Last week, as I instructed Instagram to temporarily disable my only live account, the main emotion I felt was relief. With tinnitus raging constantly, my head can already be a noisy place. Reducing screen time and limiting exposure to other people’s highlight reels is something I’m always interested in. My hiatus lasted less than 48 hours, enough to break me out of the habit of checking the app every ten minutes.
Also enough to remind myself how much I’ve enjoyed a scaled down version of IG. With just 250 followers and zero potential collabs hanging in the balance, I’ve posted what I want when I want and mostly not got suckered into the scroll of doom.
Having deactivated my main account at the start of the pandemic, along with my personal Facebook page, striking a decent balance with social media should have been easy. Let me tell you it’s anything but! Every time I think I have my usage where I want it, I’ll find it creeping up to levels contributing towards unhappiness. However, coming off all social media all the time has lead to me feeling lonely and disconnected. By now, I’m sure we’re all well aware of the elephant in the room, though, right?
Social media isn’t real connection
At risk of sounding like an old fart, “connecting” with people on social media is like walking into a crowded bar and thinking you’re BFF’s with everyone halfway through the night. You’re all buying each other drinks, sharing stories and having fun.
Until it’s not fun anymore.
Out of nowhere, you’ve said the wrong thing and everyone turns and stares at you with “WTAF?!” looks on their faces. You’ve disappointed them. All of a sudden they lose interest in you and turn their attention to someone else. And it stings, just like it does when you trip over your own feet and fall flat on your face.
You feel shamed, embarrassed that you bothered trying to be friends with these people. Clearly all they wanted was their own egos massaged. You’re not one of them and never was.
Likes don’t pay the rent or create stable mental health
Although the world of influencing could indeed pay your rent, be prepared for your mental health to take a pasting. Unless you get exceptionally lucky and manage to significantly beat the algorithms – which is near on impossible these days – chances are your following isn’t entirely organic. Chances are you will be spending a lot of time interacting with other accounts in the hope that they return the favour. Which means constant exposure to those damn highlight reels and we all know how detrimental that can be when we’re already going through a hard time.
While it can be tempting to put out an SOS to our “friends” when we’re feeling blue, and seeing tens/hundreds of positive comments can certainly lift spirits temporarily, at some point we’re left holding that damned phone. How much do these people genuinely care? Do they ever text you personally or have you already been reduced to a sentence in the comments thread?
All this adds up, over time. Amounting to extra grazes, when we fall flat once more.
Is social media rewiring our brains?
Don’t hold it against your friends, though. Most people are hopelessly addicted to social media and don’t even realise it. Even people like me, who are hyper aware of their usage *still* get suckered in. So those who are flitting from one app to the next, literally have no hope in the face of it.
Our attention spans are getting shorter by the day because rather than feeding our brains with the equivalent of organic veggies, we’re giving it roundup laden processed junk. Instead of ignoring our phones and picking up a book, we’re a slave to our own self-imposed prisons.
While it’s possible to live without social media, it’s a proper emotional rollercoaster.
You’ll feel sad and disconnected one second, then smug and content five minutes later. Rather than isolate completely, is it better to try and figure out how to use social media in a way that works for us? Especially those of us with products to sell – be it an online read or something physical. The world has changed beyond recognition during this bonkers year and like it or not, we’re heading for an online future. Many would say we are already there.
Dr. Nicole LaPera aka The Holistic Psychologist has some brilliant advice in the video below for putting great boundaries in place.
True connection is truly priceless
So, I’m coming to the conclusion that if I am going to be on social media I need to do it in a way that benefits me.
In the last month I’ve done a lot of reading. Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, one of my all time faves, got re-read for the third time. Bukowski’s Ham on Rye was like a dagger through my heart. Matt Haig’s Midnight Library was a fantastical distraction and Glennon Doyle’s Untamed stopped me in my tracks.
Very different books by an eclectic collection of writers on varying places of the plot line spectrum. Yet they they all did the same thing.
Took me by the shoulders and gave me a good shake.
“Stop keeping yourself small,” they whispered.
I need to stop being so terrified of rejection and losing against that bloody algorithm. Stop paying attention to all the ghosts of social media past and look forward.
Hopefully this time it will be different. Wish me luck!