Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Social media, whew, chile. It can bring us together, create friendships, and even become a small business. On the other hand, it can also take up hours of our time, make us incapable of having coherent conversations, and leave us feeling like we’re on the outside of something unattainable. All of this being said, I am not going to tell you that I was ever above the pressures of social media; watching videos of parties I couldn’t attend and stalking random folks who I would never talk to in real life was a part of my day to day. I am here to tell you, however, about how I feel since removing these un-necessities from my life.
Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook...
there is a drug of choice out there for us all. For me personally, it was Instagram. Posting pictures and watching the likes roll in was basically a part-time job for me, except nobody was paying me to do it. I can’t even count the number of hours a day I spent smiling at comments and scrolling through my DMs. There’s nothing overtly wrong with wanting to be liked (we’re human after all), but as the hours turned into days, the days turned into months, and months turned into years, I realized that I was wasting valuable time in an unproductive social media time warp of my own making. I had sincerely never considered a world where I didn’t spend hours posting snaps of my day or refreshing my feed to see what my peers were up to.
With the realization that my time could be better spent doing anything else, I decided to try taking some time from my beloved Instagram.I told everybody I knew that I was taking a break. You know how people get when they delete social media: all of a sudden they’re the most adult person you know? Suddenly they’re all about grinding in silence and rising above peer pressure. Well, that was me. However, my self-righteousness turned out to be all for nothing. To be honest, this first attempt at a social media break was a total failure. The time I wasn’t spending on my phone made me feel empty, bored, and unhappy. This left me confused—wasn’t I supposed to be Ariam 2.0 now? How was I expected to go without social media when the same sadness I felt spending all my time with it was the same emptiness I felt going without it? A vital part of my day was missing and I couldn’t do it for much longer. Within a week, I was back on the ‘Gram. I breathed a sigh of relief as the pink light welcomed me back. The balance was finally restored in my life.
At this point, I was a senior in college and had already been a loyal patron of Instagram’s addictive program for about five years. As graduation was drawing near, I suddenly felt compelled to stop trying to prove that my life was perfect. For the first time, I felt content and genuinely connected to the people around me. My relationship was in a good place, my friends were happy and drama free, and everything felt solid. This time, I was ready to get off Instagram for good. My beautiful, handcrafted account, @ariamtesfaye, was gone. I deleted her forever and said goodbye to the airbrushed selfies, the countless compliments, and my prized “witty” captions. I kissed my 960 followers goodbye and watched any hope of a brand deal go to shambles.
Graduation came and went. Instead of turning to social media to showcase my accomplishments, I was focusing on beginning “adult” life in Chicago. And guess what? I’m still social media free! These days, I am still able to breathe and maintain my friendships. I do not feel a giant void everytime I step away from my phone and I have all but completely lost the urge to flex on those I know whenever possible. Everyone’s level of social media dependency varies, but for me, being online had become an essential part of my identity. Since getting rid of it, I feel happy without the satisfaction of a like or a comment. I don’t check my phone first thing when I wake up or last thing before I go to bed. I’ve realized that I’m in competition with anyone else, and I don’t need to constantly show people how great things are with me.
I’m not suggesting that deleting your social media will give you a new outlook on life, or that I’ve elevated to superhuman status because I’m not on Instagram. I still text all the time and my email has basically become my second home. What I’m trying to say is, make sure you know when it’s time to take a step back. We can be consumed and not even know it; we might spend way too much time looking at what our friends (and our frenemies) are doing. A little dip in the social media pool is harmless from time to time. It might even be necessary! Just remember that comparing yourself to strangers may not always be the motivation that you need. Peace of mind can be found in knowing that your accomplishments still stand regardless of how they stack up to someone else’s. If you need to take a step back in order to remind yourself of that, go right ahead ma’am.
Lived and written by Ariam Tesfaye
September 18, 2019