“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” –Norman Cousins
There is nothing more destroying than feeling alone. Lost in this world, and drifting without sharing our experiences with someone. So, we tell stories, sharing them with family, peers, friends, and “friends.” We let experiences flow from our brains to our fingertips, then off into the internet. Hitting the “share” button, looking for validation in the moments of our lives. With each “like” we feel less alone. At least, that’s how I used to use social media. Up until I deleted all of my accounts, five months ago, looking for more genuine moments and relationships.
I have heard several arguments as to why not having social media is a bad idea. First, people have all their pictures saved onto Facebook. This was the case for me, too. There were hundreds of pictures I had online, but nowhere else. Facebook was the last of my social media to go, just because I had to save my pictures. It only took three hours for me to save seven years of photos onto a thumb drive. I can tell you, I haven’t looked at those photos once since I downloaded them.
Second, the argument that social media is the only way people keep in touch with people they don’t talk to often, or don’t see. While I can see the validity behind that argument, most people regularly talk to people that matter to them, do they not? I came to the realization that anyone I cared about, I talked to often, and that no one else really mattered. If someone really wanted to get in touch with me, it wouldn’t be hard to do. That may sound narcissistic, but dropping so much dead weight was a relief.
Third, most people use social media as a news source. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of times I saw false information and faulty news sources on my feed. If you are really involved with what is happening in the world, chances are, you already have websites you use (outside of social media) to gain information. I used to wake up and check the news apps on my phone as soon as I rolled out of bed, but now I’ve realized the value of lying still and just watching out my window for a few minutes as the world drifts by. I do readily keep up with world news, via apps, intellectual friends, and peers, but I find that it doesn’t consume my emotions like it used to.
This semester has been one of immense personal growth for me. I’d like to think that not having social media played a large role in that. Over the past months, I really have contemplated what social media meant to me and have come to a few conclusions. I used social media as a form of validation for everything in my life. I used it to feed my ego. If I went for a hike, posted a picture, and it didn’t get a lot of likes, I felt almost like it wasn’t worth it. If I posted a “selfie” and it didn’t get any likes, I didn’t feel pretty. Now I can tell you that I take less pictures. I only capture what I want to look at again and over the past five months I’ve taken exactly two “selfies.” Initially, it used to annoy me to see others taking snapchats instead of enjoying the life in front of their eyes, but I’ve come to realize that others might find value in it and I have no right to be judgmental.
I have also found that my friendships have become deeper and more valuable. I am no longer distracted by the extra people in my life. The ones who only talked to me because I was online. When I am spending time with my friends, I am not scrolling through my feeds and I feel more devoted and concentrated when I am around them. The pictures I take of them, the moments I have with them, mean so much to me. Maybe I didn’t notice before, but I am so grateful for everyone in my life.
I am exponentially less stressed. I can remember how it felt to send a snapchat to a friend or crush, seeing they opened it, and didn’t respond. It gave me a little bit of anxiety to feel so ignored. But now, I don’t have to worry about what my internet image is. I am me. A physical version of me, and nothing else. I am not worried about being cool or showing off. I don’t need social media to feed my ego. I don’t need it to reassure myself that events and moments in my life are amazing. I know they are incredible and I am so grateful for every second.
As for my future on the internet? I think I’ll stick to staying off social media. I love being able to share my story, in person, or through writing. It feels more genuine. There’s not the “Oh, yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” People only know what I tell them and somehow that is settling. I thought that deleting myself from the internet would make me feel more alone, but it has done the exact opposite. I feel more in the moment, aware, and connected to everything around me. Not needing to post, tweet, edit, and snap the moments in my life have allowed me to enjoy them more whole-heartedly. While I do not believe that signing off is for everyone, I think a break from it all is something that everyone can benefit from. With that, I hope you all take some time to disconnect so that you can reconnect with everything around you.
Casey Young is an Environmental Science major from Feura Bush, New York. She enjoys poetry, exploring the world, staring pensively into the distance, and cracking terrible jokes at the worst possible times.