Social media used to be a big part of my life. I spent more time than I’d like to admit just scrolling my various feeds, taking picture after picture, and commenting on friends’ updates, whether they were as mundane as a plate of food or as huge as a pregnancy announcement.
It all seemed fine for a long time. I still saw friends, but I noticed that when we got together, we were all using our phones instead of talking to each other. I realized that I’d stopped reading, I hadn’t really been focusing on the hobbies I used to love, and I wasn’t feeling any closer to people.
For a while, I rolled my eyes at the movement to stop using social media. I was in denial about how much I was using it, and I didn’t want anyone “making me” feel like they were better than me for quitting it. But one day, I woke up and realized that I needed to make a change. And honestly, deleting my social media profiles has made me so much happier. Here’s why.
For Me, The Connection Behind Social Networking Was An Illusion
I like feeling in touch and up to date with my friends’ lives, and for a long time, social media felt like a good way to keep those connections strong. When I was on social media, I felt like I was being supportive by following along with their adventures and keeping up with their daily lives. But looking back, I actually felt very isolated—like I was watching life go by instead of participating in it. Instead of asking friends out for coffee to see what they were up to, I just followed their posts and left it at that.
I am definitely not alone in this feeling of isolation. Researchers have found strong links between social isolation and high levels of social media use, the opposite of what these sites are supposed to do for people who are looking to connect. But that connection was an illusion, at least for me. It’s something I couldn’t see clearly until I deleted my accounts.
Social Media Distracted Me From Feeling My Depression
While it’s still not totally clear as to whether social media can cause depression, I definitely feel like my use not only made my depression worse but also distracted me from feeling it. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s not. I just felt numb and I couldn’t deal with my feelings when I didn’t have my phone in my hand.
Depression is a complex issue that can be influenced by many different factors. My social isolation due to media use didn’t help, and neither did the fact that I wasn’t spending time with people in the real world. I ignored my depression, rather than facing and treating it.
According to Shari Harding, assistant professor at Regis College, “the old adage ‘comparing leads to despairing’ is very true of social media: we spend time comparing ourselves to other people often without really appreciating the differences between real life and images on social media. You could end up comparing your day-to-day with someone else’s favorite memories and that can certainly lower your own self-esteem and happiness.”
Removing My Social Media Led Me To Actual Human Connections
“Deleting social media profiles might make someone happier in a number of different ways. First, social media tends to be something that people spend (and possibly waste) a lot of time on and using that time for something else like social contact in person or engaging in a hobby or leisure activity might make us happier. There is a sunk cost with social media and people often describe spending more time on it than they plan or budget for themselves,” says Harding.
At first, when I deleted my accounts, I felt like I didn’t know how to be social anymore. It felt hard to reach out to friends directly when I was so used to “connecting” with them on social media. Eventually, though, I had to face facts: either I was going to make plans with people in person, or I wasn’t going to have much social interaction.
I’m so glad that I started meeting up with friends in person more regularly. Instead of feeling FOMO when I look at Facebook, I’m going to yoga with friends or grabbing dinner after work. It’s liberating to spend real time with people and to not be constantly checking my phone. It’s led to real human connections and better relationships.
Meditation Helped Me Correct My Social Media Habit
Fixing the problem wasn’t easy. I didn’t realize just how much I used social media until I tried to stop. For a while, I felt anxious, stressed, and out of the loop.
Meditation was a huge part of the solution for me. These days, I use mindfulness meditation techniques to help manage my anxiety, instead of turning to my phone for some mindless scrolling. Deep breathing exercises also help me to keep calm and to live in the present moment.
If you’re thinking about taking a break from social media, be prepared for some challenges along the way. Changing your automatic habits is difficult.
Think about strategies (like meditation) for dealing with any anxiety you might experience, and make sure to replace your social media time with activities that make you happy. It’s not easy to press that “delete” button, but it’s so worth it—I promise.