Why I am taking a break from social media

Today I deleted the Instagram and Facebook apps from my devices. Why? Because I need a break and a chance to see clearly without the filters. I have already written about how I live a life with an Instagram filter but only in the last few days did I realise how much I am actually influenced by social media and how anxious and depressed it can make me.

Over the last week, I have suffered through some pretty horrible nights. I have found myself unable to sleep and my brain has been working overtime. I have wound myself up to a point where I found it difficult to breathe or just to exist. As a result I haven’t been feeling great all around. I’m scared of going to bed because I don’t know whether I am able to sleep tonight or have to go through the ordeals again.

What has helped me a bit over these last few days has been shutting off my phone and making an effort not to check it after going to bed. It might seems such an obvious thing but it has given me a few extra hours each night. I realised that one of the things that I kept checking was whether someone was “communicating” with me. I was checking for acknowledgment from others in the form of likes and comments on my photos on Instagram and Facebook. I kept trying to figure out what to post to make my life seem more interesting and to collect more likes.

I realise that this a dangerous road to go down. There are never enough likes to fill the void I thought I was feeling. I have been feeling very alone and vulnerable recently, like I am isolated from people around me. I thought that Instagram and Facebook would help me connect with people, but in fact, they made me feel worse. I know that most people tap twice on a post on Instagram just out of a habit without giving it much attention. Tap-tap, scroll, tap-tap, scroll… I do that, so why do I expect anyone else to concentrate any more. So in the end, those likes that I was so desperately expecting didn’t really fill my desire to be noticed, to be acknowledged, to be comforted in feeling alone and scared.

And when you are feeling alone and scared, other people’s carefully constructed and edited lives don’t make you feel any better either. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to what other people post on social media, but it’s difficult not to when you are feeling down. I felt like I am not pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough. I felt like I am not enough. So although I was scrolling through the feed in search for escape, it was getting even more locked up in my negative thoughts.

I didn’t delete my accounts and I have every intention to returning to them but I just need a week or two, or even just a few days of staying away. A few days where I don’t have to compare myself to what I could be. A few days when I don’t have to think about creating an image. I need a few days where I can feel my feelings and learn to not to mask them with filters. I need to learn not to look for acknowledgement somewhere where it’s not actually given.

Is it going to be difficult? I have no doubt it will be incredibly difficult. I have no problem admitting a certain addiction to social media. It will so tempting to scroll through Instagram posts first thing in the morning and refreshing Facebook feed as a break at work. It will take a while not to think about my day in terms of what interesting I could post on Instagram. It will feel even more lonely. But I hope it will hurt a little less, I hope I can sleep again with a bit more peace of mind knowing that I have chosen to miss it all. I hope I can at least for a minute stop comparing my life with others and feeling like a complete failure.

Life with Instagram filter

It is a popular talking point that social media isn’t an honest reflection of reality (no shit, Sherlock!). Our Instagram photos are edited and show triumphs and things we are proud of, our Facebook post aim to reflect how interesting our lives are and so on. I agree and I am guilty of the same crimes. However, I don’t think this is only true online. Many people put up a false front in offline as well.

I know I do. And I am pretty sure I am not the only one.

I’m one of those people who tend to walk through the days seemingly without a care in the world. I joke with customers and colleagues, I get on with work and find little extra bits to do. Every now and again I do some exercise and go on hikes. I talk about plans for future and seem excited about them. I can take and make jokes on my behalf. I talk about how lucky I am to live on the edge of the Lake District ¬†and how much I love the hills. Every now and again, I attend social events and gatherings and chill out.

If you look at my Instagram account, it will probably tell you a similar story about me.

Someone meeting me for the first time might think I’m the most easy-going and carefree person in the world. And most of my friends, family and colleagues probably think something similar.

That’s my real life Instagram filter, a carefully constructed image. Just like no one would be impressed with mundane updates on social media, no one would find the reality of what I am particularly interesting or easy-going. Anxiety and depressive thoughts aren’t exactly the ice breakers that get the party started.

It’s as much about impressing other people as it is about self-preservation. I’m not sure if I could cope with day-to-day life without constructing this other (better) version of myself. It’s what keeps me going, it gets me out of bed in the morning. At the same time, it’s incredibly tiring and it makes it almost impossible to ask for help because my life appears to be so perfect, what reasons could I possibly have to be tired of it.

Just like we can’t see what’s been cropped out of Instagram photos, we don’t know what really goes on inside a person in real life. There are plenty of people who seem to be happy and genuinely are. But I bet there are just as many people who are using the happiness filter to hide the fact that this false front is the only thing that keeps them from falling apart.