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Mental Health

Disconnect and change your social media mindset

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I’ve burnt a lot of bridges over the past four years. College has taught me that people don’t always have your best interest at heart and that you have to surround yourself with genuine and supportive friends.

There are some people who befriend you out of convenience – your friendship is easy and accessible. And there are others who are friends out of priority, meaning they go out of their way to be friends with you, and vice versa. Friends of priority are far more important and yet far more difficult to come by. 

So, what do you do when you burn a bridge with a friend of convenience, but you still follow them on social media? If you’re like me, not much. I don’t obsessively track my followers or check who viewed my Snapchat story. And more often than not, I forget who I follow in the first place. 

And then a picture pops up on my Instagram feed. It’s them, the person I used to know, the person I used to call a friend until they violated my trust. In the picture, they’re happy. They’re smiling. They look good – perfect makeup, hair, and clothes. They look so much better than me, which means I must be doing so much worse than them. I click on their account, just to confirm that my suspicions are correct. With one tap of my finger, I jump right down a rabbit hole of judgement and self-deprecation. 

I have a conditional relationship with social media. As a journalist, I use social media as a tool. It connects me to global and diverse audiences, informs me of breaking news, and keeps me up-to-date on the latest trends and interests. As a person, social media is my worst enemy. It tells me that I’m not pretty, skinny, or wealthy enough. It proves that I have no idea what I’m doing. And social media tries to tell me that my life just isn’t as great as everyone else’s.

Social media reminds me of my past when I am trying to look to the future. We’ve come to a point in our history where breaking digital ties is more difficult than severing emotional ones. I can walk away from a toxic friendship, but I can’t seem to unfollow that person on Instagram or unfriend them on Snapchat. What if I want to know what they’re up to and who they’re hanging out with? What if I decide to be friends with them again? What if they see that I unfollowed them?

None of that should matter. Who cares what they think? Or who they’re with? Or what they’re doing? They aren’t a part of your life. Period. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up in a digital world, it’s that social media is a two-faced b*tch. She looks so promising from far away, full of potential to expand my community and keep me connected with those that I love. Yet up close, I see the cracks in her appearance, the flaws in her supposed perfection. She can be toxic, especially when you use her as a substitute for real-world interactions. 

We all know that people post their best selves on social media. They don’t post their no-makeup and bad hair days, or talk about the negatives in their life. We know this, but somehow, we forget how fake social media can be. And then, we start to compare ourselves to the people we see online. We see Snapchat stories full of laughs and friends, Instagram posts with vacations and expensive clothes. And we wonder how everyone else can be doing so well when we feel stuck in place and out of breath.

Reminder: you aren’t alone. You aren’t the only one who has panic attacks because school is overwhelming. You aren’t the only one who can’t sleep because anxiety is all-consuming. You aren’t the only one who cries over broken friendships and wasted time.

Even when social media makes you think that you are the only one in the world who isn’t alright, just know that I’m right there with you. I’m a 21-year old who still has acne. I’m a senior who doesn’t know what she’s doing when she graduates. I appear confident, but I can’t stand looking at my stretch marks and cellulite in the mirror.

I have a conditional relationship with the way we portray ourselves online. And I encourage you to join me in that relationship. Step away from the phone. Look away from the screen. Spend more time with real people, not fake personas. 

And I encourage you to do what is best for you. I recently burnt a bridge with someone who I thought had my best interest in mind, who I thought I could trust. Even after we stopped being friends, I still followed that person on Instagram, and we were friends on Snapchat. At night, I found myself looking through their feed and checking their story. I would look at Snap Maps to see if they were at home, or if I’d run into them on campus. And in all of this, I clung to the past, reminding myself of the ways they betrayed me and stirring up the emotions that stemmed from that betrayal. And then I realized: none of that matters. They aren’t a part of my life. Period. 

I unfollowed them, and quite honestly, my days have been so much brighter. I still see them every so often on other people’s Snapchat stories or Instagram posts, but it isn’t the same. I used to see their name online and my heart would start racing. Now, I’ve been able to distance myself, and I feel so much better. So do what’s best for you. If that means disconnecting, do it. Social media shouldn’t be causing anxiety, so don’t let it. 

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Emily is a senior at the University of Iowa, majoring in journalism & mass communication and pursuing a certificate in sustainability. After graduation, she hopes to work as a science journalist for a digital news outlet, working to engage and inform audiences on relevant scientific topics. She interned at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the Office of Communications during the summers of 2020 and 2021. In the future, Emily strives to improve scientific awareness, and show audiences how science intersects with culture and human behavior.
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