Going off the Grid by Aisling Keane

I have always said that I’d rather have a few really good friends than a group of friends that barely knew me. According to Facebook, I had over 1,000 friends. Clearly, a majority of these “friends” were people I barely knew – and they barely knew me. But, the “social media” friendship created the façade that they did know me. They could see updates of what I was doing every day, pictures of me and my family, know my achievements and see what direction my life was heading. In my life, I am fortunate to have a small circle of really good friends – yet I found myself living to impress the 995 others.

My life on social media features the best version of myself. Pictures span from college formals to pictures of me and my family over the holidays. Each photo was slightly filtered to enhance the appearance. If you scrolled through my feed you would see the same group of people featured in all of my photos – my actual friends. Yet, I was posting these photos to get gratification from people I did not even know. God forbid the random people I never even talked to in high school didn’t know I was having the #BestSummerEver.

There is a heightened anxiety about social media across the board. My friends talk and exchange tips on “the perfect posting hour” to gain more likes. There is fear that if your social media isn’t up to par – then you’re not living life right.  I became discouraged and frustrated with having so many accounts and people knowing what I was up to at all times. There was pressure to live my life a certain way so I could have a cute picture to prove to others that my life was as “great” as theirs. I was no longer posting because it would be fun for me – yet I was posting out of an obligation to show people that I am able to keep up as much as they are.

Social media produces a lens that everyone is perfect at all times and everyone’s lives are extraordinary. I often think to the 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student Madison Holleran who died by suicide after jumping from a parking garage – yet the life she portrayed on Instagram was picture perfect. She was a student at one of the best schools in the country, a division one athlete, and surrounded by friends. But, social media never tells the whole story.

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Research has proven that social media increases anxiety levels and stress, and depresses moods. So, this past month I decided to completely eliminate social media from my life. I deleted my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account and went completely off the grid. I had always pondered what it would be like to return to life without social media – a luxury I have not had since 2010. The only people that would get updates of my life were people that were actually close to me. The thought of that was comforting. I’m one month into my break from all social media and I can say it has been the most cleansing thing I have ever done.

Social media has created a narrative that we have to live our lives for the approval of others. Each “like” I received on a photo would give me gratification that people approved of me. Once I deleted all social media – I was only doing things that would bring myself gratification. I found myself investing more time in what I wanted to do.

The social media break was especially needed during the time of life I am entering. I am a college senior – and that means I am making a lot of big decisions in the next coming months about what I want to do with my life. I feel immense amounts of stress and truly have no clue what I am going to do next. The elimination of social media in my life makes me feel more at ease with that reality. I don’t plan on returning to social media anytime soon. The hours I would spend mindlessly scrolling through on my phone are now put towards activities I love to do. I feel as though in one month I’ve gained a level of individuality that I have not had since I’ve created any social media accounts.

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