On or around March 30, 2017 I took an extended break from Facebook and various other social media outlets. After a short-winded post about me needing a leave of absence, I deleted my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter apps, and stopped posting to Snapchat. I had always toyed with the idea of taking a break, going offline for a while, and reconnecting with people, places, and activities that were important to me and my goals…but the circumstances I found myself in leading up to that day forced me over the edge (no pun intended).
Let’s be frank. I wasn’t in a good place. I was anxious and moody on good days, broken on the not-so-good days…and on the worse days, forgetting my medication (or taking too much) and drinking way more than I should have been. If depression, anxiety, and other darker things were all wrapped up in some sort of explosive package…the bomb had dropped, and I was at ground zero. It was my deepest, darkest depressive episode yet (I’ll save more on this for another time), and social media wasn’t helping.
You see the thing about social media that hits home the most, especially for someone that’s struggling, is that no one ever really posts the bad stuff. The poster’s world – from someone looking in – is perfect, happy, and free from whatever might be ailing the other person in front of the screen. This “grass is greener” concept is especially harmful for users already experiencing depression and other forms of mental illness, and I was no different. I became tired of the happy couples posting engagement photos (congrats, though), expectant mothers posting pregnancy announcements (congrats again), and posts from friends and others at events I either wasn’t invited to or couldn’t gather enough energy and motivation to attend. I ended up stuck in a debilitating cycle of comparing myself to others, beating myself down for not being in places I wanted to be, and struggling with a near-constant fear of missing out (FOMO). These things, combined with the daily battle with depression, were just too much for me to handle…and I opted outº.
Leaving social media – albeit difficult to do – was almost immediately relieving. With every press of those little X’s as I deleted apps, I felt more and more pressure lifted off of me. I didn’t have to check in anywhere, keep up-to-date on any news feeds, or browse any timelines. Better yet, I wasn’t bombarded by images of friends that never ever seemed to have problems, wasn’t tempted to lurk around other people’s pages (especially exes or mutual friends of exes), and was free to continue to focus on issues that were present in my actual, offline life. Not only that, but as time went on (I spent just over two months away), I began to experience other benefits that helped me deal with these issues. My sleep was better (probably because I wasn’t up at odd hours scrolling through my phone). My relationships with friends and family got better, as I had more time to spend working on communication and spent less time on the phone or tablet glued to an app. I had effectively put all my “online-only”, half-assed, and superficial relationships on hold and invested more time and energy into real, meaningful ones. I became way more productive at work. Better still, I put myself on a path for having a better quality of life by giving myself time to spend working on myself.
Eventually, I returned to social media – but with a different mindset. Now I try to remember that not everyone is perfect, and while the images and content people post may suggest otherwise, everyone has their ups and downs. While I still struggle with issues I’ve already mentioned, it’s getting easier and easier to pull back and focus on myself. I know I may have to leave again or make some other changes (sorry for blocking or unfollowing you), and I hope this post helps myself and others understand why it’s needed.
Now, I’m not suggesting everyone should boycott social media and go on a deleting spree. I am, however, suggesting that everyone could benefit from some time away. I know I did.
º Side note. Just wanted to shout out everyone that took the time to reach out back then and now. I hope everyone could take the time out to check on people they care about, especially your friends that seem like they have everything going for them. More often than not, your “strong” friend is the one hurting the most.
Until next time,