Going Unplugged: The Benefits of a Social Media Break

It’s commonly known that our generation lives, breathes, and sleeps social media. Whether we wake up and immediately check our Instagram feeds or update our Snapchat streaks as we use the bathroom—our lives have inadvertently been taken over with the need to update someone about our day-to-day activities.

Although many social media attributes remain entertaining and humorous (i.e. memes), my question is: why? Why do we believe that others need to know our actions for them to be validated? I took a break from Instagram for 3 months to answer this question, and to understand the overwhelming benefits of taking a social media break.

In October of 2018, I was attending my favorite school, in my favorite place, surrounded by the nicest people that I’ve ever met. And guess what? I was unhappy.

Everyday I would constantly scroll through Instagram, four, five, six times a day and compare my life to the lives of everyone I was watching. Although I knew half of what I saw was fake, I couldn't help but think they were prettier, doing more exciting activities and achieving more than I could possibly live up to.

I started to believe that there was something wrong with my life because it didn't reflect what I was seeing on social media.

To combat this feeling, I deleted the Instagram app on my phone and waited to see if my anxiety would change.

It wasn’t easy at first. Like an addict in recovery, I had to go through withdrawals for a few weeks. What if I missed something important in my friends’ lives? What if some irreplaceable information was missed because I deleted Instagram?

But as the days went by, I didn’t miss what my friends were up to because I simply asked them about their lives one on one. The beauty of less information is realizing who you truly care about in your life, and putting in the effort to hear their stories.

After that realization, I saw a change that benefitted not only myself, but also the relationships around me. Instead of checking up on who I was following and wondering if their nights were better spent doing other activities, I could contently spend time with people that I truly care about and be more present.

Although social media provides a sense of community, sometimes it takes away from paying attention to the people right in front of you.

And as for my immense anxiety over whether someone cared about what shirt I wore to that New Year’s Eve party or what drink I had at that aesthetically pleasing coffee shop, I say f**k it. Who cares if someone liked or disliked what you were doing, wearing, saying, etc.? This is your life and the only one who needs to validate your actions is staring right back at you in the mirror.

Letting people know updates about your life is great, sometimes even necessary to stay in touch with family and friends who live far away. However, considering their affirmations as more important than your own leads to impossible expectations.

As pleasing everyone is virtually impossible, validating your own actions is the best step in reducing anxiety over what others may or may not think about you.

Whether for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, taking a social media break can reduce the overwhelming expectations to appear a certain way to others. Chances are, I’ll redownload Instagram in the future. But for now, I remain content in my break and in the relationships that I am lucky to have. Consider taking a little break from social media and see how your life changes without it. Who knows? You may just like it.