Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
I created my Twitter account back in 2012, when I was only 15 years old. I remember wanting to trade in my flip phone for a smart phone specifically to use social media on the go, rather than on my mom’s desk top. I remember crafting my very first tweet, after all, this was my debut into the giant social portal. I’ve used it daily ever since.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped going on social media to laugh with my friends. The posts got more personal. Everyone started to put their intimate details and thoughts into the online atmosphere. I used to scroll through the app for hours and laugh, but now I found myself closing the app and feeling anxious and agitated. Why was everyone being so mean to others? So mean to themselves? So unforgiving of mistakes? So judgmental? Signing into your account became the same as signing a waiver.
No personal interests felt safe anymore. I became scared to admit I was passionate about anything. Passion becomes paralyzed by hatred. Passion brought on jealousy. Persistence was interpreted as nagging. Intelligence became incompetence. Learning and education became useless.
So one day, I decided the negativity was just too much. In a spur of the moment decision, I held down the app, and suddenly it was gone. For a second, I thought, “What am I doing? What will I do with myself?”, but then I realized that the subconscious often knows what we need, so I decided to give myself a month away and see how permanent this change should be. I wanted to record the differences I felt in the first week versus the last week of this month, here were my thoughts:
I constantly found myself wanting to tweet things. Small things, big things, complaints, jokes, anything you can think of. I wanted to go share it online. I thought about what my friends would say, who would laugh at or relate to it. I wasn’t quite sure where to place these thoughts now, so for most of them, I’d dedicate a moment to the thought, and then move on.
The anger and anxiety I had felt before kept resurfacing. I’d think about a time I read an argumentative thread and how angry it made me that we use social media to attack our fellow man. I thought about what angry thing I’d love to respond with; social media feeds on fire being fought with fire.
I’ve had several members of my friends and family asking if I had seen something through the platform, to which my reply was, “I haven’t seen anything.” It felt amazing. I didn’t feel as angry just walking through campus; I was always less on edge, even though I was only a few weeks away from taking my GRE. I spent more time investing in things I was passionate about.
While I’ve spoken abundantly about why I left Twitter, I have yet to mention why I replaced it with LinkedIn. Moving into my senior year of undergraduate, I’ve found myself more and more entranced and motivated with business endeavors, and I’ve discovered what specifically I’m so passionate about. In the time from downloading the LinkedIn app to my phone, I’ve secured nearly 100 more connections, and have saved over 70 articles that I’ll be reading over Christmas break. I’ve thought of two business endeavors that I’d like to pursue, and using LinkedIn, I’ve found experts who have found their way doing the same. I even found the desire to write content of my own! One of my long-term goals is to write my own book, but I never knew how to open a blank page and begin writing when it wasn’t for school; That changed this past month. Not only did I write what you’re currently reading, I now have a list of things I would either like to write about or divulge myself into.
So… What Now?
Truly, when watching Twitter vanish from my phone, I meant it as a hiatus. I can safely say I will not be downloading or using it ever again. If I take a social media break during the day, I no longer feel the stress, anger, fear, or insecurity I once did, I feel invigorated and renewed, and I’m able to keep myself centered on what my goals and values are.
The lesson I’ve learned is not to devote time to anything that doesn’t set your soul on fire. As college students and as adults, why waste any more precious time? Don’t take a plunge from a bridge just because you see your peers doing the same. If it doesn’t bring you joy, respect, opportunities, knowledge, or fulfill the smallest part of your dreams, why devote a single second? This is not to say that all social media is a poisonous waste of time, social media can connect others in a global and personal way! However, if you’re feeling less wonderful every time you visit a social website, it may be time to consider giving yourself a break.
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