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It has been exactly two years since I took a break from all forms of social media, and I can truly say the experience was life-changing. Although I've since rejoined the online world, my year away from everything digital helped me become not only a better version of myself but a happier one.
Unlike many people, my social media cleanse was not by choice… due to some very unfortunate circumstances I was forced to quit my online presence cold turkey, and boy can I tell you that it was hard; not only was I missing seeing the posts from influencers and celebrities, I was — more importantly — missing posts from my friends. I felt as though a vital form of communication had been pulled out from under me and I was crashing to the ground like a glass falling from the counter. For days, I felt sad and alone and experienced the ever-dreaded FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that most Millennials talk about. It was a real problem that I thought had no end. That is until I decided that this cleanse should not be something to dread, but a way for me to get back to the basics.
At first, it was difficult not to be "up" on the trends and viral memes of the month, but I soon realized that it didn't matter. While everyone was constantly scrolling, liking, and Tweeting, I was enjoying my favourite books and discovering new hidden gems around the city; for the first time since I had entered high school, I felt as if I was truly free. Before leaving social media, I was constantly wrapped up in what others were doing, often using the phrase "I'm going to live vicariously through…" as a way to remind myself that I would never have the amazing experiences that people in the social media sphere were constantly posting about, and as a way to lessen the sadness that I felt every time I saw a beautifully shot and editing "travel vlog" or photo.
It was at my lowest — when I felt most alone — that I realized the emotions I was experiencing were not because I was disconnected, but because I was finally forced to face myself. I had been stuck in a bubble of liking, sharing, retweeting, and commenting and when that bubble popped I couldn't handle it.
And so began the true cleanse. Before my realization, I would often ask my friends to keep me in the loop by telling me about the interesting trends and the viral videos that were popping up every day; I was a junkie that needed her fix, and I had to get it somewhere — even if that meant begging my friends to let me scroll from their profiles — but I decided it was time to put myself into a metaphorical rehab, where I could finally clean up my act and let my mind flourish. I began to use the extra time I had gained to learn a new language, finish the books that had been sitting on my bedside table for months, and get back in shape. Without the constant reminder that I would never get to live the same experiences as others, I could finally enjoy and appreciate what I was doing. Everything became an experience — even if that experience was just going to a new yoga studio or finishing a new book — I was living through my own life and my lens was no longer that of an iPhone camera, but of a fresh new outlook on life away from the constant contest of showing off the cool things that I had been up to that day or that week.
As I stated before, I have since returned to social media, but I have done it in a new way. I am no longer wrapped up in other people's experiences, I no longer feel sad when I see a beautiful post that seems unattainable. Instead, I lock my phone, get up, stretch, and do something that I like to do. I broke the chains that were holding me in this state of depression that I had caused myself because of my unhealthy attachment to media, and I have never felt better.
And so, you've reached the end of my take on my exit from social media and you must be thinking, why did I just read this? What does this have to do with me? Well, my friend, I suggest you take this as an example for your own life. Even if you don't quit social media completely, try to limit your time online. Instead of scrolling when you're bored, take a deep breath, go for a walk, read a chapter of your favourite book, hug your pet or your significant other, do something that you enjoy… you'll see… you'll feel much more fulfilled and refreshed than if you had sat on your bed and checked Instagram all day.