Earlier this year, I chose to go a year without social media. I put away my Facebook timelines, my Twitter feed, my Instagram scroll, to free time to discover who I am without all of the noise. On top of shunning social media, I’m also avoiding world news websites. My head is in the sand when it comes to viral sharing and worldly news. I am now two months in, I don’t notice much difference in my life. It’s as if social media and instantaneous world news was never a part of my life. Oh, and I see a lot less of Donald Trump!
Life without social media has been a never-ending vacation!
Aside from freeing my time to do more things that serve me, I ditched social media to get away from my need for validation and self-compare. I got away from the dopamine hits caused by the likes, comments and shares, and the suffering from withdrawal when I didn’t get them. Whenever my excitement peaked online, I felt validated. Whenever my enthusiasm waned, I felt awful. Social media became my personal validation roller coaster.
Social media became my habit; validation was my drug. Or was it?
After a month of breaking the scroll, I began to exhibit symptoms of validation depletion. Instead of seeking that need to know that I am doing OK in this world from my Facebook timeline, I began to seek it in my offline conversations. I found myself trying to interject my opinions and rationalizations into every conversation. Instead of listening and being more empathetic towards others, I was trying to lift my self-worth.
It didn’t take me long to realize that social media was not to blame for my validating ways; it just fed them. I had to dig deep to understand why I need so much validation, and while I am still a work in progress, I realized that I feel unworthy for the life that I am living.
Somedays I feel like I’ve cheated the system to live such a good life. I have an incredible family who supports me at home. I have a great job that never feels like work to me and even though I may not be rich, I have enough stuff to keep me comfortable. With all of this comes a feeling of guilt. I shouldn’t have any of this; “what have I done to deserve it?” So, to make me feel better, I seek the praise of others to validate that I’m working hard and pulling my weight. Validation has always been a struggle for me, but the more I notice it in myself, I see it in others as well. I’m certainly not alone.
What is life like without social media?
I’ve got to be honest, not being on social media when I used to be a big-time junkie annoys quite a few people in my circle. In some respects, I have to wonder if some of my friends are surprised that I’ve held out this long. I catch many people remembering mid-story that I have no clue what they are talking about when they talk about an update that they or a mutual friend had posted.
Even with the minor frustrations with friends, I don’t feel out of the loop. If anything, I feel more connected with people. I’ve had many conversations about the effects of social media in people’s lives.
It is becoming more apparent to me as I continue on this journey, that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do about social media. I’ve spoken to a few people who are either dropping social media -Facebook in particular- or are thinking about it. I’ve had some share feelings of being trapped in this addiction to the feed. As I continue to open the conversation about social media addiction, it appears to me that social media is about to go through a massive shift. More and more people are feeling the need to disconnect from the media and reconnect face-to-face. People are feeling more depressed and anxious about their lives more than ever before; something has to give.
As I go deeper into this journey, my physical well-being continues to improve
In a past update about my journey, I’d shared that my resting heart rate had dropped significantly with social media abstinence. I’m happy to report that it has remained low, and it’s still falling. My resting heart rate has fallen an astonishing 27% since giving up my social media addiction. Without social media, I’m consistently mindful of the present. All I have in front of me is my reality, not a virtual life. It’s been a very relaxing two-month sabbatical so far, and if I continue along with feeling this way, I don’t think I will ever go back to social media.
In conclusion, I have to admit that my life in general without social media has not been adversely affected. Aside from some missed friends and a few missed stories, I am not feeling overly disconnected from life. I’m actually feeling the opposite. My mindless scrolling has now been replaced with mindful observation. My face-to-face conversations have been enhanced; I can now look people in the eye when I talk to them more than ever before. I’m not feeling the guilt of living a good virtual life that I portrayed online. I feel genuinely aligned with what I think and what I do.
I welcome you to join me in starting a journey of social media disruption. Try disconnecting for an entire day, maybe even a week. Just witness how much more enriched your life becomes and how much more aware you become.
Can you see yourself giving up social media?