ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA: I signed offline for two months — here’s why


Anti-social Media illustration

Abigail Miller

Five websites, six accounts and no sense of reality — that’s my life with social media.

It started at the age of 11, when my older brother and his friends introduced me to Myspace. I went from being a carefree fifth grader to being a perfectionist with my online persona. I spent my preteen years putting on a show through Myspace.

I would craft my profile playlist with songs I felt were cool instead of adding in songs I actually enjoyed. I cared more about interacting with my friends online than I did about the strength of our real-life friendship.

I bought into the fantasy of not having to be myself and lost sense of who I really was.

I graduated from Myspace, moved on to Facebook and quickly transitioned to where I am now, using Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. At first, social media was enthralling. I revelled in the creativity it gave me, and used the creativity to fabricate my reality. I would focus on taking and posting only the best pictures of myself, and I would spend hours in the mirror making sure I looked just right. The selfies weren’t at all realistic, but I sure knew how to pass them off that way, using captions like, “No makeup” and “Just woke up,” to create a false sense of actuality.

Now, I’m 21 years old and social media is disheartening. It’s hard to remember nobody’s perfect when you get sucked into social media and compare yourself to the “perfect” lives your timeline is filled with. Any post can evoke a world of emotions. I look at images of beautiful models on Instagram and instantly feel ashamed of my lack of beauty. Scrolling through pictures of famous celebrities make me envious of their success, and hopeless to the idea that I’d ever amount to such excellence.

It’s not only who I follow, but also what I post. I’ve realized recently that I base my worth on the amount of likes my posts receive and followers I have. None of it’s real, but it’s hard to remember that when a post of mine does well and has the likes to prove it. Instead of staying grounded, those likes fill me up, and I finally feel good about myself. If my post doesn’t get many likes, I shamefully delete it before anyone can notice. I’m depleted of any likes, rather than full of them. While my self-esteem plummets to the floor, I move on to scrolling through my timeline of perfection, trying to get my mind off of the life that’s full of imperfection.

In November, I logged out of social media and didn’t log back in until mid-December. Suddenly, I had free time I could devote to school, my family, my friends — and myself. Instead of reading tweets and Instagram captions, I read books. Instead of following hundreds of people online, I found greater meaning in the effort it took to maintain friendships offline.

Prior to logging off last year, I thought all I needed was a break from social media. However, I realized after almost two months of being offline, a new anxiety had formed.

I began to worry that because I didn’t exist online, I didn’t exist at all.

I had convinced myself social media was a real, tangible world. It felt like I was stuck on a deserted island somewhere with no phone. Therefore, no voice. So, I logged back in, and posted for the first time in more than a month. While I was elated with the reconnection to the world I missed so badly, I couldn’t ignore the incoming anxieties flooding in. Was the post “cool” enough? Will people like it? I had ruined a potentially good thing, and I couldn’t come up with a solid reason as to why I did, other than: I gave up.

As of right now, my relationship with social media is a paradox. I’m logged off and I don’t have any of the apps on my phone — but I’m struggling. I don’t want to be online, but I also don’t want to be forgotten and I don’t want to miss out.

Leaving social media gave me a sense of clarity, but I can’t ignore the other side of me that exists in that world. For now, I’m struggling with leaving a part of me behind without necessarily wanting to fully say goodbye. Although I know I’m moving forward and making strides every day in this reality, I can’t help but wonder if the part of me that no longer exists needs to be seen or heard.

I’m working toward a place of unconditional self-love. A place where I can see the good in who I am without needing anyone’s additional likes or follows to reassure me. A place offline.

Abigail Miller is a features writer. Contact her at [email protected].