Why Deleting Social Media Was the Best Thing I Have Ever Done
Social Media is addicting. Whether you’re addicted or not is another thing, and in hindsight, I definitely was. Scrolling through thousands of pictures and opinions on various apps for hours a day had started to take a toll on my mental health and I didn’t even realise.
I didn’t think that Social Media had much of an impact on me. It was something I scrolled through to relax; a way to unwind after a long day at work. It just so happened that one Sunday morning, I woke up feeling claustrophobic, as if something was trapping me. I went for a run, phone strapped to my arm, and during that run, I realised that I wanted to just be away from my phone, but I couldn’t, because even whilst running, I needed my phone strapped to me.
In a fit of rage, I got home and deleted every app that I felt was attaching me to my phone. It was almost like I had had an awakening. I had set limits on my apps before, but never deleted them. Once I had done it, I felt stuck: what do I do now?
Now I’m through to the other side and I’m here to share my experience with deleting Social Media: the good, the bad and the plain old ugly.
When you spend any amount of time aimlessly scrolling on Social Media sites, you are subconsciously taking in a lot of global news and people’s opinion on it. At the moment, we are in a world-wide pandemic, politics is fractious and various movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter have taken flight. These are all important in their own right, and we should take time to read, understand and share important global events, however, what happens when your brain needs a break?
When you’re scrolling, you can’t control how many news stories or opinions you see, it’s dependent on who you follow, and what is happening in the world. At the moment, there are big news stories happening every single day, therefore, our timelines are full of life-changing events. Feeling like you have to involve yourself all the time in every single event is not healthy, so don’t ever feel guilty for taking a break.
You Are Human
Growing up in the 21st century meant that we were guinea pigs for the digital age. Social Media grew with us, but so did understanding restrictions for it. Many of u grew up being able to access anything we wanted, and without realising it, we became adjusted to receiving information constantly.
Thousands of studies have taken place over the past decade, trying to discover the connection between Social Media and mental health, and ultimately, many scientists and users agree that the constant availability of information could be a major cause of anxiety, stress and depression.
After hearing this and applying it to my own situation, I agreed that the addiction to scrolling definitely contributed to my anxiety, and after thinking about it, I realised I didn’t spend enough time with my own brain. Were my thoughts just a blend of the multiple opinions I had read online?
We’re only human, the same as every human that has come before us. Our brains and ability to process information has not dramatically changed in the last 100 years, but our environment that gives us this information has. So, surely, when Social Media is abused, it is just overloading our brains.
Nicholas Carr wrote a fantastic article for The Atlantic, where he described the feeling of no longer being able to concentrate for long periods of time on pieces of information, a feeling that I’m sure resinates with the majority. Carr describes the sensation metaphorically, as he describes it it as feeling as though “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” I thought this was beautiful, but absolutely terrifying, because I felt it too: I had lost my attention span to my phone.
Breaking the Cycle
As I explained before, I have suffered with poor mental health, and although there are a multitude of factors that contribute, my social media environment was one of them.
Before I deleted Social Media, my environment consisted of working then coming home and scrolling. Scrolling whilst I was watching TV, in the bath, brushing my teeth. When I had a spare couple of hours, I would scroll. I put limits on my phone, which I just surpassed, I tried sleeping with my phone outside of my room, which helped, but didn’t fully address the problem: I needed to break the scrolling cycle.
Once I deleted Social Media, instead of feeling free, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My safety net and ‘go to’ activity had been taken away from me, and I genuinely felt confused and immediately ‘bored’.
My attention span had whittled down to nothing: every spare second would usually be spent scrolling, but now, I was spending time with my own brain, which felt really strange at first.
After a couple of days, I did start to feel free. I didn’t feel obliged to know or understand everything. I could deal with the life that was surrounding me, not the one which was concerning the rest of the world.
Apart from learning about my relationship with social media, one of the best things that came out of deleting my apps was discovering that I enjoyed other hobbies. I spent time reading, exercising, researching this blog and talking to my family. These were four things that had taken a back seat to social media, and are a lot more beneficial to my life than scrolling.
After a month, I decided to reinstall Instagram. There were parts of it that I missed, such as the creativity of the people that I follow. I try to fill my feed with inspirational people rather than influencers. People who are actually doing things, and this gives me motivation. But the major difference I felt once I redownloaded is that I no longer scroll for hours on end. I don’t even need a limit on my phone anymore.
Although I wanted to get back onto Instagram, I haven’t redownloaded Twitter. I do have access to it, but I haven’t felt the need to download the app onto my phone, because I feel content without it, and that speaks volumes.
Social Media is fun. It’s addicting. It also provides a platform to share, to create and to network. Most importantly, I have found that Social Media needs to be used with care. We are delicate beings and although our brains are incredible, they need to be looked after. Re-working our relationship with Social Media could definitely be the key to improving mental wellbeing, especially in such incredibly difficult times.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! My last post about trying to navigate a career in your twenties and whether it’s ‘right’ for you can be read here. Let me know what you thought in the comments, and what you’d like to see from me next!