Getting Off Social Media: How It Helped Alleviate My Sadness and Depression

Nowadays, it’s common to be part of at least one social media platform. Be it Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or even Tiktok, you’re considered other-worldly if you’re not completely immersed in at least one of them. Young people especially are pressured by society to continuously show off their lives online. I mean, heaven forbid you go one day without telling people what you’re doing, what you ate or even how you’re feeling that day. It’s addictive - and that’s a fact. No really, it’s a fact. Numerous social media experts and executives have gone on record and admitted that platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are designed in such a way that they are ‘deliberately’ addictive. During a talk at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice president for user growth stated, “I feel tremendous guilt… I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”. He then went on to say that his children ‘aren’t allowed to use that sh*t’, after admitting that he himself rarely uses Facebook. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, stated when referring to his nephew, “There are some things that I won’t allow. I don’t want them on a social network.” Furthermore, at an event in Philadelphia, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, declared, “it probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Need any more proof? Is it any wonder we’re so depressed? If the creators and executives behind these social media platforms understand the dangers of using them and don’t even allow their children to do so, then why do we? Moreover, why isn’t anyone talking about it?

 

Social Media and How it Affects Mental Health 

Let me suggest to you that maybe, just maybe, a large chunk of your depression and feelings of sadness stem from your constant use of social media. Before you click off this article, just hear me out. As someone who has experienced these thoughts, I am certainly NOT minimising mental health or depression, and I’m not even saying that social media is the only reason for poor mental health. But I can also assure you that I’m not coming completely out of left field. Sean Parker stated that social media ‘literally changes your relationship with society, with each other’, so it’s not that far-fetched to draw links between depression and the use of social media. I know that in my own life, once I began minimising the amount of time I spent on Instagram and Twitter, I felt much happier and much more at peace.

I used to be one of those people who spent most of their day on Instagram. Constantly posting pictures, stories and updates about my every move, whim and feeling. I became so preoccupied with the app that I came up with a goal to get to 10,000 followers, which I achieved (*cringe*). And once I did, all of a sudden, all of my self-esteem and self-acceptance became vested in these 10,000 ‘friends’ that I didn’t even know. Any time I posted a picture that I thought was nice, I would immediately feel insecure when it didn’t ‘perform’ the way that I wanted it to. If it didn’t get the amount of likes that I wanted, within the appropriate time, I would think “what’s wrong with me?”, “I probably look bad”, “my outfit is terrible” and “I’m probably just fat”. Not only that, but scrolling through my Instagram feed, wishing I looked like someone else or imagining what it would be like to live somebody else’s life didn’t do my mental health any good either. In addition, constantly being on social media just made me lazy and less productive as a whole. This contributed to my feelings of anxiety and depression because the more I spent time on social media, the more I was ignoring all the work I needed to do, which continued to pile up. It was a terrible cycle and I was subconsciously but increasingly making myself sadder, more anxiety riddled and more depressed. But I’m not the only one. From 2007 to 2017, the number of suicides among people aged 10 to 24 increased by 56 percent. Suicide is the most common cause of death among teenagers and young adults, outpacing homicides and accidents. You would think that the more access we have to information and the more ‘social’ we become, the happier we would be too, right? Wrong (just listen to Sean Parker)!

 

Guard Your Heart

What you listen to and look at the most quickly becomes your belief system. Show me what you listen to on a regular basis and I’m sure I could predict your viewpoint on many things. If you’re constantly listening to the news and scrolling through Twitter, you’re probably a pessimistic person. If you’re constantly on Instagram and Snapchat, you might suffer from low self-esteem. The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23, ‘Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ You may not believe in what the Bible teaches, but it's still pretty good advice. It’s important to watch what you listen to on a daily basis, because it will affect everything you do. Your eye and ear ‘gates’ should be fortified. In other words, be picky about what you let in and be careful about how you choose to spend your time, who you listen to and what you watch. Whether you know it or not, everything and everyone is trying to consciously or subconsciously impose a certain viewpoint on you.

Once I stopped using Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so regularly, my mental health improved, and I now have a sense of peace and quiet. It’s okay to be still. Human beings were not created to constantly take in information and fill our minds with things that don’t serve us. We are social people, yes, but NOT social media people. Make connections with real life humans and try to form a simple routine that has nothing to do with checking your phone all day. Take pleasure in the little things. For me that schedule entails: waking up, praying, having my morning coffee with almond milk, reading my Bible, watching some (selective) videos on YouTube, spending some time with my family, doing my coursework and going to bed. It’s not always that fixed of course, and I’m not perfect - there are days that I check my phone way more than I would like to, but it’s a process. Just like any other drug, you have to ween yourself off it and go through a detox. It will be hard at first, but in no time you’ll have a sense of real freedom and peace. I challenge anyone reading this to take a break from social media and watch their mental health drastically improve. You will thank yourself, trust me.

 

Sources:

https://khn.org/morning-breakout/teen-suicide-rate-increases-56-cdc-report-shows-prompting-pleas-for-awareness-among-parents-teachers/%C2%A0

https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/trapped-the-secret-ways-social-media-is-built-to-be-addictive-and-what-you-can-do-to-fight-back/