom I have many mutual friends. My Instagram account has been private from the beginning and I have my own “rules” when accepting new followers. It explains why my social circle is not massive but the interaction rate is remarkable.
At once I could confidently state: “I am a Digital Native, I know my way around social networks”.
2. The addiction
In the beginning it was very subtle. The addiction.
The addiction is young. It started since I went to Germany to study abroad 2 years ago. At the time, I wouldn’t say that it was an addiction. However, it was definitely slight overuse. As I started my “adult life” on my own in a country far away from home, away from any kind of supervision whatsoever, I allowed myself to do whatever I want as long as it’s justifiable.
Somehow I felt the need to update my life online constantly, mainly because:
– of the distance. Being so far from each other, I wanted to keep my family informed about my new life
– of the time-zone difference. Being online constantly helped me stay informed about family and friends at home.
– Germany is beautiful, I had a good life and I wanted to brag about it
So I ended up being online a lot. Luckily, I had a group of five girlfriends and we spent a lot of time together cooking, chatting, baking and studying, so I was distracted from my phone and laptop.
After the first year, I moved to Hamburg. Around this time, I started my hobby with analog photography and this blog. I also started my course at the HAW. Here we learned about the importance of our online presence – whether it is necessary and what are the risks. I decided that an online presence is inevitably necessary, since I am a hobby photographer and later on want to work in the media.
I think I did a good job maintaining my online image. I am on every social networks and my profile on each network is carefully though-over and well-drafted. They coexist in harmony with the same username and together they portray different aspects of my personality exactly how I want them to.
It would be nice if I stopped there. But I didn’t.
I craved validation, but my craving was the worst type – I didn’t actually need validation, I just wanted to put myself and my life online, and for that I would feel satisfied enough. The thought that everyone knew how great/not great my life was fed my ego. In my head, I told myself that I am doing a great job sharing with people the often unnoticed moments in life (very noble, I know). Of course, I was ecstatic when someone responded, but that was not the main point.
Now, I will include another factor that played a role. But I also want to disclaim that I do not intend to put all the blame on it. It was only unfortunate that among many other reasons, a long-distance relationship also contributed to the growth of my addiction. Along with my own craving for validation, I had another justified reason to post about every little thing in my life.
From there, everything went downhill. I was online all the time, and I mean the literal meaning of the phrase. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. The first thing I do every morning was checking my phone for messages from the night, notifications on every social networks, emails, Facebook newsfeed and Instagram feed. This ritual took at least 30 minutes every morning, often an hour. If I didn’t do this, I could not wake up. You can say that my brain delved into new notifications to wake myself up.
Then, during the course of the day, I was online constantly, even when there was nothing more to check. Social networks are programmed to be addictive, to this I agree. Even when I had something to do (e.g. am in a lecture), I would still occasionally pull out my phone, completely unawared, and aimlessly scroll through the feeds. When I had read everything, I would turn to the “Discover” tab, which both Facebook and Instagram have. The vicious cycle went on and on.
Besides from checking the feeds, I also posted content. I trust my taste and my aesthetics, so I invested a lot of time in choosing and editing the photos that I post. A little while ago, I reached the peak of my addiction, where I spent excessive time on content for my Instagram story. I would edit the photos in 1-2 apps then design the layout with beautiful text description in another app. Just to post to a virtual story that will only last for 24 hours. When I was bored, I would write quotes. To have nice hand-writing by smearing your finger on the touch screen is not the most efficient thing to do. I wrote and rewrote until the quotes looked decent and met my aesthetic standards. All that too, served the Instagram story that is only visible for 24 hours.
I agree that there are people who have to do this for the sake of their career. They could be professionals who do this for a living. Considering that I am neither a professional nor do I earn any cents from my social accounts, I was wasting so much time for nothing.
A few examples of my “creations” for my Instagram story:
Each of these took about 30 minutes.
The bad thing about the situation was that, I didn’t actually post a lot on Facebook and Instagram. I only checked the feeds too frequently. Therefore, my addiction went unnoticed for a long time, since nobody, even myself, ever addressed my overuse.
It came to the point where I could not part with my phone or my laptop anymore. I would switch between my phone and laptop. Either one of them was always on, sometimes both. I would even check my phone while my laptop was booting or loading something. From time to time, I found myself in distress because I could never finish the book that I found interesting, or invest time in self-improvement as I did a year ago. Despite my distress, I never succeeded in cutting down my online time to spend time on other things. I just couldn’t.
3. The breakpoint
A month ago, something that happened had shaken me awake and rewired my way of thinking. My apologies for not explaining what this “something” was, for it is a personal matter.
I realised that I would waste my entire future if I didn’t make a change. I felt my mental capabilities deteriorated. I saw that I was not missing out on the virtual world, rather the actual world.
I did not want to live my life anymore, and I was the one who caused it all.
I have thought about seeking help, but I figured, maybe I could still cure myself, as long as there is a strong self-discipline. With this mindset, I started out on my personal rehab. It is still happening. If it goes wrong, here you can read in black and white, i promise that I will seek professional help.
How’s it been? What have I learned?
It has been difficult, of course.
Like every other addiction, the cravings are unbearable. It’s especially hard when I check my socials in the morning or before I go to bed. If I lose control, I can scroll on forever.
The most noticeable thing are random moments. Sometimes when I find something funny, or an interesting thought passes my mind, I feel a very strong urge to post something onto my Instagram story. Other times, I would open the “Social Networking” app folder on my phone, where I have remembered the positions of every app, and tapped intuitively, only to choose the wrong one (because I deleted some).
From this experience, I learn that the nice moments in life should be enjoyed in person. Even when there is no friend around to share with. I learn to find joy in them. Getting used to not instantaneously share everything online is hard, often times I find myself reaching for my phone, then put it away, then look around to find a familiar face, then look up to the sky and smile to myself. As if there is a sacred secret between me and an unknown Significant Power.
Solitude and happiness may seem like they will never go together, but happiness is actually in its purest form when you can share it with yourself and the universe. The happiness you feel is a whole, and you feel it with your entire heart and attention. Most often, we try to share our happiness, forgetting that it should be felt by us first, before it can be shared with others. Otherwise, the happiness would lose its purpose: to fulfil one’s soul.
Another thing I’ve learned, is that I do not need to prove my emotions. Honestly, people do not give much attention to what they see online, because the flow of information is endless, so they jump from this to that, quickly forgetting what they have seen. No one has noticed that I stopped using Instagram, even though I had been posting actively. As my account is deactivated, you can’t find me or tag me. From this I learn that life is not a stage and you don’t need an audience. Nobody will judge you if you are not happy, and the fact that you are happy and you show it does not do anything for anyone else, if they don’t truly care about you.
And people who care will go out of their way to make sure that you are fine. Even if you do not post anything on social networks, they will try to reach you. Such a short and simple message like “Hey, how are you doing? Haven’t heard from you in a while.” can light up my day brighter than 50 likes on a pic on Instagram.
Do I feel FOMO?
“Fear of missing out” has become a chronic disease. Funnily, I felt like I have always been having FOMO ever since I started using social media. No matter how often I checked my feeds, I would still miss out on something.
To me, it doesn’t make any significant difference when I stop using social media in comparison to when I still used them in terms of FOMO. It’s not like I have stopped informing myself about the world. Quite the opposite, I read the newspaper regularly to know what is going on in real life.
The only problem that I currently still can’t solve is that I do not know what my friends abroad are doing. I have very good friends from school, with whom I do not talk very often but would love to keep up with them via their social media accounts. Now that I am going completely sans Instagram, I don’t have a clue how they are doing, and simply hitting them up via Messenger just to ask if they are fine seems awkward and weird.
So far, this is my experience from one week with massively restricted social media usage. The struggle and the journey continue…
Deep down I wish that something good will come out of this.