I’ve never considered myself addicted to social media. At best I saw myself as a casual browser. I posted rarely but I’d check it while I was watching TV, or during my lunch hour. I’ve always been generous with my “likes”, “hearts”, and “upvotes”. I’m a millennial after all – social media is where I thought I was supposed to be.
Until I realized it wasn’t.
My regular routine was this; wake up, check my notifications, browse whatever platform I had the most notifications from overnight before getting out of bed to ready for work. I’d allotted an extra 20 minutes of my mornings to mindlessly browsing. My problem began because I’m not a passive consumer of news. I can’t just look at a headline and move on. I must read the article and then look at the comments to see what people had to say about that content. Herein lies the problem – internet comments sections are garbage pits. I would get so fired up after reading what these strangers had to say that it would make me physically angry. It got to the point that before I even got out of bed my day was ruined because of internet commenters.
On April 15th my husband told me I had to stop looking at the news on social media. I yelled that giving up social media was impossible! He was ready and argued that it only made me angry and that I can’t carry the world’s problems. Reading about gun violence, child soldiers, upsetting political news, animal abuse stories, all of it was making me depressed but not solving anything. I ingested these news stories and carried them with me.
I knew I needed to give up social media, but I rebelled against the idea. There were good parts of it too – I liked seeing when an old friend got married, or someone welcomed a new baby. The snippets of good were outweighed by the overwhelmingly negative influence social media was having on my life. It wasn’t like I was trying to keep up with the Jones’ as many with social media addictions are. I was trying to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle and that cycle was causing nothing but sadness and frustration.
So, I stopped.
I deleted Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Reddit from my phone. I didn’t close my accounts or make long-winded goodbye posts saying that I was leaving. I just left. And you know what? No one missed me. Some of my friends may have noticed I was no longer liking their posts, but no one said anything to me or reached out. My hearts, likes, and upvotes didn’t matter. It was freeing to know that.
My life didn’t instantaneously become better. At first, I missed social media. I didn’t know how to fill the time throughout my day – was I just supposed to watch TV and not do anything else? What should take the place of news browsing during my lunch? The first week was awkward. I passed a lot of candy crush levels. Eventually it wasn’t weird anymore. I used the time I had spent on social media more wisely. I’ve written nearly 50,000 words on the third draft of a young-adult novel I’ve been writing on and off since law school. I started watching foreign drama’s on Netflix that require me to read the subtitles since my brain doesn’t have to engage with two devices anymore.
Slowly, with some brain re-training, I’ve become a more positive person. I can once again see that the good outweighs the bad and humanity isn’t always awful. The news I consumed through social media was keeping me down. I saw the worst in people through internet comment sections and a steady stream of sad news. It isn’t that the news isn’t sad anymore – if anything it’s gotten even more depressing. I refuse to stick my nose in the sand because that isn’t what this experience was about. I still have a general knowledge of what’s going on in the world around me, but I don’t consume news in the same manner I once did. I can now read a single newspaper article and that’s enough. I can browse headlines and decide if a piece of news is worth my time or if it’s going to negatively impact my entire day.
I’ve changed the way I consume media. I now have a healthy relationship with it while before it was one sided and draining. Just this month I’ve decided that I can once again
browse social media armed with this new knowledge. I still don’t have the apps on my phone, but I’ve allowed myself to log on through a desktop and view content. I no longer read the comments.
The way each person approaches social media and news consumption is different. If you’re finding yourself drained or burnt out, I suggest a digital detox. Maybe a break is exactly what you need!