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Kristen Bryant / Her Campus
Mental Health

How Taking a Social Media Break Made My 2020 Better

From Snapchat, to Instagram and all apps alike, social media is one of the most defining features of this generation. You can’t go out to eat without Yelp, take a cute picture without editing on VSCO or say you know what’s going on in our world today without scrolling on Twitter. Social Media has been taking the world by storm for a while now, and while we all use it, the question still remains: is social media actually a good thing? Yes, I am a teenager obsessed and attached to my phone 24-7, but as much as I don’t want to admit it, I’ve seen my phone and addiction to social media become borderline toxic. 

Screen time reports are through the roof with our current pandemic and it’s made me (and probably a lot of other people) take a step back and try to evaluate how beneficial an overdose of social media can be. Now even though I couldn’t get through quarantine without texting my friends, finding new recipes on Pinterest or at-home hair cut fails on YouTube, I found my mental health completely depleting over the past couple of months. 

As someone who has struggled from a range of mental health issues, (and to be fair, I think everyone does in some way) I have found myself more depressed and anxious than normal. I really had no choice than to take a minute and reevaluate how I’m spending my time. Social media causes us to constantly compare ourselves to others at all times, and not just during a pandemic. We’re all impressionable human beings, despite age or self-esteem, and it’s a natural thing to automatically compare yourself and your life to others you see online. As many people have discussed before, social media is a place where nine times out of ten, people are strategic with what they post and aware of how others will perceive them. This is bad for two reasons: one, people are going to compare and judge themselves in a harsh way because of what others choose to share on their social media, which is always the best parts of them. Second, people can get so wrapped up in worrying what others think, that it becomes hard to post and share what you really care about in fear of judgement. I don’t think this is a huge problem for everyone, but on some level, people are always conscious of their self-image. I, for one, am definitely guilty of this. 

I found myself more often waiting to post something to my Instagram story, worried if I’m sharing a post of something I love, other people will make fun of it. Besides these underlying social media effects, I’ve been experiencing FOMO more than ever. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is something I never really dealt with before. As people have taken (unfortunately) different stances on our current pandemic with Covid-19, I’ve noticed people are either constantly out doing something with friends or are staying home indefinitely. With a family member immune compromised, I have chosen to remain home and basically from March to June, didn’t see anyone. Period. No social distanced gathering or outdoor meetups at all. Of course, this was my choice and I think it was definitely the smart moved, but I couldn’t help but feel my mental health slip down the drain after constantly seeing my friends and others I follow on social media go out. People carried on with the lives and had fun spending time together, going to the mall or simply out to dinner. As someone that didn’t have an option, I began to feel more and more left out and didn’t see a solution in sight. 

As I neared the end of my summer and began making plans for how I was going to handle the upcoming semester, the question that loomed over me was do I compromise my safety and see my friends, or stay behind? Staying home for the semester was hardest for that reason: all my friends were going to be hanging out. Without me. That scared me and upset me more than I expected it to. Every fear slipped into my mind like, what if my friends forgot about me? What If when I came back everything was going to be different and they would have different friends? What if no one needed me anymore? I know my friends are loyal and this would never happen, but I still felt bad about it. Because of this, I made one of the best decisions that basically changed my year: taking a social media break 

I was one of those people that never thought I could do that. Being away from my phone for more than an hour was agonizing. Not being able to respond instantly to a text made me feel like a bad friend. I never thought I would be able to do. Ultimately, I needed to make this tough choice for myself. The thought of seeing everyone without me on campus in the next couple of weeks was dreadful. And just like that, snapchat was deleted. Now with Instagram, I mostly follow celebrities and other public figures so I knew I could live with that on my phone, but definitely not Snapchat. People were already constantly posting, and I knew I couldn’t take much more. I deleted snapchat for about two weeks and still have it off my phone. Deleting it temporarily was one of the best decisions of my 2020. I was happier, less distracted and overall felt my mental health improving. It was weird, of course, but deleting it made me realize just how addicted I actually am. After deleting it, I caught myself opening up my phone for no reason and hovering my thumb over the empty spot where it once was on my home screen. I used to open it up just for the hell of it all the time. There was not a point to it but it was just another distraction and way for me to engage myself in social media. After a week or so, it was normal to be without it. I felt so much better, and I couldn’t really think of a reason why. In total, I redownloaded it maybe twice to either open something sent me or post to my story. Other than that, it made it so much easier to connect with my friends, whether that was through texting or facetime, I felt more connected than disconnected. I wasn’t constantly worrying or upsetting myself because of what others were doing. I felt free. My homework was being completed in a faster manner, and honestly I haven’t seen a huge downside to deleting it yet. 

Of course, this won’t be for everyone, but I found that removing myself from social media improved my life and mental health exponentially. I have no plans on when I’m going to redownload, or when I do, how much I’ll even be on anymore. Social media isn’t all bad, but it definitely brings out bad qualities, habits and can take a serious toll on our mental health. I’m not saying everyone should delete their social media, but definitely watch your tendencies and check in with your mental health often so you can try to live a happier life during a rough time for everyone.

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