Logging off for now
November 9, 2022
At the end of August, I decided to go off the grid.
I deleted Instagram and Snapchat. Social media was just making me sad.
During my entire adolescence, I have watched and felt social media function as a stressor. Many of my friends still spend hours contemplating which picture should be their cover photo on an Instagram post, worrying about likes and only posting photos at a specific time of day.
The hold social media has over our lives is insane and unhealthy.
Adolescents who use screens for seven or more hours per day are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, according to a December 2018 study from Preventive Medicine Reports.
My parents didn’t let me get Instagram until I was 14, and I had to wait until I was 17 before I was allowed to have Snapchat.
Though I was still young, I had access to these social networks later than most of my peers did. I was engaging in less screen time and none of it revolved around posting selfies or using the latest Snapchat filter.
Middle school me may have resented my mom, but looking back, I appreciate that she tried to give me as much of a stress-free entry into my early teenage years as possible.
When I finally did get social media, my attitude was very carefree; I didn’t understand the point of Snapchat streaks and I didn’t pay much attention to my follower count. I actually grew up with what I would consider a fairly healthy relationship with social media.
However, the older I got, the more emotionally-challenging social media became. To be honest, I can’t totally pinpoint when the switch flipped for me. It just seems that I began to spend too much time aimlessly scrolling, wishing I looked like other girls or had better style.
There is a link between social media use and negative impacts on well-being, including its links to depression and feelings of loneliness, according to a Dec. 9, 2019 Healthline article.
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others online, where we only see the good moments.
It’s also easy to feel alone and feel a fear of missing out. My Instagram feed is always flooded with pictures of people doing something cool with their massive friend group, so of course I feel lonely as an onlooker scrolling alone in my bed.
Social media was created to communicate and stimulate connections, according to an Aug. 31, 2021 Investopedia article.
It was designed to be a positive communal experience. It has turned into way more than that.
Social networking sites have made people feel left out, ugly and unworthy. They strip away our humanity by reducing us to the status of “follower” rather than person.
Lately, social media just makes me feel worse instead of better, though I know it was never intended to be this way. After contemplating the FOMO and the anger, I made the decision to log off.
But it’s complicated—social media can be a great way to stay connected with others.
I enjoy seeing my friends from high school post pictures from parties or share the cool things they’ve been doing post-graduation.
I also love meme culture and appreciate accounts created to form connections. Even UVM gets in on the fun. Accounts like @uvmmissedconnections and @athleticoutofcontext provide students with a sense of community and fun.
Social media can also be lighthearted and silly. My friend and I created an Instagram account to post pictures of cakes we made, spoofing Netflix’s “Is it Cake?” It’s stupid but we think it’s the funniest thing ever.
Logging off has been complex. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on seeing the funny memes my friends send each other, but then I get mad at myself for even caring.
It feels so shallow, but social media has become such a large part of our culture.
Social media is more than just the small amount of space it physically occupies on a screen. Our personalities are consumed by internet culture.
Our favorite music comes from TikTok, we still make Vine references and we’ve let “btw,” “rn” and “lol” become regular terms in our vocabulary.
How can you exist in society and not somewhat succumb to social media’s influence? Do you have to participate in the culture to feel connected?
There is certainly some good that comes out of social media, but it has recently become more stressful than enjoyable for me. From what I’ve seen, it has felt stressful for many other college students, too.
I encourage everyone who is letting social media get them down to take some time away from their digital life.
Fill your time with journaling, walks and art. Try something new and give your time to something that makes you feel happy, not stressed.
Not ready to completely log off? Consider putting time limits on social media apps.
Limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day can lead to improvements in well-being, according to a December 2018 study from the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology.
Before I decided to completely delete social media, I put a 15-minute time limit on Instagram and a five-minute limit on Snapchat. I actually ended up training myself to not even use the full time that was allotted.
On the days I did reach the limit, I knew I needed to log off for the day.
For over a year, these time limits were enough and provided a healthy balance between social media and real life. They let me feel connected to people I care about but reminded me that the real life in front of me should be the bigger focus.
Maybe someday I’ll make my return to social media. My lovely followers will once again get a window into my life through photos of pink pants, poorly decorated cakes and all things silly.
Until then, I will enjoy living in the present. Don’t worry, I’ll still wear pink pants, bake stupid cakes and act sillier than ever. You’ll just have to watch me do it in real life instead of through a screen.