Hello, hello, hello! For those of you who don’t know, that was a reference to RuPaul’s Drag Race — a show I’ve been binge-watching like a madwoman to escape the inordinate number of existential crises that only come with the prospect of approaching graduation.
Speaking of hashtags, I’m going to get real and talk about the debilitating effects of social media. I’ve touched on this topic before when I wrote about not buying into the superficial portrayal of self-care on platforms like Instagram, but for this week’s article, I’m going to talk about going the extra step in removing the source of anxiety by unplugging yourself from social media entirely.
Now, before anyone freaks out or gets offended at the prospect of wiping out their online existence, I want to clarify that I’m advising you to merely unplug every so often or to simply lessen the time you spend online.
Social media, like everything else, has its pros and cons.
The pros? It allows you to connect with people all over the world, glimpse into places you’ve never been, create a presence for yourself, get inspired or creative and most of all, stay connected to various communities without having to physically be in multiple places at once.
The cons? All of this comes with the anxiety and discontent created by existing too much online. How often do you impatiently check your phone for emails, text, or likes that aren’t there? How many times have you scrolled through Instagram and Facebook comparing your life with the photos of other lives? How often do you text your friends instead of having a conversation where you can hear their voice? These days, we’re living life vicariously through our phones, photos, tweets and Snapchat stories.
Not that humans haven’t always been preoccupied with these matters, but an increasing trend of valuing superficiality and vanity has arisen out of creating online personas. Texting has become the dominating method of communication over actually talking in person. Snapchat story views and Instagram likes have become the new social stamps of approval and validation, while snap streaks are a new measure of friendship. It’s a reality we can’t really escape from when we live in a digitalized world, but it’s frighteningly easy to become too mentally invested in living online.
The process of doing things purely for the sake of satisfaction and human connection — like enjoying date night or watching a beautiful sunset or eating an excellent meal — slowly become irrelevant when there’s such a prevalent mentality of “pics or it didn’t happen.”
This social demand for you to prove yourself then brings you to skipping the savouring process and focusing on the resulting digital content: you order food you don’t necessarily want so you can take an impressive Instagram photo. You go out even though you don’t want to so you can post a 10-seconds Snapchat story of you “having a good time.” Instead of enjoying life, you end up finding yourself laden with unnecessary pressure to prove you’re enjoying life.
Let me just tell you right now — whether you believe me or not — that at the end of the day, the validation you get from social media will be as empty as a wine bottle on a Friday night. And let’s be real, you probably downed the entire thing because you’re unhappy from the pressure of sustaining online presence and relationships!
So, save yourself any unnecessary anxiety and blows to your self-esteem by turning off your phone once in a while. It’s surprising how much turning it off will shut off the part of your mind that’s connected to everything and allow you to enjoy what’s directly in front of you.
Uninstall any social media apps if you feel like they’re not good for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Disconnect for a few days, a week or however long you need to, and do something you enjoy without feeling the need to take a photo and prove to others that you’re doing it. You aren’t obligated to share every experience with other people.
Have experiences that are solely yours — you’d be surprised at how much more fulfilling life will be then.
The author of this column is not a mental health professional. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In the case of an emergency, please call 911.