Like most students, I spend more of my day than I would like to admit browsing various social media sites. Facebook and Instagram are my main vices and if I bothered to calculate the number of hours I spend on them each day, I would undoubtedly be appalled. But something I’ve realized lately is that social media doesn’t really do me any good. In truth, it actually hurts me. It makes me lose my self-love.
Social media is a world of comparisons. Every time I log on, I find myself staring at the achievements of distant acquaintances and feeling a sense of loss and jealousy. I look at a friend my age living her dream of having a successful music career and getting all sorts of awards for her long list of achievements.
And while I, of course, am happy for her, I can’t help but feel a bit empty inside. I am sitting at home in my jammies for the third day straight watching endless seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix and avoiding all the school work I have to do.
I can never compare to all my friends on Facebook who are travelling, getting engaged, making tons of friends and just having a grand old time, and I can’t help but feel like a little bit of my inner light fades. Little by little, every single day, social media is destroying my self-esteem.
Social media isn’t real. It’s a way that people can present themselves and their life in whatever manicured way they wish. People might share excitement about their engagement, but no one shares about the stress that comes with planning a wedding or the doubts they might be having about making such a huge commitment.
Your friends may share about all the awesome parties they go to, but not that the reason they party so much is because they feel incredibly unsatisfied with their career. Social media very rarely shows the hardship of human life. It also conceals the fact that people’s ability to achieve stereotypical success is based on a number of intersecting factors that make up their life.
I look at my musician friend and forget to take into consideration that she’s white, wealthy, able-bodied and has connections – a lot of those being privileges I don’t have. So, truly it is unrealistic to compare oneself to others. But social media traps us in an unreal world of half-truths and pretend equality.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally came to terms with this reality and asked myself, “What can I do about this?” The most radical answer is fairly clear: quit social media.
But as much as this seems kind of appealing, the reality is that social media is a way I stay connected to some of the most important people in my life, my close friends and family. And that connection is not something I’m willing to forego. So, instead, I set out to find other solutions. The first solution I came to was to delete/unfollow people. I asked myself, “How well do I know this person? Have I seen or talked to them at all in the last year? How do their posts make me feel?” These questions guided my decisions of who to delete, and I quickly cut down my friends list on Facebook by at least 50 and unfollowed a bunch of profiles on Instagram.
I also turned off the data on my phone which limits the time I spend on social media to only be times I have access to Wi-Fi. Finally, I have resolved to be as present in the moment as possible at any given time. So, that means devices away when I’m with friends, or when I’m out and about on adventure – because moderation with social media (along with most things) is key.
It’s not fair to let yourself lose your self-love to the trap of illusions and jealousy set by social media. Recognize what needs to change in your life to help you be a happier you.