A few weeks ago, I made the decision to unplug. I deleted all of the social media apps I avidly used from my phone. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat were all gone and I told myself there was no looking back.
I decided to unplug from social media for several reasons, but the main one being that I found myself wasting time subconsciously comparing where I was to where everyone else around me was. I needed space from the levels and layers of comparison, doubt, and toxicity that exist within the social media realm. I felt like I spent too much time mindlessly scrolling through a seemingly endless stream of selfies, travel photos, political turmoil, memes, gossip, and advertisements - amongst other things. I realized that over time I had subconsciously conflated parts of social with things like value and self-worth, which was proving to cast a negative shadow in my life. I guess to put it more simply: I didn't like how social media was making me feel and how much time I was wasting on it in spite of that fact.
Initially, this decision was hard for me and I found myself glancing at my phone waiting for a notification or looking at the place on my phone where the apps were previously located. Social media played such a multifaceted role in my life and I wasn't sure I was ready to lose that. It kept me connected to friends, family, and even my favorite bands, photographers, and activists. I had used social media to document my own experiences. Plus, how else was I going to waste "awkward" time when I was waiting in line or sitting in a waiting room? The beginning of this experience proved to be challenging and I spent several days attempting to adjust to the lifestyle changes I had made.
Nevertheless, I stayed consistently unplugged (outside of a few exceptions, because I'm not perfect) and honestly it became SO much easier. I had more real and deep conversations with people in my life. If I wanted to talk to someone, I would text, call, or Facetime. We would get to talk about what had been going on in our lives on a more intimate level rather than through a picture that was posted and shared with hundreds of friends. On a different level, I noticed that the present moment had my full attention and I was existing fully in the now. I was totally committed to and engaged in whatever I was doing, rather than being distracted by the notifications on my phone. My head was up and I felt like I was fully seeing the world rather than being absorbed by the world within my phone screen.
I spent more time doing things that I genuinely cared about. I was more productive. I was reading more in the morning and at night, which was the time I would've previously spent scrolling through a timeline or two. I did things without feeling the need to constantly document them or share them to receive comments or likes. I took a road trip out of the country with my family. I quit my job. I started volunteering with a nonprofit organization. I learned how to make a bracelet. I started using my Polaroid camera again. I went on outdoor adventures and soaked up the sunlight. I spent time with friends, all while documenting none of it.
In the weeks that have passed since I made the decision to unplug, I've simultaneously felt more and less connected to the world than ever before. I've parted ways with my online identity as the girl who's followed by her favorite singer and had that tweet about Taylor Swift make it big that one time. Instead, I've reconnected with more authentic parts of my identity and created more positive energy in my life.
Although I don't know what my relationship with social media will look like in the future, I don't plan on logging back in at the moment. As strange as it sounds, I feel almost an aversion to carrying my phone around or constantly looking at it, which is why I'm not even sure I want to return to social media. After the positive results that came with logging off and staying off, I feel almost no desire to go back and risk regression. This decision was all about me learning to reshift my focus onto myself and who I want to become, outside of the realms of comparison and distraction that are associated with social media. When I do decide to log back in, I am only doing so with the knowledge that I can use social media more intentionally - posting what I want to share, looking at the content I want to be connected with, and then putting my phone back down.