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

When it feels like 99% of our interactions with the outside world are made possible through a screen, it’s hard to imagine voluntarily taking a break from social media. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok have become our lifelines and primary method of communication with others, especially while we are all confined to our homes. 

However, it’s imperative to take a step back from the internet periodically for the sake of your own mental health. My own experience with social media has been healthy for the most part; I find it easy to step away from social media and have never needed to place restrictions on apps to stay focused. I drew inspiration from my roommate who recently told me she had deleted all of her social media as a way to find herself again, away from the internet’s “toxicity.” 

Desensitization & burnout (in activist settings)

With the continuing Black Lives Matter protests and other social justice movements, performative activism has taken over most online platforms, making it easy to forget the severity of the situation when it’s all over your social media timeline. It’s like walking into the dark — in the beginning, you can’t make out anything, but as your eyes adjust, your surroundings become more identifiable. Although you can see everything for what it is, the objects begin to lose their distinction and sense of importance; they no longer anchor your “understanding” of the dark. 

Likewise, when your feed is flooded (and rightfully so) with posts and stories about defunding the police, uncovering colorism within BIPOC communities, and so on, the information can feel less urgent. This is why meme-ifying the death of Breonna Taylor was so harmful — people began to perceive her death as some fad or trend rather than the violent death of a real human being.

It’s a good idea to take a break from the internet once in a while so that when you return to social media, the bigotry and injustice isn’t normalized. We cannot become desensitized to ignorance while living inside our own activist bubbles. 

Remember, this movement is a marathon, not a sprint. We can only keep running if we allow ourselves to go at a comfortable pace alongside one another. Take the time to pause and reflect, and then re-educate yourself. 

Avoiding “groupthink”

So, what’s groupthink? A term first introduced in the November 1971 issue of Psychology Today by Irving Janis, it’s a psychological “phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to comfort or they believe that dissent is impossible.” Essentially, groupthink discourages individuality and creativity for the sake of harmony among multiple people. 

The constant influx of information and other people’s opinions can mitigate our own ability to understand what is going on. When we don’t take the time to distance ourselves from the situation at hand, we are unable to truly reflect on our own morals and interests — ultimately failing to accurately assess information. Instead of seeing the world through our own perspective, we wear the glasses that our peers give us. It can be helpful to hear other people’s input and opinions on certain topics, but it is even more important to take the time to develop our own and then discuss. Take those glasses off! 

Growing independent from external validation

Social media is often a collage of the best moments of people’s lives, because that is what people want to publicize about themselves. Although it’s great to see your friends succeeding, it can be detrimental to the way you perceive your own struggles and triumphs.

Instagram, most notably, is often used for validation. There’s nothing wrong with receiving praise and adoration from others through likes and comments, but there is certainly a point in time when it becomes toxic. If you don’t receive as many likes as another person, you might ask yourself, “Does that make me inherently more unattractive? Does that mean people literally don’t like me as much?”

Stepping back from social media can be healthy for many people because they can forget about earning other people’s approval or maintaining their brand.

Focusing on Yourself

This really goes with the need to refocus on your own goals and artistic endeavors. People strive to be Instagram influencers, viral meme-rs on Twitter, or TikTok-famous. But what does that mean in terms of your own individuality? 

A few years ago, I would post consistently on my photography account, but this content was often tailored specifically for Instagram algorithms and the explore page. It began to feel less unique to my journey as an artist. Because the art felt very commercialized and commodified, I stopped posting. But this hiatus granted me inner peace in a way that couldn’t have happened if I continued to publish work that didn’t truly make me happy. I can genuinely say that being “inactive” when it comes to sharing my own photographs has allowed me to release all pressure of living up to some abstract Instagram standard. Now, I relish in my own independent creativity and hope to start sharing work that I am truly proud of.

During this pandemic and revolution throughout the world, it’s important to prioritize your own health, both physical and mental. Social media is certainly a tool that can be used for good and to uplift others, but it can also be an exhausting extra weight on your shoulders.

When we’ve had enough in-person interaction for a day, we retreat to our homes and take a break. The same thing should apply to hours and hours of emails, Zoom meetings, and Slack messaging. Take a step back from the constant “chit chat” on people’s stories so that you can come back with a fresher and more compassionate approach to the world’s issues. We all need each other fully rested in order to fully combat ignorance.

Jennalynn is a non-binary, Asian American student at St. John's University located in Queens, New York. While they are a Pharmacy (PharmD) major, their passions in life are climate activism, photography, and writing. They have been featured in Teen Vogue, The Luna Collective, SUSTAIN The Mag, and are a staff writer at their university newspaper. Check out their website and socials (@jennuinn) to see their work!