A few months ago, I made the decision to deactivate my social media accounts. Knowing how over the top dramatic I can be at times, I thought that deactivation would be a better option than totally deleting my accounts, and then living to regret it. I was also kind of lazy at the time and didn’t want to scour through thousands of photos I may want to save.
Within the first few days, I knew I’d made a wise decision. It was apparent in the way that I mindlessly clicked on the app every time I opened my phone. The login page would pop up and I would be reminded, yet again, that I was no longer actively involved in the social media community. This happened probably 10 times on the first day!
It made me painfully aware of how addicted to social media I had become, and how invested in popular nonsense I really was. I fought the urge to log in and resume activity if only because I was feeling lonely or bored. It also made me too aware of the flaws in my character that eagerly fed on internet-borne jealousy and controversy.
I delighted in reading all the latest local gossip and feuds between friends. I loved the ferocious fights and outbursts. I found the hate and vitriol hilariously entertaining. It was a guilty pleasure to feel like a fly on the Facebook wall during a good fight.
Then came a reflection of my own contributions to social media. In what I thought was a harmless glimpse into my daily life had become an obsession to showcase only the best parts of my personality and lifestyle. My captions were almost always plagiarized from someone wittier and cooler than me. All of my newest or priciest possessions were proudly displayed mugshot-style, with a front facing and profile view. My profile pictures were edited for perfect lighting and model-worthy bone structure. And, don’t forget my liberal use of the crop tool to keep all pictures cut to above the shoulders, thus camouflaging my unfortunate weight gain.
If that wasn’t enough, I grew jealous of others who did the exact same thing. I wanted the things other people had and then some. My house had to be nicer than theirs. My clothes had to be cuter than theirs. My food had to be tastier than theirs. I wanted to make everyone believe that my life and job and marriage were better than theirs. In other words, I was becoming a pretty appalling human being.
This didn’t reflect my perception of myself at all. In fact, I was somewhat terrified that I was nowhere near as self-aware as I thought I was. I never considered myself to be a jealous person, or mean-spirited or malicious in any way. But behind the shield of my iPhone’s screen protector, I seemed to be an unrecognizable and shameful person.
Fast forward three months and I’ve now made a New Years resolution to go ahead and delete my personal social media accounts permanently. As much as I may grow to miss the ease of keeping in touch with friends or the lightning fast access to important (or not so important) information, there are many things I will NOT miss. I won’t miss the mystery friend/follower requests, the unsolicitated invitations to hundreds of online “independent consultant” parties, or the repetitive re-posting of temporarily relevant memes. I will also not miss the chaos of internet controversy or the pressure to be perfect in every post or picture.
And, before anyone beats me to it, please let me clarify that not everyone on social media eventually turn into loathsome internet trolls, but for me, I don’t like the person I pretended to be on these platforms. Until I feel secure enough to be genuine and imperfect in this kind of public arena, these personal sites are just not for me. On my path to positive reinvention, I have to be willing to sever ties with the things that hold me back from discovering my truth.
I also have to concede that someone else will always be smarter than me, richer than me and skinnier than me. Someone else’s house is bigger and skin is clearer. But, instead of competing against those on the outside, why not consider my own self-doubt as my most formidable opponent? And why not grow to love and appreciate my imperfections instead of masking them with editing software and filters?
In the new year, I resolve to break the barriers in my own mind. To study my weaknesses, flaws and bad habits, and change them for me, not for my followers. This year, I’m focusing on the good I can do for myself in all facets of my life, not because it looks good on the portrait setting of my camera app, but because it makes my soul smile. Maybe eventually, I’ll return to the social scene, but for now, I’m content to just focus on me for a while.