I can say I am a social media user. I use it every day and I can say that I had been victimized by the pressure that my online friends’ lives put on me. Like many other people, I thought I needed to show the world that I was somebody, too. That I had to prove that I was happy. You know, just to make my life appear more interesting to others. We can consider “others” as people who give likes and shares not because they totally trust in you, but because they found you amusing – that does not necessarily mean your life really is. Social media can amount to an anxiety, it did for me.
One of the benefits I found in using social media, is easier communication. Just imagine, I can talk to my family or friends in faraway places and see them without actually spending too much money. It was fun. Until everything I was seeing on my page started bugging me. I got to a point, where I started to question my existence and my success. So much that I felt depressed.
Depressed that my friends actually had fun without me and that they had better photos – happier ones.
Then I thought, what if all we are online, is just pretend? That I was hurting myself by comparing all the time?
So, I decided to stop using social media for a while. My original plan was to quit for a month, but I just couldn’t do it. Why? Because other people wouldn’t let me and it is indeed very difficult to go against the popular choice.
The Social Media Fasting
I decided to log out of my Facebook and Instagram on the morning of a Wednesday. At first, I would frequently glance at my phone because I was waiting for updates or notifications and then I would realize that they are not coming.
I thought it was going to be difficult. That maybe I would log back in after thirty minutes, but guess what? I managed not to open the apps for one whole day. The next morning, I was able to not totally think about them anymore. And you know what? The FOMO, or the fear that something cool might be happening without you knowing it, does not exist! You wouldn’t know, so, you wouldn’t actually care.
The Benefits of Quitting Social Media
1. After not logging in for a week, I was able to reduce my anxiety.
Before the fasting, I would check Facebook as early as 5 AM then log out at about 10 PM. I would just watch videos, take selfies, comment and all. I saw a lot of parties, promotions, travels, relationships, and I didn’t understand what I was doing, didn’t know that I was already feeding myself insecurity. In turn, I was slowly starting to doubt myself and my abilities compared to others. Seeing all this, I had forgotten that we are different and that we work at different paces.
I would always feel agitated seeing people travel, eat fine meals, while I would suck in my house just watching TV. I thought I was being a failure. But when I finally stopped checking the fake reality, I started to rediscover what I loved doing before social media.
2. I had more time for myself and for my family
Whenever I would get home after work, I would spend at least two hours online and it would be too late for me to realize that I haven’t even prepared dinner yet. But on the second day of social media fast, I had more time to rest after a day’s work. I was also able to finish one book that week and on the weekend, I was able to learn a new song to play on the guitar. I also had more time reading and writing articles, and most importantly, I had plenty of time to actually talk to my family. Face to face, without me checking anything every now and then.
3. I became Human again
We know how much technology has taken over our lives. It is so much a part of what we do daily, that we almost forget it exists. So, our idea of watching anything live is seeing it through our video phones, our idea of having fun with friends is actually chatting with someone online as we eat dinner, not together, but at the same table.
That week, my cousins and I had a party. I had so much fun with them that I forgot to take a photo of or post on social media. But it didn’t make it any less good than social-media-marketed parties. I was thinking “so what if nobody sees this?” And it hit me: when we are genuinely happy, we do not need other people’s validation via social media likes or shares.
I had experienced real life again when I was able to enjoy the view without seeing it through my phone’s lenses. Life was so much fun that week, and I felt contented and relaxed.
Without Facebook: What Life Really is
When I put down my phone for a few days, I was able to observe that everyone was looking down at their phones. Everyone.
Families are together, but they do not talk to each other. People no longer look at their surroundings, rather, they look at their phone screens. I am not saying that we have to get rid of all these technologies because we depend on them now, but I am saying there is a real life beyond those lenses and we have to live in it. Because if we keep looking at things through our phones, are we actually living or did we just transform our lives into a “TV screen?” Through our obsession with our phones or to make our lives look perfect, we spend 90% of the moment taking photos and not actually enjoying it, not actually living life.
That one week I went offline was a really good experience for me. I got to appreciate what I see and I got to enjoy longer conversations with my relatives who do not use mobile phones. I got to be more aware of what is surrounding me: all those nights I heard crickets again and I saw the stars a bit brighter, too.
However, inasmuch as I enjoyed being offline, I also discovered that today, we cannot fully stay away from it. For instance, some of my family members would contact me via messaging apps. They would tag me in posts expecting a response and when I hadn’t, they thought something was wrong.
Don’t Just Observe, Live!
That week, I preferred communicating via SMS but I found not checking my phone so liberating that I began to leave it on my dresser for hours. In short, I have missed some calls and texts. And sometimes, whenever I send a message to someone via SMS, they couldn’t reply back because apparently, they opted to reply to me via a messaging app.
If there is one thing I learned about it, it is that our relationships and self-respect fail not because we do not have time to nourish them, but because we choose to spend our time just looking. Moreover, some of our inspirations to improve ourselves are misguided by envy that whenever we experience difficulty, we stop. Because social media is like that: instant. But in real life, what matters is quality time and when that happens, trust me, the whole world does not need to know.
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