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The ever-present nature of our social media-driven society requires us to be contactable at all times. If we’re not on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, and if we’re not on Facebook, we’re on Snapchat, and if we’re not on Snapchat, we’re on Twitter - you get the idea. 


More and more often, I’m noticing myself wanting a break from the all-consuming climate of our technological world. I don’t know if this is an effect of Lockdown 3.0 finally taking its toll on my mood, or simply a tired, frustrated millennial being dramatic at the situation of her generation. But the thought of trading in my iPhone for a more humble Nokia brick is becoming more and more appealing. Don’t get me wrong, especially when so many people are lonely, vulnerable and struggling, it is an absolute blessing and a privilege to communicate and check in on loved ones so easily. But the constant nature of being ‘contactable’ and ‘reachable’ to everyone at all times can feel overwhelming. The default status on WhatsApp is ‘available’ and if that isn’t our generation in a nutshell, then I don’t know what is. 


We live in an instantaneous world where we can have everything we want at the click of a button. Whether that’s sushi for dinner, a new outfit for tomorrow, or a burst of validation from an Instagram post, we all seem to be in a relentless pursuit of instant gratification. And it seems that we often get caught up in the commodities and forget that we don’t need to be allowing everyone access to every part of us all the time. Sometimes it just feels necessary to take a step back from your phone and the immediacy of our lives without people wondering if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth because you didn’t reply to their Snapchat three hours ago. Our lives feel collective, like everyone has the right, and more importantly the ability, to comment on the way we live. And I think this is captured in how we are bound by our capacity to be constantly contactable at any given minute. 


I’ve often considered pulling a Zadie Smith and deleting all my socials, but I don’t think that is necessarily the way to fix the problem. We’re all aware of how toxic and consuming social media can be. But at the end of the day, it’s still fun to post photos of you and friends or keep up with what other people are doing - yet we know so much of this is performative. What we see is edited, filtered, and most likely vetted by at least a handful of friends before making it onto our grids. We’re able to orchestrate what we present to our followers, believing this gives us control of the way society sees us. People even find it hard to take a break without broadcasting it for the world to see - we all know the ‘if you need me, text me’ type - we get it, you're on a social media cleanse, and you’re morally superior (I’m jealous of your will power). We’re guilty of posting our highlights or the moments where we think we look good (no matter how bad everyone else looks), because pictures of us at our lowest probably wouldn’t go down quite as well. But a lot of the time, the dichotomy between our online personas and the person we truly are gets muddled. We become so disconnected to these selves we present online that it feels exhausting trying to keep up with it all. 


There does come a point when I think it’s healthy to evaluate the relationship we have with our social media, to reflect on what we bring, and what we gain for that matter, to the online world. Whether we spend too much time on Twitter or feel a pang of pain when we don’t get a certain number of likes on an Instagram photo, we can all try to implement ways of setting boundaries and cultivating a positive space on our platforms. I don't think we should feel selfish or guilty for needing time to ourselves away from our online personas and our constant ‘available’ status. Check in on your friends, keep in contact with the ones you love, but when that overwhelming stifling feeling of pressure becomes too much, allow those feelings and do whatever makes you feel grounded. Whether that is taking a few days to turn off your phone, or just a walk without tracking it on Strava, we all have the right to be unavailable. And we should not feel guilty for needing time to ourselves in these moments.   

I'm a third-year student studying English and American studies. I love writing about the highs and lows of life and everything in between.
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