I’ve had social media since I was 12 years old. Somewhere out there, pictures still exist of me doing duck faces and peace signs, quoting my favorite Taylor Swift lyrics as the captions. I grew up on social media, and it was an integral part in my social communication: how I knew what my friends were up to, how I tried to impress my middle school crush, and, maybe most importantly, how I kept up with my favorite band members of One Direction.
Jump to my freshman year of college, when social media was an even bigger part of my life. I was expected to post consistently on Instagram, and if I didn’t have Snapchat stories out featuring fun and cool activities, I felt like I would be written off as lame and boring. The mounting pressure to be cool, hip, and attractive on social media became overwhelming on the heels of a breakup, and one night I sat down and deleted everything. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, VSCO, and even Facebook were gone from my phone, and I had no plan to get them back anytime soon.
Two months into my social media blackout, I had gotten pretty used to being offline. I still considered getting back on when I was bored in a waiting room, but getting used to life without social media was not as difficult as I expected. It was more difficult to stay updated on the lives of friends who had gone to schools in different states, but that only forced me to communicate directly with them more often. It was more difficult to stay up to date on invitations to events at school, but that only forced me to speak to more people face to face to find out plans. Overall, getting off of social media forced me to be more present in my day to day life.
A huge cultural problem we are currently dealing with is the way social media is able to dictate it’s user’s self worth. I was facing the consequences of that real time, feeling insignificant compared to Instagram models with thousands of likes and followers. I felt unpopular compared to friend’s Snapchat stories of them out with new people every weekend. Most of all, I felt unimportant and unheard in a vast, seemingly endless stream of content. Has your business ever felt this way when communicating online?
Here’s What I Learned
Getting off of social media forced me to reconnect with the world around me. For the year and a half that I spent offline, I spent more time connecting with my friends, my family, and my community. I replaced the time I spent scrolling through feeds with spending time going out with friends, seeing new movies, and getting involved with new groups on campus. I felt a renewed sense of worth: the people around me valued my time and my contributions, and I felt the need to be virtually validated disappear. Now, I am able to enjoy social media as a place to share what brings me joy, to stay connected with friends who travel abroad, and to support the endeavors of people in my community. My time off had given me a new perspective of social media. It is not a place for me to put up a front of being cool and happy 24/7: it is a place for me to express myself, share my work, and learn more about people and perspectives from all over this awesomely huge world.
How This Applies To You
Social media has also become a positive place for me to share and further my work. Before my years off, I was always so scared to share things I had worked hard on: how would people react? Would I get enough likes? What if it wasn’t perfect?
But with my new perspective of life online, I began to see sharing my work as something much simpler: showing my friends and followers the work that I put so much time and effort into. When I post a video, I am not as worried about having over twenty comments and hundreds of likes. Instead, I feel grateful that I can share what I work so hard on with so many people at one time. I am also able to begin building my brand this way. By sharing what I’m working on, and things I care about, potential employers get a better sense of who I am and what I bring to the table.
Social media has also become a place for me to shamelessly self promote! Worried about being annoying before, I didn’t flood my feeds with information about upcoming shows or events I was involved in. But now, I take so much pride in the things I participate in that I always share when something is coming up! I don’t feel any shame anymore for using social media as a means of self promotion.
In today’s world, it is practically impossible to live without some form of social media. It’s how employers vet interviewees, businesses build their brands, and how a lot of people make a living. In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on social media activity, it is also becoming increasingly vital for each individual to set their own boundaries with social media.
The next time you scroll through your Instagram feed, ask yourself: is what I’m seeing bringing me joy? Or is it bringing me insecurities, anxiety, and unhappiness? Today is National Day of Unplugging. Use this time to unplug and reevaluate: remind yourself what you are passionate about. The beauty of social media is the ability to share what we love.
All this to say
Unplug and reconnect with yourself, your business, and your values!!